Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day: Independence From Whom?

Marist College recently conducted a poll of 1,004 US residents appropriate for this Independence Day. They asked, from which nation did we declare our independence in 1776? The results were disturbing. About 1 in 4 (23-29%) of Americans either do not know, or will give the wrong answer. Even more disturbing, among those age 18-29, the results are significantly higher: 37-43%. 

Why is this happening? I don't know much about what is being taught in high schools these days, so I don't have an answer to that. David Brooks and Mark Shields, however, responded in their weekly analysis on The Newshour this Friday. They said,
DAVID BROOKS: To me, the substance of it is that we have traded history for social studies in schools, that we don't do the ABC, here is what happened when.
And I notice this when I talk to kids, including sometimes my own kids. They just don't get the dates. They don't get the dates. They don't have the scaffolding of history. And they do a lot more social structure. They do cultures. They do this. They do that.
But they don't have the basic -- the facts and lineage of what happened when. And, so, those basic facts if, you don't have the scaffolding, you are not going to remember. You're not going to know how to organize it and put it all together into some sort of theory.
MARK SHIELDS: We're a lot more sensitive, but we're a lot less informed.
What is rather terrifying is the figure you cited about 40 percent of the people under the age of 29. And 80 percent, close to, over -- those over 45 do know. There was something going on in schools. The people, the older people are less likely to have gone to college than are the younger ones.
And the idea that somebody is going through college and graduating and not knowing a fundamental fact like that is terrifying and it's depressing.
For more opinion on the poll, check out Steven L. Taylor's post at Outside the Beltway.

What do you think?  Are you disturbed by these results?  Why have we done a poor job teaching fundamental facts of our nation's history?

1 comment:

MrsM said...

The public school system fails to meet even the lowest standards...again. I could say it was surprising, but the truth is the system isn't failing just history. It's failing to teach people to read (the average American adult reads on an 8th GRADE level with 1 in 5 reading at a 5th grade level or below according to Department of Education studies in 2003), failing to teach people basic math skills (a study done by Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy found that 65% of their respondents didn't know what would remain if you subtracted 25% from 8), failing to teach people geography (only 37% of people ages 18-24 could find Iraq on a map in a National Geographic study last year)'s even failing to teach English to people who speak English (check almost ANYTHING written online, even supposedly professional articles!). It does however teach children very important lessons-that learning is a boring job to be suffered through, that nothing academic is practical in "real life", that we must always defer to experts rather than attempt to discover things for ourselves, that we must rely on people who have more power than us to tell us when to eat, study, work, and even far as I'm concerned, the American education system is an intentional failure. Mindless zombies are much easier to manipulate and control than an informed, intelligent population capable of making their own decisions.