Young Americans Don’t Know Their U.S. History

Twenty-five per cent of Americans don’t know that the United States won its independence from Great Britain according to a poll conducted by Marist University this last Independence Day weekend.

The Marist poll asked just one question: “On July 4th we celebrate Independence Day.  From which country did the United States win its independence?”

And though 74 per cent of Americans were able to give the correct answer, a disappointing 26 per cent didn’t know with the majority of them saying they were “unsure” of the correct answer.

And those who guessed incorrectly? From whom did they believe Americans liberated themselves?

China. Spain. France. Japan. Mexico.

It gets a bit worse.

Those folks who knew the correct answer were mainly white, earning over $50,000 a year and male. People in the northeast knew their American history better than those in the south (no surprise as they have always been revisionists), and people under 29 would probably benefit from a Wii version of the American Revolution because they were most likely to not know that the United States fought against Great Britain in the epic revolution that led to the holiday we so love to celebrate every July.

Another public education failure?

Maybe.

I don’t really buy into the idea that America was ever a nation of Rhodes Scholars who’ve been dumbed down over recent decades thanks to a fiendish conspiracy of elementary school teachers and a steady diet of insipid television programming.

We were all quite dumb to begin with.

Over the last decade, the study of civics and history of any kind has taken a back seat to those subject areas that are most heavily tested like math and reading. Because only a few subject areas count in the standardized testing game, those that aren’t get shorted. Civics and American history aren’t make or break tests in determining whether a school is a success or failure. When your school’s reading or math scores can push you into a turnaround, that’s where the time and effort goes.

It could also be a byproduct of our television and movies that “re-imagine” historical events with more attention to the entertainment aspect than the facts, and the sad reality that we are a culture of now. If it happened yesterday or last week, it’s old news. In a world were everything is tweeted and updated within seconds, how can anything that happened over 230 years ago matter?

Our public school system came to be not just as a way to warehouse children once they were no longer put to hard labor the moment they could fetch and carry. It existed with the intent of producing a literate citizenry able to participate as members of a democracy. Our nation’s history and the rights and duties of its population were as important to the curriculum as the 3 R’s.

When I was in middle school, I learned some of my American history watching cartoons on Saturday morning. Schoolhouse Rock cartoons ran in between shows and regaled me and my peers with ditties designed to teach us about the American Revolution, The Constitution and how bills became laws. Simple? Yes.  Effective? Very. Over thirty years later, I can still sing along with most of the tunes.

Schoolhouse Rock should remind us that it takes a village to teach our children well, but the first step towards ensuring that future generations are less ignorant about America’s roots might be the unshackling of public education from mindless testing and allowing teachers to get back to all the basics.

154 responses to “Young Americans Don’t Know Their U.S. History

  1. Pingback: 2010 Top Ten Posts « anniegirl1138

  2. Young Americans do not know their history because it’s basically not required to pass school. Schools focus so much on Mathematics and English… which are important, but it’s history we’re destined to repeat.

    Of course they focus more on those other subjects… yet you can still fail miserably and move to the next grade. The Department of Education has failed and it’s time to try something different.

  3. ZZMike – Thanks for the kind words. Checked out your site. Taking into account everything there, combined with your comments here…we agree on things 100%.

  4. Let’s not rule out the parents part in this as well. I am an African-American that went to an all white high school and a predominantly black middle and elementary school. I grew up in Philly, so I learned a lot about our history. I went to high school in Hershey and learned a lot about all history although I didn’t pay much attention. It was my parents, specifically my dad, that really got me to enjoy history. I still constantly read up on history and I pass it down to my children. I think it’s shameful to only rely on the school system to teach children all they need to know. So i include the fault of parents. Go over history, sit down and watch the history channel, visit local, regional, nationwide and international historical sites and since you know your children make it fun for them. We as parents, bare more of the responsibility for our children’s education.

  5. Well, (some of) the British school system can be quite shocking as well. It is not only Americans who do not know their history.

  6. Haven’t read all the comments here, but I think the key to Schoolhouse Rock’s success was the fact that they made it entertaining. My daughters have no trouble memorizing lyrics to a favorite song. A bunch of cold facts and dates are a bit harder.

  7. Great Britain? I thought we got our independence from England!!

    Kidding. That joke was probably said at least a million times up there.

    I agree that we aren’t dumbed down. We’re just dumb. Always have been.

    I love the new template! I have 11 of your posts in my queue so this might not have been a recent change, but I like it.

  8. I recently taught 11th grade English, which in most states is American Literature. For the better part of my lectures I was forced to explain the history of what was going on. It was very upsetting. I had students who hadn’t heard of Ben Franklin, and thought that slavery ended in the 1920s. While I am no history buff by any stretch, I do know the basics. I don’t know if American society can blame public schools completely. Tthough over-testing and focusing only on Math and Reading is a problem I noticed that my students were so apathetic to learning and there was a kind of eagerness missing. It seems as if a major problem in American education is that students and parents take for granted that it is available to them. Perhaps understanding that there are some places on the globe where being a student is a luxury not a necessity would make American students and their parents respect the system.

    Also, I was deeply disturbed to discover that the school I worked at did not do the Pledge of Allegiance. While there seems to be a movement against the Pledge not saying it is so detrimental to society. How are students supposed to respect their country when they don’t have to say the Pledge? How are students supposed to be expected to care about their history when the Pledge is ignored? Perhaps making everything–testing, classroom policy, teacher paychecks, etc.–so political instead of sticking with the basics is why students across the United States don’t know their American History.

    • I taught history with literature. I believe that it’s like English grammar – all teachers are responsible for it and should teach it when applicable. That’s the trouble with junior/high school; everyone sticks to their subjects areas exclusively. There has to be connections and relevance.

    • “[…] not saying [the pledge of allegiance] is so detrimental to society. How are students supposed to respect their country when they don’t have to say the Pledge?”

      is a claim that I find odd. Consider, e.g.:

      o There is little actual connection between what de facto is a ritualistic recital and feelings about ones country.

      o It is not a given that students should respect their country—or that the country is worthy of respect. True respect has to be earned, not indoctrinated.

      o There are considerable ethical issue to consider where children are concerned, and I feel very strongly that schools should not try to provide children with a pre-determined set of opinions, but instead give them the tools to form their own opinions.

      o Even if not saying the pledge leads to a lack of respect for the country in question, there is no guarantee that this will be detrimental to society. Notably, while their is likely to be at least some negative consequence, there will also be at least some positive ones: A reduction in respect tends to increase questioning of “old truths”, introduction of new ideas, improvements in procedure, and similar.

      • I see your point, but my major concern is with students understanding the reasons behind a “free” society. Doesn’t saying the pledge make students understand why we had a revolution against England? Doesn’t it also allow them to respect the troops that fight for us now? To me, saying the pledge is a way to show respect for a place that allows us to question “old truths.” As with most issues in education there are pros and cons, but I believe when it comes knowing history and saying the pledge the pros far outweigh the cons.

        • I see no reason why it should have those effects.

          If we look at the text

          I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

          the liberty and justice part is certainly something good, but other points are disputable—and they do not truly deal with e.g. the reasons for the revolution. (Which had comparatively little to do with ideals, but much with issues like “no taxation without representation”, in my impression.) Certainly, good history lessons would be of far greater value; certainly, an actual understanding is infinitely more valuable than a ritual recital.

          The most troubling point is that it is, after all, a pledge of allegience. It is not just a school motto or a few words of wisdom—it is an actual pledge of allegiance.

          Looking at more detailed themes: It is not a given that the US is a good place in various regards, and it can well be argued that it has drifted far from the original ideals of “the founding fathers”. The introduction of God also makes religious presuppositions that are out of line in a modern society/school.

  9. I’m what you’d consider an ‘Old Canadian’ at a ripe old age of 43… but I learned a ton about America from TV, including Schoolhouse Rock… the statistic might be reversed here in that some people growing up with me knew more about the US than they did about Canada.

    For instance, a girl I went to University with believed that the American President was in fact the head of Canada, and that our Prime Minister worked for him…

    … which… when you look at world politics might in fact be the case, lol… but I digress…

    My point is that educational television that also entertains works, and works well… Great post!

  10. Here-here! Well said!

    The reason Northeasterners know the history is because it lived all around us! The buildings and sites are all there, and we’ve toured them as children. (at least we 50+ folks did)

    But, gee… my kids had a unit on dinosaurs every year in elementary school, which is something they really need in their everyday adult lives now…. Not!

    Thanks for speaking out!
    Mary 😉

  11. I live in Europe: Over here the stereotypical image of US-Americans have been that they are ignorant and uninformed (also fat and loud-mouthed), for a very long time. (I ask the readers to note the word “stereotypical”.) From that POV, the above is likely to just be more of the same old problem—not a recent deterioration.

    Irrespective of this, the numbers are scary: I likely knew the answer as a pre-teen—and I have never even set foot in the US.

  12. I’m an American living in the UK — in England to be exact. Our children are going to local schools and getting a wonderful education — with the exception of American History. So that has been left to my husband and I. School House Rock has been our lead in for many conversations. I have even shared American history with the children in our school. It’s been a great learning experience all around. Keeps my kids educated and we share our history with our friends.

    As far as what we teach back home… there is so much we can learn from other countries school systems. I’m not saying that it is perfect here, but if you combine some of what they do here, with the good qualities from the US, our schools would be better for it!

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  14. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    It’s not surprising that more and more parents are choosing to homeschool their children. Once a child is enrolled in public school they become part of a system that is largely governed by test scores, funding, and school corporation politics. Parents lose the majority of their rights to have a voice or a choice in what their child is taught, or not taught.

    Here is another sad statistic that reveals a serious flaw in the education of our children:
    “Only one American in 25 can name the five freedoms of the First Amendment: freedom of religion, speech and press, and the rights of petition and assembly.” From: http://1forall.us/support-the-first-amendment/

    I wonder if the topic of this post will someday end up in the history books, as the time in history when Americans didn’t know their own history?

    http://learning2hear.wordpress.com/

  15. You’re probably right that we’ve been dumb since the beginning. I don’t know what your surely insightful views on the education system conclude, but through my own experience I’m convinced they’re designed to turn young people off to the practice of nurturing and exercising their intellect.
    I think we are dumber than we used to be though. The potential for a smart populous is here now, through technology and relatively equal access to at least minimal education for most people. But technology has been misused and abused, leading to what is alienating and confounding and sending more of us to churches. The dissemination and convenience of dull, popular culture, as some of the poorest of us can afford (and can’t imagine living without) televisions or computers. On top of that, the homogenization of culture and the further decrease of the people’s hand in creating culture has dulled the imagination. If we’re not dumber than ever, we’re certainly more dull, ignorant and unimaginative. At least, that’s how I see it…
    I very much enjoyed this piece of writing, in any case.

    • One of the many things that drove me out of teaching was the sense that my students weren’t learning because they felt it was pointless. Life held only the promise of tedious employment and slavery to wages that would never really make them safe or comfortable.

  16. As a wannabe history teacher, this makes me soooooo sad. There are also a lot of stupid adults, it is shocking how many people don’t know the basics to American history.

  17. So its not education system who r only culprit…..most of r male means female dnt like history….yes true,women r the leaser of innovations,n dey hav diff typo interested,most of the ppl r earning 50000$,it reflects dat literate ppl hav interest in history..i dnt kne exactly bt earning much shows dat those r science graduate…still dey hav history knowledge….white ppl struggle for independence so dey knw to whom dey fighted…poll is not surprised….bt forgetting own history is not good for ne country…..keep writing !!!

  18. Thanks for the post…I am an Indian n having oldest history in the world.We wer ruled for approx 500 yrs..starting from mugal,aryans,british….I believe this slavery history of India has tranformed our thoughts more slavery…we r still in trap.In My view slavery hisotry makes us dull. But also it gives stregth to fight…watever !!We cant blame school system only,cos we have all subjects there,its we who decided to adopts math or as

    wewe

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  20. Yes! Bring back Schoolhouse Rock! I’m going into my sophomore year of high school, and I still use Schoolhouse Rock. I memorized the preamble with it, and I answered test questions on gravity due to it. Maybe they could show them during random TV shows, like in the 70’s, and make some new ones about new subjects.(Like Interplanet Janet needs to be revised.)

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  22. Well, it’s strange that Americans don’t know their own history and the ones from foreign countries who apply for citizenship in the US has to know everything. Actually, it’s a shame. You should have them as an example.

  23. As an 18 year old who loves U.S. History and made a 5 on the APUSH test, I think part of the problem is in the home. All of my friends took the same class and are from the same socioeconomic background, but my home involvement in history was a lot heavier. We watched Ken Burns documentaries together, we played Trivial Pursuit, my favorite musical is 1776 and another thing that definitely helped me have a base in US History (and face it, stuff is easier to learn if you already know it from somewhere else) is how many roadtrips my family and I went on.
    One time we went to all four capitals of Georgia in a weekend. My mother trudged around Washington D.C with two six year olds, and a preemie 6-month old still on formula (formula that was often projectile vomited over D.C public transit). We never went anywhere if we couldn’t learn something about something from it.

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  25. I first got interested in history when I was seven. Back in 1968 they came out with small figures of all the American presidents (Nixon had just been elected then) which I collected. this made me want to learn about the presidents and then more about history. I know that figures may be too primitive for today’s children, but maybe a computer presentation on presidents and history. Saying that, I have found that games like Age of Empries have been a good educational tool as well.

  26. I made it a point when I got out of public schools to really study our American History. Considering my paternal line through my father has been here since the mid seventeenth century. I’m an American Southerner, caucasian male that makes less than 20k a year and I know that America broke away from Britain, Bought Louisiana from France and that the principals of our REPUBLICAN form of government were based on enlightened ideals. I was fortunate to escape the test happy system that we have now. Graduated 2002 from a high school in (U.S.) Georgia. [In case people don’t realize it there is a Cacus Mountain nation named Georgia].

    The federal government isn’t constitutionally bound to control education, that is up to the individual state because our system is a FEDERATION not a nation. Each State is individual and ratified the constitution of its own volition. The constitution is not a binding contract a state didn’t give up its rights to leave the union ever. I don’t care what the supreme court said.

    Our younger kids would do well to learn about our past, because our origins are precious to us. Our past doesn’t define us but it is part of us. Romanticizing or revisioning the past is not the best thing. I believe that our collective past needs every single skeleton hidden in any closet dragged out into the light for all the world to see. The past should be taught like story because it is, its the story of how we came to be. Everything has a side or tale to tell.

    Education is important to our youth and yes as a collective we need to share our stories and our past with each other. Losing sight of where we come from…not good. It would be like losing a part of ourselves.

    • You mean Caucasus Mountains, not Cacus Mountains. Georgia is situated at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It was part of Russia once.

  27. Teachers today simply push students through. While I’ll agree that classrooms are over crowded, it’s still no excuse. If a child can’t pass the class then hold them back. Period. The focus of standardize testing is ridiculous, but what’s even worse, are the parents assumptions that the schools will simply provide all the education the child needs to know in order to become a successful, functioning member of society. Parents are just as to blame as the teachers. They need to put the remote, or the bottle, or phone down, quit blaming others, and pay attention to their kid (s).

  28. That’s it I call for a mandated 5 extra classes of US History and Civics–science be damned! [admitted bias: I am a history teacher. :)]

  29. I think that shows like Schoolhouse Rock should be on T.V. for kids now… though knowing how kids work today if it didn’t include explosions, scandle, or other things it may not entertain them. I was homeschooled myself but my favorite time in school was college because you had to really want to be there to pay all the money for classes and you got to study whatever you wanted/needed. I loved classes with anthropology, cultural anthropology, and archaeology to name a few.

  30. Interesting.

    I don’t doubt that there is a definite lack of general knowledge on the subject of history. I remember part of my senior seminar as an undergrad included examining a large study on the history of American history tests. The funny thing was that we have always done poorly in this area. The study detailed the consistently poor performance since early in the 20th century. It also included quotes from reports that had shocking results like the one above. Strangely, these reports never included the fact that the news was simply status quo.

    I will try and find the article/book reference and post it here if I can find it.

  31. Good post. And the reason we don’t know this stuff is because it’s not always taught to us. The teachers are obligated to teach us what will be on our standerized testing in the spring, so that’s really all they teach us. I have never learned my presidents, or state capitals, and not until this past year could I fill in a map of the US, with the state’s abbreivations. In some grades, we don’t even have a standerized test for Socail Studies, so that peroid is often taken out for other things, like learning CPR or school activities. But in general, we are taught that we won independence from Britain. So really, this blame falls on the shoulders of those who do not pay attention in class.
    -GWP14

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  33. Sad but true. As an elementary school teacher in a grade level that comes under standardized testing, I see way too often how history gets shoved aside for the tested subjects to take precedence. We try very hard to integrate social studies into our language arts time but even then it easily gets set aside, especially as the testing days draws closer. It seems almost as though until history is also given such rigorous standardized tests it will never get the attention it deserves, but even then it would often be handled inauthentically with people just trying to get kids to pass the test.

    It’s up to teachers to feel the importance of history and give it the time in our classrooms that it deserves while still giving students what they need to perform well on tests without shortchanging what they’ll need for the rest of their lives.

  34. I agree with this. The schools focus on the things that make them look good, and subjects like history get left in the dust. I mean, if the majority of students turn into great mathematicians,writers, and scientists in the future, great for America in terms of more power in a number of things. But without history, who are we? How did we get to where we are? And I think that a people that do not know much about history may start making mistakes that our ancestors did and wished upon us not to do.

  35. Hi there-
    Found you through wordpress. Your blog is right up my alley. I look forward to reading more! And thanks for the Schoolhouse Rock video! I’ve missed them so. My favorite was the Bill on Capitol Hill…

  36. How sad, I can’t believe people are that ignorant, but just speaking to people you find it’s true!!
    But not to know who we fought the Revolutionary War with? Unbelievable. . .and sad. I do remember School House Rock fondly, conjunction, junction, what’s your function? How about the Charlie Brown “i before e except after c” episode ? I still use that today when writing! NOT spell check!! Maybe that’s how we need to teach the kids today?! In between Saturday & Sunday morning cartoons, or on the computer instead of ads, on the side we could have Educational things?? What do you think? Something needs to be done . . .or some apps. on the kids phones could actually be EDUCATIONAL!!! Even for ADULTS, because everyone could use some education!

    evelyngarone.com

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  38. OMG! It’s worse than I thought. I agree 100% with your analysis but would add that the dumbing down is accelerating because of social networking, as I think some of the other people commenting have mentioned.

  39. It was nice to see you apologize in one of your comment replies for stereotyping the south. Yet you did it again by saying it made you a bit southern. People everywhere stereotype others. Stereotyping is hardly a southern only trait.

    I was sad to see this as part of your article, as the rest of your article is well thought out and well spoken. You bring up a very valid and important issue in this blog post, and your comments on the people of the south really distracted from that (at least for me).

    • @Debbie. You should know by now that people just don’t invent stereotypes–they exist for good reasons. The problem with stereotypes is when ignorant people think they are universally true. You can’t fight ignorance by outlawing stereotypes. As a member of a stereotyped group, I find it invigorating to demonstrate the many ways in which the stereotype is wrong.

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  41. It’s too bad :
    1. our education system is so messed up
    2. kids don’t know we gained independence from England/Great Britain
    3. the school system is so big that we feel helpless to change it.

    The best we can do is to teach our own children to fill in the gaps of public education and family dinner and talk about this stuff.

  42. The statistic is sad considering that basic piece of information should not only be taught in school, but reinforced at every Fireworks display or at least mentioned between beers at a cookout. Though, when comparing America to the rest of the world, I wonder if 76% of the earth’s population gets to attend school at all?

  43. I think that what we teach our kids not only needs to be facts, but also how to interpret those facts. There is absolutely no reason that we shouldn’t have 99 percent of people getting this question right.

  44. I wonder why it’s so important that people know who the US celebrates its independence from? Celebrating a holiday like that is only lamenting the fact that the US “had” to become independent from someone. By doing this, they are furthering the energy around the thought that the US is “not” independent or at one point, wasn’t. As well, this also conjures up images of war and terror.

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

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  46. While I’m not entirely surprised that a quarter of Americans didn’t know that the US gained independence from Britain, I found that they thought that the US gained independence from China, Spain or Japan quite troublesome. That signifies more than just a problem with the history curriculum but a clear lack of common sense. Even if you had no clue as to the answer, you could easily reason a guess based on the fact that the question was asked in English and then asking yourself where did English originate from? Maybe more than improving the history curriculum American schools need to teach children how to think, reason and problem solve more effectively outside of a strict literacy/numeracy context.

  47. I really wonder if this is anything new. People I talk to both older and younger than me are equally ignorant, not just history, but basic science and math (I am mid-30s). If the question was asked 75 years ago, I bet the results would be similar (assuming the “ignored” segment of society was equally asked).

    But then one could also ask the depth of their knowledge – not just the names and dates. I think people tend to remember the “myth” of american history better than the actual facts.

  48. So, so sad. Leno did a segment on this with the same results. In one family, the only person who could answer the questions was the grandfather. History isn’t the only area of knowledge that’s been “dumbed down.” Fewer and fewer high school grads are capable of writing grammatically correct English sentences. And then there’s geography…

    • My children had no interest in geography until we spent a week at Epcot. I know some of you will laugh, but the most educational week you can spend is a week at Disney. Disney is very earnest about providing education ( they are clients of my dh’s, so I hear what they want) There are two parks in every one of their parks – one geared towards entertainment and exercise and one geared towards those who want to learn. They’ve been and have promoted being green fo decades, for example.

      My kids were 4 and 8 that visit. They are 15 and 19 now. My son learned to play an ocarina from a man there ( it was the millennium year and they had 24 extra countries) He still plays one and uses it to teach – he’ll play a familiar tune form a video game to get kid’s attention, and then take them back through time and space by playing different tunes and talking about it. It also led to his playing bagpipes. My daughter met a Mexican woman she really liked. That meeting influenced her to be open to new ways, and piqued her first interest in travel. She came home with plans to work all over the world in Boy Scout camps ( a friend of hers has done this on 5 continents already), She hopes to go into sustainable architecture, which could also involve international travel.

      I cringe when people say kids don’t like learning. I rehab wild animals, and believe me, every animal is born with a strong drive to learn. Learning is the greatest source of joy, and we’re not giving it to our children. Human babies are being robbed blind.

  49. Your point about the focus of the last decade being on subjects with standardized tests is correct, but History is one of them. I think the bigger picture is needed. Traditionally, going back to the founding of this country, the focus has always been on the subjects most necessary to survive- in the South, agriculture, in the North, manufacturing/business. Only as the majority of people have become richer (and historically, this is a relatively recent event) has there been the “luxury” to study topics less immediately necessary. I agree we have never been a country of Rhodes Scholars, but to say we were dumb is to miss the point entirely and is insulting. “Ignorant” would be a more accurate term (with no connotation of negativity). I bet any Southern farmer of 100 years ago was far more educated of the water table than any student today is of history. Education has always been immediate needs first.

      • I prefer the word ignorant, but learned long ago that it is more incendiary, so I say ‘dumb’ when I mean ignorant. It is less offensive to most people – certainly on lists it is. Ignorant means a person has not yet been exposed, not that they aren’t capable of grasping the concept. Odd how that is more threatening to people than if they were unable to learn. As a society, we’ve become very comfortable with saying “I can’t” and shrugging off the responsibility of making an effort. This complacency is a sign of success in the government and big business goal of making placid citizens who work assembly line jobs without complaint.

  50. Ironically, yet not surprisingly, the reporting of this story had the same problem as the subjects of the study. The people who ran it (and who are reporting it) don’t get what is abundantly obvious to me.

    School, at least nearly all school, is taught by rote (memorizing). Even teaching interactively is nearly always just memorizing in game form. Things must be taught associatively in order for a person to take that fact and apply it in different ways. The students failed the question because the way it was asked did not match the way they learned it. If they had been asked about the Revolution, I bet nearly all of them would have known. Teachers ask in true or false form and in multiple choice form for the very reason that it triggers correct responses. Alas, it does not show that the student actually owns that knowledge.

    IQ tests separate people who process by rote from people who process by association ( aka critical thinking or reasoning). To give an example of the two, Rainman, the famous fictional savant in the movie by that name, could parrot numbers with astounding accuracy. But when asked to USE those numbers, he could not add 2 + 2. During brain development, which does not end at birth, but continues throughout childhood, the brain reaches a fork in the road and actually makes a choice. This is called a ‘brain preference’. The preference is to develop as much associative ability as possible. If it can’t do that, it develops as much rote as it can. Rainman ( and real people like him) have very capable brains that ran into a roadblock at that fork, and so they took the lower level path and developed amazing memorization. Most people develop fairly equally, give or take ten or 20 IQ points. A few people have such a wide open path to the higher, associative, level that the brain gets all excited and forgets to develop much rote. It is called organic brain damage when the disparity is large. Those people end up with extremely high IQ’s ( over 175), and perhaps little common sense, or they may have good common sense but poor to no ability to memorize phone numbers and math facts. I learned about this because my son is one of those, and to a lesser degree, so are my daughter and I. Here is an example of how my son’s mind worked at age 4:

    He sat and played on the floor in a store, and soon was joined by two older boys. Being tall and very verbal, it took 20 minutes before the other boys realized he was younger. Suddenly one asked, accusingly “How old are you?” Being unable to memorize, he had to ask me. Four, I whispered. “Four” he told them. “Well, I’m 6 and he’s 7” the boy spat at him. Without batting an eye, my son offered “Well, in 4 years. I’ll be 8”. “Cool”. the older boy said, and they went back to playing.

    The kids interviewed for this study were like the 6 and 7 yo. They knew just enough to speak, not enough to think. And no big surprise that those who did well on it came from wealthier homes, with a greater change they went to private schools (only a few of which are any better) or one of the very few truly good public schools or their parents were scientists, or worked in another inquisitive line of work, and encouraged reasoning outside of school. I know I came out far more so than my classmates ( including the far better students) because I had that kind of parents. I was a lousy student because I can’t memorize.

    The way schools are run, children’s brains have no reason to develop that higher level of thinking, sometimes called critical thinking. So, they don’t. There is solid evidence that governments stunt brains intentionally. More lower level workers are needed than upper level ones, so they deliberately make kids dull as stumps. Anyone with a lot of ability to truly think – to puzzle (or as IQ tests put it – to reason that apple is to orange as car is to bike) is going to be bored and agitated in a factory job, just as gifted kids are bored and agitated in rote based classrooms. This is also how gifted kids become pariah’s – because they are the ones that go against the grain. Children do not get their intellectual needs met when all they are fed is pablum Associative brains are hungry brains and they become miserable, and sometimes act miserably as any unfed child when they are starved. That, my friends, is why there are behavioral issues in schools. I didn’t make this up. It’s been known for decades. My grandfather ran a reform school – he was brought in because it had had a rash of murders. His theory was that a mind filled with positive things does no have room to fill up with negative ones. The murders stopped. Some of the kids went on to great success later in life. His success caught the attention of Washington where the UN was setting up UNRRRA. He was sent to run the displaced person’s camp at Ebensee Austria after WW2, as part of UNNRA.

    There is another reason, explained to me by a teacher friend. Classes are large, and grading essays take any times longer than grading multiple choice tests. The teacher has to read and then do hr own critical thinking to grade them. And the same with teaching classes. There is absolutely no reason to teach grammar. Teach a child to pay attention while reading and grammar comes with that. I know this is true, because I did it. My son never had a spelling or vocabulary lesson but went to state and barely missed going to national in the national vocabulary test. He missed the word eclectic – a word he knew, and which fit him to a T, because this contest does not use real definitions, but ‘popular’ often inaccurate ones! Yet another educational silliness.

    We ended up home schooling when by first grade it became clear that my son’s very basic needs would never be met in school. He is now 19, and has been teaching at camps and living history museums since he was 14. He is an extremely popular teacher, and feels he was born to teach, but is now faced with the challenge of where to do it? After all, how does one find a school that does not want to teach by rote? He does not teach that way. He also loves anything to do with the wilderness, so most likely he will open his own educational camp at some point. Then the only problem will be finding parents who understand the value of an education that isn’t about memorization. but reasoning. After several generations of dumbing down, how many can get in that line anymore?

    • I know how things are presented in classrooms. I taught next door to history teachers and marveled at how boring they made it. I totally agree that relevance is the way to go.

      • I hated history and geography in school. Hated them. Yet I love both as an adult. I got D’s in history in school, even though my dad was a single parent who took us along on his rounds to antique shops, museums and on archeological digs ( he was an archeologist who spent a decade as director of museums for our state). I knew history better than 99% of my peers nationwide – I’m sure of that. What I did not know ( or care about) was precise dates. I do a lot with fashion history now, and have for decades, When I need to know, for example, when red dye became available, I have to look up the date. Do you realize how easy that is>? Yet, look up the date and what does that get you? The same lack of substance garbage taught in school. Dates are not relevant, no matter what anyone says. It’s what happened concurrently or consequently that is.

        I tell people that history can be taught through an infinite number of avenues. If a kid likes cars, use transportation. If he likes dogs, use dogs – it’s amazing how many times pets affected history! just look up cats and the plague – WOW! With my kids, we used something different all the time. Find a subject you like, and research, with it as a search word. Disease, diamonds, tulips, dolls, bagpipes, sports of all kinds – lift the lid off each one and you’ll find the pot teeming with interesting connections that will excite your brain and make you want to learn more.

  51. I’m ashamed to admit it, but if I had to take the U.S. citizenship test this very second I would probably miss several answers (even thought I could probably recite every School House Rock ever made). History in school was about note taking and regurgitation of facts. Now that I am older, I can finally appreciate what I learned years ago and seek to go more in-depth in areas of specific interest. A favorite is the “Stuff You Missed in History Class” podcast. You should check them out.

  52. I think that the situation that has left much of the young people that attend public schools at a level where they can not comprehend historical fact or are rather diverted from it, has something much more to do with some sort of institutionalized mechanism that prevents the young and more idealistic away from having any ideas of entertaining a move towards revolutution here than it is in actually identifying by implyication that somehow there has been a lessening in todays students to comprehend. It is quite possible that a determination has been made that todays student is very able to master the subject of history, but history teaches some very valuable lessons that in this case might be best for those in power to not provide the young with. I refer to the recent idiot decisions by Rick Perry and the State of Texas Educational system under his dictates to actually rewrite history in a way that has nothing to do with facts. The Bush years of no child left behind were actually designed to leave as many behind as possible from another former Governor of Texas that during his term as Gov. of Texas saw Texas fall from 16th in the country to 37th in the education of its students. We would do well to ask ourselves who and what is truly responsible for this. The search for scholarship in the areas of science and math should result in a persons training to logically induct and deduct reasoning, thus presentation of times, dates and consequences and action should be of aids to each other not obstacles. I would say there is something much more horrifying at work here than inaptitude.

  53. Yes, yes, and yes. “No Child Left Behind” is partly to blame in my opinion. My kids go to a public school in a “disadvantaged” area. It blows my mind though, teachers are amazing there but every single one will comment on the fact that children are tested to death…. they used to focus more on reading, then math scores fell, so now the courses of study have changed to focus on math, and of course the reading has fallen!

    Not to mention that besides american history… fine arts, music, social studies, science, art, even gym… they are all slowly going away. And the hard part for parents (like me) is keeping up! I try to teach my kids what they miss in school but with homework? Time is the issue…

  54. “We were all quite dumb to begin with”.
    HAHAHAHA
    So true.
    On a more serious note, it is a shame that many people do not know more about America gaining freedom from Britain, especially because I think we could learn a lot from those early partriots. They were able to cobble together whatever they had and make it work. That’s exactly the kind of thinking we need now if we want to make any kind of progress through the many trials our country’s facing.

  55. Schoolhouse Rock totally rocked! I learned quite a bit from learning those songs … and, like you, I can still sing along with most of them (Conjunction Junction, anyone?).

    Your post in right on about what’s happened with our education system. I teach GED classes, and it never ceases to amaze me the basic information about our history as a country that my students have never heard.

    Another sad statistic: in a geography survey done a few years ago, almost half of the sample couldn’t name any country that bordered the United States.

  56. Pingback: Young Americans Don’t Know Their U.S. History (via anniegirl1138) « S&E Blog

  57. I’ll start by saying that I’m a 19 year-old mathematics major in college. When I first read your post I was very disappointed and also very excited. I was disappointed for the various obvious reasons that I find the state of our educaiton system deplorable, and I was very excited because I’m glad that there is (at the very least) a small group of people here on this site that understand and feel exactly the same way that I do. I was educated in a fairly new public charter school, which I’ve advocated for on numerous occasions, who’s structure and methodology were both new and also effective.

    Though I am a math major, I have always detested the heavy emphasis on the math and science majors without any support for the social sciences and humanities. I think that kids need to be taught their history and cultural heritage (thats right, I also mean multi-ethnic courses) from an early age so that they can get a bigger picture of the rich and diverse history that we have here. Since I’ve always been frustrated with the level of education I recieved I’ve always been attempting to make myself into an educated man by taking it upon myself to read such things as the Federalist Papers, George Washington’s Farewell Address, and hopefully soon the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

    I think we need a serious revamping of our education system that begins at the earliest age possible, and that teaches subjects without forcing students into a cut-throat grade-making test-taking battle for their future.

  58. Great post. Great topic. It’s sad when our education gets to this point. In high school, our US history teacher had us take the US Citizenship test. It was astonishing how much we didn’t know. Probaby a good thing that we were grandfathered in as Americans,otherwise, a lot of us couldn’t pass the test to get in the door.

  59. I did notice that there was a post on Lamebook.com where someone had written (on Facebook) that they were happy to celebrate America’s 2010th birthday. Another commented that America had won its freedom from France…brilliant. France actually HELPED America…

  60. That’s certainly a bummer of a statistic. I would hope that more people would know why we celebrate the Fourth of July — and not just for the fireworks. This makes me glad for all the good teachers I had, as well as the SchoolHouse Rock videos. Those are fantastic! I happened upon a Best of SchoolHouse Rock video at a thrift store and scooped it up. My kids were delighted by it. You know, you don’t even have to update the videos in their graphics or music. I think they’re still fun as they are. And they’re still great learning tools. I’m glad also for other productions, such as HBO’s “John Adams” series and the History Channel’s “America The Story of Us.” Yep, there’s a lot of entertainment in there, but at least they get the point across that the US gained independence from Britain.

    • I just have to say that I loved Schoolhouse Rock too, and it’s refreshing to know that everyone else on this page does too! i’m not such a nerd after all! 😉
      Also it’s great that people are professing a desire to learn not only about US but about the whole world – geography was one of my favorite classes in elementary school and I soo looked forward to Civics in HS – but, sad to say, our teacher was an older man, not up to the challenge of the poor, and disquieted unrest in our classrooms at the time. I did not get much of an education in Civics or Economics or any of the other things i longed to learn – nowadays, it’s hard to find the time but I still endeavor to educate myself! God bless Benjamin Franklin for the Public Library system (And Andrew Carnegie for the first Public Library, which was built in Braddock, PA outside of Pittsburgh, PA where I grew up!) Also PBS and her supporters! and for the “Story of US” – i am soo looking forward to that as well! We’ve gpt the resources, do we have the motivation? someone once told me you will find time for what you REALLY want to do… i think she was right.

  61. I heard some kid (on the 4th of July, no less) say the reason for the American Revolution was religious freedom. Um… well, that was ONE of the reasons. ONE. Out of MANY. Did I mention that I live in Washington, DC, and the history of this country is EVERYWHERE? I wanted to smack the kid and throw him inside the Smithsonian. I don’t think it’s because Americans are stupid. I think it’s because we are lazy and live in an age of NOW information. Too many distractions and not enough interest = an ignorant people.

    P.S. I *loved* School House Rock. “I’m Just a Bill” might be why I live and work in DC.

  62. I am a southerner who has a degree in political science. I have always been interested in history. I teach American Government on the college level. It amazes me how many students I have enter my class (from all regions of the U.S.) that do not know the difference between the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I agree whole heartedly with this article with the exception that I do not agree that southerners are any more revisionists than any other region of the States. I say that would depend upon the subject. BTW I am not only descended from a long line of educators; but, also white southerners who did not own slaves and fought for the union during the Civil War. So there is another stereotype that is not accurate. Not all southerners were slave owners or rebels.

  63. I never paid attention in history class growing up. It was all taking notes, notes, notes for a class period. American history is so boring too. Not just the history itself but I had to memorize dates and boring treaties and such. It was always American and some European history. We never even learned WW2. O_o Never anything in the Middle East or Asia which I wanted to learn. Least when I got to college that changed but I had to wait 12 years for that?

    Now that I’m older though I’ve been wanting to read about American History more for pleasure and away from the stress of having to try and score high on a test.

  64. Thanks for writing this. My parents pulled me out of public school and began home schooling for many reasons, but one was their concern of what we weren’t learning. They could see a difference between what they had learned and what we were being taught…so they started dragging us to Gettysburg and such and having us read books written first hand.

    Oh. And about being home schooled… don’t worry about me. I don’t wear scrunchies, long denim skirts, nor tote a shotgun. 😉

    http://thebecomingyear.com/

  65. Need not worry. Now-a-days most of people forget their Nation.s History and culture. Another impact by Globalization.

  66. Yea, I’ve heard that American students are almost inattentive to their own history, but let me tell you that it’s more or less a global issue. That’s the case in Iran, my country, as well. The number of students with an acceptable knowledge of history and geography is very limited compare to 74 m people (population of whole country). Beside the fact that many are illiterate still, a few are knowledgeable in humanities and related stuff.
    All these are unfortunate. Humanities are the substances to keep and preserve the very cores of civilization intact. Nobody can keep a civilization alive with a bunch of managers, engineers and doctors only. You need historians…

    • Thanks for sharing this. The American press likes to gleefully portray us ignorant because they support the govt’s agenda to dismantle public education which, of course, feeds into the problem you mention – history gets lost to the past.

  67. (no surprise as they have always been revisionists)

    Let me inform you (gently, tongue firmly in cheek) that your sweeping generalization about the south is inaccurate, as sweeping generalizations tend to be. There is no “they” (which you use to refer to all Southerners), much less an “always” when it comes to this place. I’m assuming, as I live in the south, that you use the term “revisionist” to refer to those who believe the American Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. “Some” people have such beliefs in the south, this “some” being, generally speaking, rural, white, uneducated Southerners with “some” others being, generally speaking college educated, perhaps, yet stubbornly attached to some bizarre notion of Southern “Heritage”, perhaps what are called Sons or Daughters of the Confederacy, i.e., educated people who think they aren’t racist. Though I live in the south I don’t personally know any of either species, but I’ve heard they exist. You are being generous when you claim that Southerners performed poorly on this history quiz because they have a certain view of history. I imagine they performed poorly for a much different reason, but I’m too polite to say.

    • I apologize for perpetuating stereotype (makes me a bit southern, eh). My husband lived in the south for a while and he still occasionally works in Texas and many of my students’ families originated from the south, so I base some of my position on what I’ve been told or observed. But it’s not first-hand and I know that like everyone else, the South is not a “one size fits all”.

      • No worries. Your stereotype is probably more right than wrong, sadly, and I was having fun. I really don’t know any of these revisionists, but I live in a city where they probably do a better of hiding. Cheers.

    • I’ve lived in the deep South over half my life ( the first time beginning when I was 6). I live there now. It is a direct result of my interest in learning that I am considered a ‘yankee’ here. Since you live here too, you surely know about the cultural pride people here take in being ignorant, whether it is good ole boy ignorance or ditzy bimbo ignorance. You know the expression “Bless his heart”? Everyone here knows the silent end of that is “he’s dumb as a post”. It’s an endearment. Put downs in general are claimed to be endearments here, especially when directed a at small children. .

      I have close relatives that deliberately discourage their kids from educational activities the children have expressed an interest in, because if they act ‘yankee’ (intelligent), they won’t fit in around here. Chess, lego league, boy scouts, etc are activities some kids here do, but none are claimed as Southern, the way motor boating, fishing, football, and car racing are. It’s a frame of mine.

      In this case, it truly is not just a stereotype. It’s also a proud cultural tradition.

      The bigger picture is that cold regions are more inclined to have a history of educational pursuits and hot regions are less inclined. It has to do simply with what kinds of activities one can do while huddled around a fireplace. There isn’t a lot of inventing going on when one’s brain is addled by 100 degree heat either. I have this on good authority – I’m an inventor with a pressing deadline for my current project but it’s 97 today so I’m here writing on the computer. The internet and video games, etc,are becoming major levelers, but the family and cultural traditions still prevail. The north is where things like Mensa and Odyssey of the Mind originated, while more fashion models come from the South than anywhere else in the US. What matters to you and your neighbors? Chances are that is what will matter to your kids and your neighbor’s kids – not what matters to people three states away.

  68. Wow. On one hand, how depressing. On the other… sadly, not all THAT surprised…?

    This is very frustrating on many levels. Our focus on certain disciplines at the expense of others is, in my view, detrimental across the board: from school children to the highly educated. Everyone should be more versed in history, social sciences, the arts, languages. How can we appreciate our world and all that it holds for us, when we have not been taught to do so?

    For example: NPR had a story recently about preschools in France. The teacher took them to art exhibits and museums because she felt it was never too early to learn to do these things and appreciate them. How awesome is that?

    More personal for me, being in the sciences, there is a lot of push for “multidisciplinary” and “interdisciplinary” research AND for outreach. But… we’ve been educated from SUCH a young age that our math skills are what matter, that science is what matters. The ivory-tower scientist is SO ingrained in these fields, they can’t often see the forest for the trees. Answers to questions we have may be informed by economists, social scientists, AND historians, but, in general, we don’t have the creativity or foresight to think about them, don’t know how to engage them, and frankly, don’t respect their fields enough to begin doing so in the first place. Where do you think such bias began?

    The end result? We do narrow-minded research, come to inaccurate or uninformed conclusions, and our own field, the one we think so highly of, suffers too.

    • Children are never really too young to begin exposing them. My husband is a chemical engineer. Our eight year old sits at the table and listens to him give the most technical replies to her questions and though half or more goes over her head, I am surprised by what she remembers.

      I would teach Shakespeare to my 7th graders when I was still teaching. They loved it and they got it too.

  69. I don’t really buy into the idea that America was ever a nation of Rhodes Scholars who’ve been dumbed down… We were all quite dumb to begin with.
    I couldn’t agree more. A quick look at some video and comments on YouTube support your statement. I read a book several years ago where the author stated similarly to what you said, “common sense is not common.”

    [sigh}
    what will happen to our country.

    • In the early 1960’s not even half of Americans finished high school. We actually have more than twice the high school graduation rate today. So it’s ridiculous to believe that we are getting dumber. People tend to live in the now or the near past. Always have.

      • but are they getting an education or just a diploma? i saw kids getting passed thru because the teachers didnt want them back next year! and look at how many people cannot spell! they don’t know the difference between losing and loosing, they’re and their, OMG, who are we kidding? children are far less literate nowadays because it is simply not required of them!

        • But you are assuming that we were a literate bunch of people before and that our schools were producing highly educated people in the past. The truth is that those with aptitudes have always had a place to go and we’ve ignored the fact that most people will learn only as much as they need to in order to get by.

          I don’t spelling can be accurately assessed if you are using just social media as an assessment tool. It’s too fast a forum and it encourages the tendency most of us have to not read over things before we send them.

          And don’t assume that because someone doesn’t read much that they can’t. In twenty years, I had a handful of kids at most who couldn’t learn to read. The majority can read but as it is a skill, it requires practice in order to retain it.

  70. I am a 21 year old female, so I guess I am considered a “Young American”, however I highly value education and knowledge. Sure I may watch movies and even the occasional crappy reality TV show, but I am also an avid reader who values learning. It’s unfortunate that so many young people have little to no knowledge of the things they should care about-the nation’s history being one thing for example. I hope when I have kids I can keep them from playing video games and rotting in front of the television all day, and instead encourage them to read and learn like my parents did with me.

  71. You make some very valid points here that I never considered…especially the one regarding how history is not a part of the standardized testing that is used to evaluate the performance of schools, therefore as a subject it has been downgraded in importance.

    It’s quite sad, really. I loved History and Civics when I was in school. I’ll never forget the first day of High School history class with a memorable teacher who introduced us to the addage: “a society that does not know it’s history is destined to repeat it”. It was the first time I heard that phrase, and I’ve been repeating it ever since.

    • We make a mistake in not teaching history as though it were a great story and I think that is why many Americans don’t know our history – which is fascinating.

      • this is so true. my mother was a history teacher and always got SO frustrated by how bored i got in my history classes. i had exactly TWO primary teachers (one in middle, one in high school) who made the class interesting. i was SO happy when i took a history course in college that i liked so much i signed up for the second half the following semester! history CAN be fascinating, but it’s all dates and names and dates and names and dates and names until kids can’t see straight anymore!

        • I believe you got a vital point right there.

          Of course, history is also taught where I come from, but only one teacher got me excited about it. He was just finishing his education as a high school teacher, having my class as part of his practical education. This meant that he was running the show as any other teacher, but was experimenting galore, trying to figure out what worked. This meant a variety of activities – not only the teacher being at the blackboard and student presentations, but something like roleplaying (for example two of the students doing a court trial of ancient Greece, having read up on it as homework, argumenting for ourselves and our respective cases).

          When he was evaluating the course, I couldn’t pick out which activity I found to be the best (although he – almost desperately – wanted me to, trying to figure out what worked most effectively, I suppose). I just enjoyed the variety. Plus, I think you’ll need variety to fit the entire class.

          He only taught for one year – then he had to move on (I think because his position was specific to his education, not a permanent position). The following year we got a lady who was able to attach basically anything to Russia – which would be absolutely fascinating if she had been able to excite me about it. All due respect for Russia and her major being Russian, but we weren’t in a Russian class! We weren’t even IN Russia! At the very least attach it to the country/part of the World you’re in! (…. oookay, cooling down now – sorry…).

          Anyway. I do realize it’s important to be excited about your major – but also what you’re teaching. And at the same time, it’s vital to make sense of it, and to engage and excite the students, too; try to sense where they are, reach out for them, and activate them. At least that seemed to be what worked for me.

          My point is that I think remember more history from the first teacher than the second.

          The end! 😀

  72. As a history teacher, I agree with you. I’ve taught elementary, middle and high school grades and I have to say that it really begins in the elementary grades. We think that young students can’t handle the intense facts of history so we have dumbed down our curriculum. We no longer have any type of spiral curriuclum and we believe our children will somehow absorb material without a solid foundation. Oh and I love School House Rock and the Animaniacs also had some really good songs as well. 🙂

    • The younger you catch them; the better hold you have on their minds and imaginations. Which is a bit scary too because the young are easier to brainwash. When I think about the white-washing American history took when I was a child, it makes me a bit angry.

  73. You’re right that schools are focused less on learning and more on scoring well on the standarized tests. As a parent, it’s frustrating.

    P.S. To this day, whenever I count by 5’s, I count in rhythm to the “Schoolhouse Rock” song.

    http://toddpack.com

      • Check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJuNgBkloFE

        I know it’s a long shot – they took all the wrong answers and put into one video – but a couple of minutes in, a map (or several, actually) has come out. They swapped the names of the countries on it, so you’ll see a few stick the flagg into Australia (where the reporters come from) instead of the actual countries they meant to mark. I remember them marking it as France and North Korea (Tazmania supposedly being South Korea).

        Luckily, I know that there are more intelligent Americans out there.

  74. What country is Great Britian?

    I keed I keed! haha.

    This is kind of sad though…how could you not know what country we celebrate our independence from? Boggles my mind!

    • Hey, I actually was disappointed to learn that one of my own kids didn’t know that Great Britain and England were one and the same! The schools have failed us – our children, more so – i think in part due to the socio-economic times we live in. If your school was in a bad part of town, then the kids were more likely to be disruptive and learning was squelched for the others – focus remained from year to year on the “same” basics – i.e., we studied the civil war in every grade because it referred to black american history and because my school was predominantly black. that’s all they ever wanted to talk about. We breezed past the Revolution so we could get to Lincoln. No one cared about WW I or WWII, or Vietnam – after the civil war we got stuck on Martin Luther King Jr. Have we really come any farther?
      Nope! had we been more informed about civics, the role of democracy among world powers, and the plights of other countries without our rights and freedoms, we might be more informed and concerned citizens instead of overwhelmingly frustrated and ignorant!

      • QBPro sorry to correct you, but England and Great Britain are Not one and the same, Great Britain is actually the largest island in the British Isles but is also the union of England, Scotland and Wales (All of which are on the island of Britain) created in 1604 by King James the 1st of England (Also King James the 6th of Scotland) becoming the Kingdom of Great Britain. England itself has been a country since AD 927 when one king ruled the entire country for the first time.

        If you don’t understand it then you can hardly blame your kids for not realizing it either! 😉 Seriously though this problem I hate to say, is echoed here in the UK with many schools failing to teach even the basic history of our country, choosing instead to focus mainly on the second world war and events after, hardly history when here in England we have over one thousand years to choose from!

      • Respectfully Great Britain and England aren’t one and the same. To say this is to say that Texas and the United States are one and the same.

      • You’re right, I believe that’s true, but isn’t that basically political correctness that you’re talking about? That’s a failure of the school system. A classical education includes going back through early history, not just American history, and it is very comprehensive. However, we’ve become schooled in political correctness, not letting anyone get left behind. So, yes – we have in many ways dumbed down the curriculum so that everyone can “pass” and feel good about themselves, and the teachers can have passing stats. Also, the rampant materialism of our culture plays a huge role. When people are geared until toward the accumulation of wealth, they stop worrying so much about wanting to learn for the sake of participating in the democracy, because no one has time to participate – because we’re all too busy accumulating wealth.

        • Partially. I do believe there is a base line of knowledge that is attainable for everyone but the idea that we can all achieve at the same levels in all subjects ignores the fact that we are not all equally skilled or even interested in all subjects.

          Materialism is how they train us. Like mice in mazes.

      • sorry, but your one child is smarter than you. Actually England and Great Britain are not the same country. Great Britain refers to 4 countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Ask a Scot or an Irishman and they will proudly tell you they are not English. They were forcefully conquered by the English overlords and have been struggling for full independence ever since. Maybe you should watch Braveheart which is actually historically correct. Americans are basically lazy and have made that same mistake during the Cold War thinking Russia and the Soviet Union were the same, just one country. The Soviet Union was made up of conquered nations such as the Ukraine but the Ukraine was never part of Russia.

        • Braveheart isn’t all that accurate when it comes to Robert the Bruce, and it has it’s Wallace dates wrong.

          I just finished reading Miranda Carter’s George, Nicholas and Wilhelm and according to her, Russia has historically since itself as the protector of many of the countries that made up the former Soviet Union.

        • I am sure that every conquering country has declared itself the protector of the countries it has occupied. So in that regard, England and Russia are alike. They have conquered and ocuppied other nations in the name of protecting them. Come to think of it, America has tried to do that to a lesser extent. It’s just that we have not been successful with countries actually touching our borders (although we did invade Canada way back when). And of course, you would have to ignore Manifest Destiny. So if you are big and powerful, you try to take over the little guys next door and rewrite history in the name of protection.

        • I pointed it out only as an example of the fact that Russia seems to have always regarded surrounding countries as an extension of itself – probably still does.

          History is written by the powerful and militarily victorious, but the U.S. has been disingenuous about its own colonial aspirations, I think.

        • I am sure that every conquering country has declared itself the protector of the countries it has occupied. So in that regard, England and Russia are alike. They have conquered and ocuppied other nations in the name of protecting them. Come to think of it, America has tried to do that to a lesser extent. It’s just that we have not been successful with countries actually touching our borders (although we did invade Canada way back when). And of course, you would have to ignore Manifest Destiny. So if you are big and powerful, you try to take over the little guys next door and rewrite history in the name of protection. Also, a note to my British friends. Thanks for the clarification on the differences between Great Britain and the Unitied Kingdom.

        • Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales. The United Kingdom includes them and Northern Ireland. Our passports call us citizens of ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Geographically, GB and Ireland are known as ‘The British Isles’ but that’s geography, not politics.

      • Just to clarify. Lot’s of confusion here.
        Great Britain (island) is Scotland, Wales and England.
        The United Kingdom (state) is Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
        Ireland (island) is The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
        The British Isles (islands) are the two big islands and all the other islands in the area. The Irish of The Republic of Ireland don’t like to be part of the British Isles.
        To add confusion, the British Islands (monarchy) are United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
        Because the Brits still hold the north-eastern part of Ireland even after the Irish war of independence, there’s likely to be different opinions on any names and their definitions and connotations for a long time.
        I’m Swedish btw.

  75. Thanks for this post! It was very interesting to read even though I’m from Germany. I think the problem you described has a lot to do with the culture we are living in and which you described very well. I wonder how we could change that? Force the children to watch something like Schoolhouse Rock? 😉

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