Focus Point - Flunking HistoryCommentary by Pete du Pont
March 13, 2000
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Well, here's a happy bit of news. According to the Washington Times, a recent survey of seniors at the nation's top 55 universities showed four out of five were ignorant of even the most basic elements of American History. Most can go through four years of college without taking one history course. The soon-to-graduate-and-be-loosed-on-the-world students demonstrated what critics called "profound historical illiteracy".
How bad? Forty-two percent knew who was "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen". Twenty-two percent knew the "of the people, by the people" line was from the Gettysburg address. A third didn't know the constitution established separation of power in the American government.
Two questions. First, how can anyone go through college without a history course. What are they taking? Second, how could anyone get into college without knowing this? What are the high schools doing? The problem with turning out historical illiterates is that they'll believe anything because they have nothing to compare it to. That's the scary part.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, busting trust busters.