The latest data from the Nation’s Report Card are disastrousEighth grade students’ proficiency in U.S. history and civics dropped to the lowest point since the exams were first administered in 1998. U.S. history scores declined from 263 in 2018 to 258 on a 0-300 scale, and civics scores fell from 153 in 2018 to 150, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the NAEP.

These numbers come on the heels of last year’s NAEP report revealing devastating drops in mathematics and reading. In every academic subject, state, and grade, students are underperforming.

Extended school closures and remote learning during the pandemic are certainly to blame for much of this learning loss. (Thanks, Randi Weingarten!) But poor performance in history and civics isn’t new. In 2010, the NAEP found that just 27% of fourth graders, 22% of eighth graders, and 24% of 12th graders performed at or above the proficient level in civics. And in 2011, just 20% of fourth graders, 17% of eighth graders, and 12% of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency in U.S. history. Most fourth graders were unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, less than a third of eighth graders were able to identify an advantage American forces had over Great Britain during the Revolution, and just 2% of high school seniors correctly answered a question about Brown v. Board of Education.

History and civics have long been students’ worst subjects. But why? Why do our schools consistently fail to educate students on the basic facts of our country and the way it operates?

Perhaps it’s because they don’t take seriously the role they must play in teaching children to be good citizens. The family unit, of course, bears primary responsibility for children’s education and character formation. But schools, especially those sanctioned and funded by the government, also have a duty to help make sure the next generation is prepared for the task of self-government. That means teaching them not only the basics of how our system of government works and how they as citizens can participate in it, but also why they should want to. Nothing threatens our constitutional system more than apathy.

The problem today is that most of our institutions, including the public education system, reject the idea that American history is valuable and its government good. They’d rather see the whole thing dismantled and destroyed. And that’s a lot easier to do if the generations in control of the country’s future know nothing about it at all.