Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Don't Know Much About History..."

U.S. Constitution

An article posted on brings to my mind the first line from an old Sam Cooke song - "Don't know much about History." (The title of the song is "What a Wonderful World"). The story by contributing editor Kenneth C. Davis cites a report by the Intercollegiate Studies Institutes's (ISI) and the results of their 2006 American Civic Literacy Test. The test was given to 14,000 freshman and senior college students from 50 colleges and universities.

The results from the test are disappointing to say the least. The average test score was 52% while the highest test score was from Seniors at Harvard who scored 69.6%. You have to wonder how average Americans would score on the test with students from what is arguably America's most prestigious university scoring the equivalent of a D+.

Davis makes the argument that the way History is taught in our schools could be a lot more "fun" than it is now. He illustrates the point by telling this "story":

For instance, did you hear the one about the 20-something American officer who disobeyed orders, led an ambush of some sleeping French soldiers, then signed a document amounting to a confession of assassinating a French diplomat and ignited a world war in the process? That's actually a true story about an ambitious, headstrong George Washington in 1754. And it's much more interesting than the hokey legend about the cherry tree.

That is a very interesting story and one that I'll go into further in a future blog. Davis also briefly mentions Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln and how some of what they experienced in their lives relates to stories in today's headlines.

As for the ISI's American Civics and History Test you can find that here. There are sixty questions on the test and you are tested in the following areas: American History, Political Philosophy and American Government, America and the World and The Market Economy. Having taken the test myself, let me just warn you that it is a challenging test.

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