Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Regents Exams

The Regents Exams are tests required by The Empire State for students to pass the eighth and twelfth grades. My parents had to take them, being New York State residents. We avoided them because our parents moved us to New Jersey.

But New York State is considering making the history Regents “history”. Here’s a sample of the questions from the January 2010 exam for high school students:

2 The Mayflower Compact and the Virginia House of Burgesses are most closely associated with:

(1) abuses by absolute monarchs
(2) establishment of religious toleration
(3) steps toward colonial self-government - X
(4) adoption of universal suffrage

4 In order to win ratification of the United States Constitution, supporters agreed to:

(1) add a bill of rights - X
(2) admit new states to the Union
(3) establish an electoral college
(4) give the Senate the power to ratify treaties

5 Which action did Alexander Hamilton support during the 1790s?

(1) restrictions on trade with England
(2) distribution of free land
(3) creation of the national bank - X
(4) elimination of the whiskey tax

7 One way in which the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (1798) and the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832) are similar is that each:

(1) claimed that individual states have the right to interpret federal laws - X
(2) formed part of the unwritten constitution
(3) supported the federal government’s power to declare war
(4) provided a way for new states to enter the Union

13 In 1862, the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act were passed primarily to:

(1) achieve Northern victory in the Civil War
(2) develop the Midwest and western parts of the Country - X
(3) improve the lives of freed slaves
(4) expand overseas markets to Asia and Europe

21 Which factor is most closely associated with the decision of the United States to declare war on Spain in 1898?

(1) isolationist policy
(2) labor union pressure
(3) yellow journalism - X
(4) unrestricted submarine warfare

23 The “clear and present danger” doctrine established in Schenck v. United States (1919) concerned the issue of

(1) freedom of speech - X
(2) the right to bear arms
(3) the right to an attorney
(4) separation of church and state

26 Which economic factor contributed most directly to the start of the Great Depression?

(1) low worker productivity
(2) high income taxes
(3) decreasing tariff rates
(4) buying stocks on margin - X

28 What was a guiding principle of the New Deal economic policies?

(1) Pro-business tax breaks would solve the problems associated with urban poverty.
(2) Antitrust legislation would destroy the free market economy of the United States.
(3) Rugged individualism must be allowed to solve social inequality.
(4) Government must assume more responsibility for helping the poor. X

33 In the 1960s, which issue was the focus of the Supreme Court decisions in Mapp v. Ohio, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Miranda v. Arizona?

(1) freedom of the press
(2) racial segregation
(3) rights of the accused - X
(4) interstate commerce

40 The United States Congress can check the executive branch of government by

(1) appointing ambassadors
(2) overriding vetoes - X
(3) nominating judges
(4) declaring laws unconstitutional

49 The passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, and the passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001 created controversy because they

(1) required large sums of money to enforce
(2) raised questions about the protection of civil liberties  -X
(3) created alliances with foreign governments
(4) limited the power of the executive branch

For the most part, they’re not too terribly difficult, unless you’re a poor history student. However, examining the examination questions, there’s clearly a creeping Liberal bias within them. Still, the Regents demand enough coherent knowledge of U.S. history and civics in general to make a scholar wonder why New York wants to abandon these rigid tests? Looking over the annual tests, they don’t change substantially from year to year.

Are the questions simply too irrelevant for the little dears? Is it too much work for the instructors to teach the subject? Perhaps soon it will no longer matter that the United States Constitution gives the House of Representatives (not the president, state legislatures or Supreme Court) the power to impeach a federal government official such as the president of the United States.

So many of the later questions are such indoctrinaire questions that, once our socialist government is established, students will no longer need to brainwashed into socialist history. Today’s youth are so willing to go along with whatever their socialist teachers dictate that tests will be superfluous.

In the August 2004 Regents, this was question No. 5:

In 1788 and 1789, a major controversy between the Federalists and the Antifederalists focused on

(1) expansion of slavery into the territories
(2) the wisdom of creating a two-house legislature
(3) division of power among different levels of  Government - X
(4) the issue of allowing women the right to vote

In the 2004 Eight Grade test, students were asked these questions:

11 Which statement best illustrates the principle of federalism?

(1) The president has the power to veto bills.
(2) Congress is divided into two houses.
(3) The Supreme Court has the power to review laws.
(4) Power is divided between the states and the national government. X

21 Which Civil War event occurred first?

(1) Battle of Gettysburg
(2) Firing on Fort Sumter
(3) Assassination of President Lincoln
(4) Emancipation Proclamation

These are the few – very few - actual history and civics question. There aren’t many specific questions about historical figures during the Revolution or even the Civil War (about the only Revolutionary figure mentioned is Alexander Hamilton), but plenty of names are bandied about when they get into 20th Century, progressive history.

Some of the questions are simple. Some are tougher. But on the whole, they tend to go on and on about women’s rights, civil rights, and social justice. Tests mandated by the state government, about government’s role in our lives. I’ve been in many seminars where at the end of the session, the organizers would distribute evaluation sheets to estimate whether their message is being conveyed.

January 2010 H.S. Regents Exam - http://www.nysedregents.org/USHistoryGov/20100127exam.pdf

So the students can pass, marginally, even for a tough test like the Regents. The Supreme Court questions are difficult, i.e., Mapp v. Ohio (unreasonable search and seizure). Marbury v. Madison isn’t explained properly: The Supreme Court, in its very first ruling, gave itself the right to declare a law “unconstitutional.” They don’t need to know who the 19th President was (Rutherford B. Hayes). They don’t need to know the First Continental Congress met in Philaldelphia in 1774. They don’t need to know how Patrck Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in 1775 “Give me liberty or give me death.” There’s nothing about the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty in 1784 between Britain and the U.S., formally recognizing American independence.

There’s nothing personal about the history they’re required to learn. The students don’t need to know any of this, do they? Or if it’s so important, they can read about it on their own, just as long as they know about Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points defending World War I, the failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the demand of costly reparations from Germany which bankrupt the country, and the failure of the League of Nations?

It’s all a piece of American history, to be sure, but only the Progressive piece. The only selections of American history the Liberals want students to know are the negative portions.

Our present president is no expert on history. He’s claimed, among other things, that there are 57 states and that the car was invented in Detroit (it was invented in Germany). The Liberals want to telescope history to a narrow view of the victories of socialism over freedom and liberty.

The surest way to accomplish that goal is to throw away American history books and stop testing Americans on their knowledge of their own country. When Americans fail American history, they fail America.

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