Are We Losing Our Knowledge of History?
Several months ago, it occurred to me that as a country we might be losing our knowledge of history. We’re always hearing about “man or woman in the street” surveys where the respondents are unable to identify American allies in World War I and II. Or that many American high schools students can’t identify in which decade the American Civil War was. How about who the Americans rebelled against in 1775?
Well, here’s some disheartening facts about American teen’s knowledge of history. One in five teens have no idea who America’s enemy was in World War II. More than 25% believe that Columbus embarked on his journey of discovery after 1750 (He actually left Spain in 1492.). Meanwhile, half don’t know what Senator Joseph McCarthy was investigating or what the Renaissance was. Only 43 percent of students surveyed knew that the Civil War was fought “between 1850 and 1900.
Those are some disturbing results from a telephone survey of 1,200 U.S. teens that became the basis for a report called “Still at Risk: What Students Don’t Know, Even Now.” from Common Core, a new advocacy group for liberal arts education.
The responses are appalling but even more ominous was the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress. This 48-year old test is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what American students know and can do in core subjects.
On the subject of History, it found that just 13% of America’s high school seniors appear to know anything about U.S. history. The test quizzed students on topics ranging from colonization, the American Revolution and the Civil War to the contemporary United States.
“The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a prepared statement. “These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education.”
Education experts say a heavy focus on reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind law in the last decade has led to lagging performance in other subjects such as history and science.
What does this mean for the future of America? Some of the commentary by people who should know better is frightening. Ezra Klein, an economic columnist for the Washington Post, famously commented about the United States Constitution in December 2010.
Klein said that the Constitution has no binding power on anything and it’s confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago (It was actually written in 1787, 223 years from Klein’s comments.) Klein, a graduate of UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science, should know better.
With ‘intelligentsia’ like Klein, its no wonder that high school students know little or nothing about the history of the United States.
It’s also no wonder that Barack Obama gets very little pushback when he commits unconstitutional acts, such as, refusing to allow the Senate to ‘advise and consent’ on certain of his White House advisers. Or his continual power grabs of state powers that are guaranteed by the 10th Amendment. Or his refusal to consult with the Congress about his Libyan adventure.
We’ve also seen the President make unconstitutional recess appointments and recently, he created his own “Dream Act” by fiat because Congress turned him down three times. Or his unwillingness to defend Congressional laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act.
Without a firm grounding in our history and the Founding documents that created this country, we might as well become a ‘banana republic’ with a petty dictator. Or is that what we already are? You decide.
Watch this video and you may laugh or cry, or both.