Schieffer: A history lesson on education

Students in school classroom

Here's an item that caused hardly a ripple in last week's news cycle, but I wish it had: A national test showed only 12 per cent of our high school seniors had a solid grasp of American history.

Tested on seven subjects, including math and science, America's high school seniors scored lowest on American history.

Experts cited various reasons, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan said it best: We are failing to give our children a well-rounded education, which may be the understatement of the year.

Our schools are a mess, and have been since the days when we got good teachers on the cheap, because teaching was one of the few professions open to women.

When other opportunities opened to women, they took them, but teacher pay stayed low. There were some wonderful exceptions, but for the most part we got what we paid for.

We've never really faced up to that. We give education lip service, but with every budget crunch it is education that suffers.

These latest tests underline just how wrong and dangerous our priorities are.

We keep talking about American exceptionalism and how our core strength is American values. But if our students don't know enough history to understand HOW our values were shaped and WHO shaped them, don't we risk losing though ignorance what those who came before us fought and died for?

Education is - among other things - our real first line of defense.

Why don't we have a presidential campaign about THAT?

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.