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Wed Apr 11, 2012, 03:27 AM

Why are Americans so bad at studying history?

Thoughts?

How Dumb Are We?
Mar 20, 2011 10:00 AM EDT
NEWSWEEK gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test--38 percent failed. The country's future is imperiled by our ignorance.

They’re the sort of scores that drive high-school history teachers to drink. When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

Don’t get us wrong: civic ignorance is nothing new. For as long as they’ve existed, Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators. And they’ve been lamenting the philistinism of their peers ever since pollsters started publishing these dispiriting surveys back in Harry Truman’s day. (He was a president, by the way.) According to a study by Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, the yearly shifts in civic knowledge since World War II have averaged out to “slightly under 1 percent.”

But the world has changed. And unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more inhospitable to incurious know-nothings—like us.

More: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/03/20/how-dumb-are-we.html


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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why are Americans so bad at studying history? (Original post)
ellisonz Apr 2012 OP
bemildred Apr 2012 #1
daves24550 Apr 2012 #2
Fortinbras Armstrong Apr 2012 #4
bemildred May 2012 #6
LiberalFighter Jun 2012 #8
padem196645 Jun 2012 #18
XemaSab Jun 2012 #29
sarisataka Apr 2012 #3
SoutherDem May 2012 #5
DearHeart May 2012 #7
spazzmann Jun 2012 #9
spazzmann Jun 2012 #10
spazzmann Jun 2012 #11
spazzmann Jun 2012 #12
Ranb Jun 2012 #13
Rowdyboy Jun 2012 #14
RZM Jun 2012 #15
Rowdyboy Jun 2012 #16
spazzmann Jun 2012 #17
spazzmann Jun 2012 #19
spazzmann Jun 2012 #20
spazzmann Jun 2012 #21
spazzmann Jun 2012 #22
spazzmann Jun 2012 #23
spazzmann Jun 2012 #24
mochabutt Jun 2012 #25
spazzmann Jun 2012 #26
spazzmann Jun 2012 #27
spazzmann Jun 2012 #28

Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 10:36 AM

1. Did you ever try to read a High School "history" book?

They truly suck. You can't expect students to get into bad literature, history or any other subject. If you want enthusiasm you need good writing. But that does not produce enough profit.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 07:51 PM

2. well said

 

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 10:07 AM

4. Bad history books.

When my middle son started 7th grade mumble years ago, I looked at his brand new world history textbook. Within a couple of minutes, I had found two errors of fact. I wound up finding over 50. (For example, it got Lord Byron's name wrong.) I had a long talk with his history teacher -- who told me that she had no choice in selecting the book. I also sent letters to both the author and the publisher, neither of whom wrote back.

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Response to Fortinbras Armstrong (Reply #4)

Tue May 8, 2012, 08:42 AM

6. That's the other thing.

The kids, esp. the smart ones, rapidly figure out they are being fed bullshit and Pablum.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 09:59 AM

8. Bad history books approved by conservative groups in Texas.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 03:24 PM

18. indeed

 

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Response to bemildred (Reply #1)

Sun Jun 24, 2012, 01:16 AM

29. The big failure of the history textbooks that I had

is that they were all anecdotes with no broader narrative. For example, the civil rights era is either treated as its own thing or it's loosely tied to the Civil War and reconstruction, but there's rarely any sense of scope. I am totally ignorant about history, but even I would be curious about connections between the civil rights movement and the jazz era of the 20s, the northward and westward migration of black people, World War II, labor unions, the desegregation of the armed forces, the free speech movement, women's rights, post-war communist witchhunts, increasing contact with countries like India, and a dozen other events and movements. Instead the books I had made it sound like one day a bunch of black people woke up and said "Hey, Jim Crow is bullshit! Let's go have a protest!"

Without a broader context, why should kids care about MLK or Hitler or Washington or Cotton Mather or any of those people?

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 12:12 AM

3. A couple of ideas

One is that we teach kids all that matters is from now forwards. The past is past and unimportant- like the commercial says, that was so 28 seconds ago.

Two is that we water everything down so much the 'soup has lost the flavor'. America has done many great things, and some that are very embarrassing to acknowledge. And most were done by dead white guys.
So don't sugar coat it; give it to the kids straight. Let them know the good and the bad, the dead white guys and men and women of all colors who contributed to making our country what it is. Let them know that the native tribes fought each other until whites robbed them so many times they turned nearly unanimously to a guerrilla war. Tell them the economic importance of slavery and how it led to war. The bravery of Harriet Tubman, courage of Dred Scott and misplaced honor and loyalty of Robert E Lee. Teapot Dome, union busting and going to the moon.

We of older generations may bemoan the priorities of the younger but one thing the kids do know is when they are being lied to. If they smell a lie they will tune you out. Honesty may keep their attention long enough to learn something.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Tue May 8, 2012, 01:13 AM

5. Bad Text Books AND Bad Teachers

Now, before I am totally crucified, I feel teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world and deserver a lot more money. Plus, they don't always get the support they should from the parents. When I was a kid if I got in trouble, my mother didn't question the teacher, now if kids get in trouble the teacher is picking on them or the teacher doesn't like them or my favorite is prejudice.

That said, too many teachers or college professors for that matter, make history just memorizing a bunch of dates, names and events.

The books are dry, full of errors and often are revised to fit the current political opinions and take a view that the U.S. could do no wrong. As an example, when the U.S. dropped the A-bomb one book may look at it bringing the war to an end and saving 10s of thousands of lives by not requiring landing on Japan, while others state that we brutally murdered thousands of people and utterly destroyed two cities. The actual events may be accurately stated as far as dates and basic facts but one makes the U.S. into heroes and the other terrorist.

I had good history teachers in elementary and secondary school (the same couldn't be said for English) and I loved history, but when I got to college one of my professors made history a weary task indeed. Our text was about 4 inches thick written as dry as the desert, it had an accompanying book of excerpts of writings from history which were some of the worst selections possible and his lectures were dictated word for word from a note book he had written years before and just rereads each semester. His notes were facts not included in the text chosen by the college and included information which he deem important. His test were based on the most obscure facts of an event. Also, asking for help was useless, he couldn't understand why his students didn't do well, but he was tenured so he was just biding his time to retirement. In four short months my love of history was down the toilet along with my GPA. Needless to say I took that class again, this time with a different professor, he took the same texts but made them come to life.

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Response to SoutherDem (Reply #5)

Wed May 16, 2012, 02:05 AM

7. I too had a bad history teacher, but in high school

He was the football coach and we really knew more about history than he did; he was more interested in the football program of course! Also, one of the best world history teachers I ever had was a teacher from Africa, Zimbabwe I believe. He was so excited about what he was teaching and actually made us think; I saw history through a non-American point of view and it sas a fascinating class! Been into world history ever since.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 10:19 AM

9. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 6, 1968

Comedian Dick Gregory began a hunger strike in the Olympia, Washington, jail after his arrest with others at a fish-in, an act of civil disobedience in support of the fishing rights of the Nisqually Indian Tribe.
To access the entire year > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/peacehistoryindex.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 12:35 PM

10. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 7, 1893

In his first act of civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi refused to comply with racial segregation rules on a South African train and was forcibly ejected at Pietermaritzburg. To access the entire year of peace and social justice history > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/peacehistoryindex.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 09:55 AM

11. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 9, 1954

Special Counsel for the U.S. Army Joseph N. Welch confronted Sen. Joseph P. McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) during hearings into alleged communist infiltration of the Army Signal Corps. To access the entire year of peace and social justice history > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/peacehistoryindex.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 09:58 AM

12. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 10, 1963

The “Equal Pay Act of 1963” was passed and signed into law; it guaranteed women equal pay for equal work. The legislation was a result of the recommendations of President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women. To access the entire year of peace and social justice history > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/peacehistoryindex.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Mon Jun 11, 2012, 11:52 AM

13. Test not hard if you study the right material

 

My brother in-law aced his citizenship test. He said it just took a bit of study on the material they provided him. As his naturalization party, we all took the test. I got most of the questions right.

Ranb

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Response to Ranb (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 11, 2012, 02:35 PM

14. Thankfully MIRT removed your sorry ass or you would have been blocked from this group...

Hell, I'm going to anyway, just for the fun of it....

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Response to Rowdyboy (Reply #14)

Mon Jun 11, 2012, 02:48 PM

15. At first I was at a loss here. I didn't see what was wrong with the post

 

Then I saw the sig line. Good riddance.

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Response to RZM (Reply #15)

Mon Jun 11, 2012, 03:17 PM

16. That was the giveaway for me too....Found out after the MIRTing but it was still fun to exercise

hosting "superpowers" for the first time (and hopefully last time) ever!

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 10:46 AM

17. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 12, 1967

The U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down state miscegenation laws, those that prohibited interracial marriage, as violations of a person’s right to equal protection under the law . . .continued. To access the entire year of peace and social justice history > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/peacehistoryindex.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Jun 13, 2012, 09:19 AM

19. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 13, 1971

The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, a series of excerpts from the Defense Department’s classified history of the Vietnam War, giving details of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from the end of World War II to 1968. . . .continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Jun 14, 2012, 11:45 AM

20. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 14, 1968

Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician, author and peace activist, was found guilty of aiding draft resisters during the Vietnam War . . .continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Jun 15, 2012, 09:36 AM

21. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 15, 1943

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in Chicago by a group of students including James Farmer and Bayard Rustin . . .continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Jun 16, 2012, 10:54 AM

22. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 16, 1965

A planned civil disobedience turned into a five-hour teach-in on the steps and inside the Pentagon about the escalating war in Vietnam. In two days, more than 50,000 leaflets
were distributed. . . continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sun Jun 17, 2012, 11:06 AM

23. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 17, 1972

In the early morning five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. They had been hired by Pres. Richard Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) to install bugging devices and copy documents. . . . continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Mon Jun 18, 2012, 09:48 AM

24. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 18, 1970

Today in Peace and Justice history on June 18, 1970
The U.S. Congress passed the 26th amendment to the constitution, lowering the voting age to 18 for all elections—federal, state and local. The amendment went into effect just 100 days later after 38 state legislatures had ratified the amendment. see more peace history > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Mon Jun 18, 2012, 11:08 PM

25. History

 

In my opinion they don't pay enough attention to history subject and this way they are not aware of their history.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 09:25 AM

26. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 19, 1964


Two hundred college students left Oxford, Ohio’s Western College for Women to join hundreds of other civil rights volunteers in Mississippi as part of “Freedom Summer.” . . . continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Jun 20, 2012, 08:51 AM

27. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 20, 1967 Boxer Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston, Tex

Boxer Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of violating the Selective Service law by refusing induction into the U.S. Army (during the Vietnam War) . . . "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong." . . . continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Jun 21, 2012, 07:36 AM

28. Today in Peace and Justice history on June 21, 1964

Today in Peace and Justice history on June 21, 1964
James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three young Freedom Summer workers, disappeared in Philadelphia, Mississippi, while registering negroes to vote.
. . . continued > http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm

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