Michael B. Poliakoff, Ph.D., President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Interviews History Advocate David Bruce Smith
August 2016 — Don’t miss the interview by Michael B. Poliakoff, Ph.D., president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, with David Bruce Smith, president and founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation.
MP: David, what made you decide to start the Grateful American™ Foundation?
DBS: My father referred to himself as a grateful American. Nothing gave him more pleasure than kids learning and enjoying history. The only way he felt democracy could survive was through education.
MP: When Louise Mirrer, President of the New York Historical Society, received ACTA’s Philip Merrill Award, she said “Americans have a great case to make for American history. But we do a poor job of telling our story.” What should we be telling in our story?
DBS: Louise is one of my judges for the Grateful American™ Book Prize. We’ve talked about this. One of the problems is often the way in which history is taught is BORING. Michael, would you agree that proficiency will not improve unless there’s interest in the material and interest from the teacher?
MP: You’re absolutely correct. There’s more out-of-field teaching in K-12 history than in almost any other field.
DBS: It seems to me when 82% of kids in 8th grade are not proficient, part of the problem is what they are not being taught. It’s not all their fault.
MP: The teacher’s duty is to get to know material so well that it comes alive for all different kinds of learners. That means being on top of those moments that recreate the drama.
DBS: One of the things Abraham Lincoln expressed in the Gettysburg Address was his hope that the soldiers who fought in the Civil War would not have died in vain. Everybody who’s interested in perpetuating our government of the people, by the people, for the people must work together to make sure our democracy is preserved.
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