Tuesday, February 26, 2008


USATODAY.com: Teens losing touch with common cultural and historical references: "Among 1,200 [17-year-old] students surveyed:

•43% knew the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900.

•52% could identify the theme of 1984.

•51% knew that the controversy surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism."

I have known this for a long time because I encounter so many freshmen in POLS 101 classes. It isn't their fault, of course. Most of them are desperate to learn more about the relevant parts of American history. But most public schools avoid the most controversial aspects of history. I have had students come to my office to ask me questions in private such as: "What was the war in Viet Nam about?" or "I have heard this word 'Watergate,' but I have no idea what it means. Can you explain it?" I am glad to hear those questions, because it means people are trying to fill some of these knowledge gaps. Unfortunately, many students are afraid to ask such questions for fear of revealing themselves as ignorant. That's the wrong attitude. We all have holes in our knowledge. The thing to do is fill them up.

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