Last year Jim Burk, supervisor of secondary education in Montana, proposed that American history be made an elective rather than a required course in the state public schools. This, he said, would give students and guidance counselors greater flexibility.
Burke’s proposal attracted more notice than any other revision of standards suggested in recent years.
Among those who bridled at the idea was K. Ross Toole, professor of history at the University of Montana. In a letter to the “Montana Post,” the newsletter of the Montana Historical Society, he said:
While France, Germany, and England are requiring the teaching of American history, we are apparently thinking of dropping it. We are in the process of producing a whole generation of functional illiterates. … It is true that American history is very often ineptly taught in our high schools. The solution, however, is not to drop history, but to teach more of it and to teach it better.
The State Board of Education went along with Toole and, at a meeting last March, voted to retain American history as a required course.