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Are Our Schools Doing Enough To Teach American Values? (Interview: Callista Gingrich)

Congratulations Callista Gingrich on your new book Hail to the Chief (Ellis the Elephant)!  Give us an overview of your book and tell us why you wrote it.  

Hail to the Chief in the sixth volume in my Ellis the Elephant series of children’s books. In this book, Ellis meets some of America’s greatest presidents and discovers how they have led our country throughout American history.

I wrote Hail to the Chief because I believe it’s important that we help children understand what the presidency means. Young people across America are watching as our country prepares to choose its 45th president. By introducing them to some of our greatest presidents, this book teaches children that the president of the United States is one of the most important elected officials in the world, that he or she represents our entire nation, and has a chance to shape history. This election season is the perfect time to share Hail to the Chief with the young people in your life.

What was your inspiration in creating Ellis the Elephant?  

I knew we needed a unique character to capture the attention and interest of young children.  We considered many types of animals including, bunnies, hippos, and giraffes — but in the end, I could not resist this adorable elephant.  I’m blessed to work with Susan Arciero, who is a very talented illustrator and has brought Ellis the Elephant to life.

What do you hope children will learn after reading your book?

I hope children will learn that American presidents have one of the hardest and most important jobs in the world; that they have to be very tough and energetic; and that they have to lead and inspire the nation. In addition, I hope children will learn that the president has a duty to uphold the Constitution, enforce our laws, and defend America as commander-in-chief. Perhaps Hail to the Chief will even encourage some young Americans to aspire to public service!

Do you believe are schools are doing enough to teach young children American history and civics?  What needs to be done to revive civics education in schools?

Unfortunately, we have some real work to do when it comes to passing our history on to the next generation of Americans. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that students score worse in American history than in any other subject. Just 20 percent of fourth-graders, 18 percent of eighth-graders and 12 percent of twelfth-graders are at grade-level proficiency in American history.

We absolutely need our schools to rededicate themselves to American history and civics education. But I also believe that each of us has an opportunity to speak with the young Americans in our own lives about our country’s history. Hail to the Chief is a great starting place, as it highlights the contributions of some of our most important leaders.

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