Focus Point - Historical Dopes

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Imagine a world in which peoples' knowledge of their country's history goes no farther back than the beginning of their own lives. That's where we're headed.

A study by the American Council of Trustees and alumni shows that only three of the top-ranked 55 colleges and universities - Columbia, Colgate and Sewanee - require a western civilization course.

None - make that none - requires a course in American History. Some schools have history requirements, but put "requirements" in quotation marks. Students can easily evade them by a variety of electives. Thus, it's no surprise that only 20 percent of college seniors in a roper poll knew that "Government of the people, by the people and for the people" came from the gettysburg address. Or that fewer than half knew separation of powers was spelled out in the constitution. Or that almost four of ten thought Ulysses Grant commanded U.S. forces at Yorktown. Again, these were college seniors.

One thing that helps hold a people together is the shared knowledge of their past. We're in danger of losing it.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, tax breaks.