Study: Only One Out Of Five Children Are Proficient in U.S. History

If George Santayana was correct that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” there are a lot of surprises in store for the raising generation of Americans. A new study shows a shocking lack of knowledge about U.S. history among our school children, including the fact that only 35% of fourth-graders knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. The results of the study are part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.


According to the report, “[o]nly 20% of U.S. fourth-graders and 17% of eighth-graders who took the 2010 history exam were ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced,’ unchanged since the test was last administered in 2006.”

We are not alone in such dismal understanding of history, as recent studies in England have shown. This included the shocking disclosure that one in four people in England did not believe Winston Churchill existed.

The results of this study should be viewed as a national crisis. A lack of understanding of history denies a collective sense of identity and meaning in being a citizen. It reflects a dangerous disconnect between our rights and understanding of the foundation for such rights. A people that is ignorant of their history is not just at risk of repeating history but the loss of rights secured in that history. Ignorance may be bliss in one’s personal life but it is a threat to a free republic. For those who cite other essential guarantees of our Republic, a well-informed public is every bit as important as a well-armed militia to the preservation of our liberties. We are raising a generation of citizens with little understanding of our national struggle for freedom beyond soundbite phrases and cartoon imagery.

I have been working for years to reintroduce more civics training and classes in our public schools. This report shows how urgent such efforts have become.

Source: WSJ

Jonathan Turley

33 thoughts on “Study: Only One Out Of Five Children Are Proficient in U.S. History

  1. @Swarthmore Mom, if your child attends Strath Haven Middle School, he or she is being indoctrinated on the Living Constitution theory of constitutional construction. And indoctrination in the public school is on a whole different level than a voluntary camp.

  2. [quote]I used to think Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments were high entertainment. He stands out on the street and asks a half-dozen people simple questions. But one day he had an exchange with a 30-year-old professional woman. He asked if she’d seen the movie, “Pearl Harbor.”

    The woman said no, but hoped to see it soon. Then Leno asked if she knew what the movie was all about. She said something like this:

    “Yeah, that was the day the Hawaiians bombed California”

    I can no longer watch “Jaywalking” because it truly hurts my head.[/quote]

    He doesn’t “stand out on the street and asks a half-dozen people simple questions”. He stands out on the street and asks dozens of people until he gets the answer he wants. Most times from people who know what sort of answers it will take to get on television.

    You ask enough people you’ll eventually get an idiot who really is ignorant or you’ll get a person who wants in on the joke and plays along.

  3. Some imbeciles blame the GOP or right-wingers for this?

    Clearly these are victims of leftist tampering of a once wholly adequate education tradition that spent thousands of years (since Greece) educating the mind.

    The GOP is not to blame for the shipwreck of American education. Not one bit. They have tried for decades to reform this mess Democrats and leftists created. And in utter frustration they ended up settling for vouchers because leftists, Democrats, and liberals (aka Progressives) are too damn stupid to see the light. It is the left that runs these schools, not the right.

    This problem is a direct result of the disreputable leftist fools in the Progressive ( i.e. REGRESSIVE) Education Movement which began about 100 years ago by the Progressive Educator John Dewey and other radical morons. The movement itself got SO ridiculous even Dewey had to disassociate himself with it. But the theory moved forward anyway.

    The gist of the program was to toss classical education out the door and focus of “child centered” education and “process”. Whatever that garbage means. People joked that the new progressive methods taught Johnny how to button his pants and other such ridiculous things one does not have to be “educator” to teach. (Ravitch)

    It was the Ivy league types at the bottom of this. Harvard and Columbia to be exact.

    Ravitch writes

    “The publication of the Cardinal Participles of Secondary Eduction in 1918 launched pedagogical progressivism into the mainstream of the organized education profession. This report, which represented the best thinking of the leaders of the profession, launched ‘a pedagogical revolution’ and ushered in ‘a whole new age in American secondary education’ by redefining the role of the high school. …The Cardinal Principles pamphlet, which was circulated by the US. Bureau of Education and sold in the tens of thousands, was written by the NEA’s Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education (CRSE). In contrast to the academically oriented Committee of Ten, the CRSE was chaired by Clarence D. Kingsley, State Supervisor of High Schools in Massachusetts, and consisted of professor of education, secondary principals, eduction bureaucrats, and a college president who had been a professor of education…

    …The cardinal principles of secondary education, by which educational offerings were to be judged, were ‘1.Health, 2. Command of fundamental processes. 3. Worthy home-membership. 4. Vocation. 5. Citizenship. 6. Worthy use of leisure. 7. Ethical character.’ The objectives of secondary education should be determined, said the report, ‘by the needs of the society [i.e. collectivism] to be served, the character of the individuals to be educated, and the knowledge of education theory and practice available.’ So little did the commission think of traditional, school-bound knowledge that the original draft of the report failed to include ‘command of the fundamental processes,’ its only reference to intellectual development, as a main objective of secondary education.” {page 47 and 48 Troubled Crusade}

    What were the OLD subjects children were supposed to learn before the asinine Cardinal Principle virus was spread throughout the public education system? 25 years before the Cardinal Principles were released in 1918, the NEA Committee of Ten said that every child, college bound or not should study “English, foreign languages, mathematics, history, and science” [pg46 ].

    All that (classical theory and subject matter) was jettisoned by the LEFTISTS (Progressives) and their imbecilic Cardinal Principles. And that is where we are today.

    GOPers have fought for nearly 40 years to get it back. Not just for the privileged, but for all children.

    Bush 41 started a new history standards project and Bill Clinton gave it life through the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. 2.2 million bucks to fund it was run through the National Endowment for the Humanities to write new history standards. (Walter McDougall, Commentary Magazine, Whose History? Whose Standards? May 1995).

    You are not going to like it that I’m going to the quote Lynn Cheney about how bad the new history standards were. But she is relevant because she was a former head of the NEH AND she assigned the group which would go on to produce the new standards which are still taught widely. I reckon she lived to regret having assigned the project to UCLA’s National Center for History in Schools. (Ibid)

    McDougall quotes Lynn Cheney (at the time the standards were written) in the Wall Street Journal saying “an outline of history that pays more attention to the founding of the Sierra Club than to George Washington. Or that invites students to celebrate the ‘grandeur’ of Mansa Musa’s West African kingdom while focusing its discussion of Europe on persecution; imperialism, and the slave trade. Or that makes seventeen references to the Ku Klux Lkan but only one to Ulysses S. Grant, the man who saved the Union, and none to Thomas Edison, who changed the fundamental relationship between man and nature. ”

    A whole slew of right-wingers complained at the time. And McDougall writes [t]hey adduced more examples: the Standards invite students to appreciate Aztec ‘architecture, skills, labor system, and agriculture,’ but ignore the Aztec religion of human sacrifice; depict Genghis Kan through the eyes of a papal legate whose cultural biases pupils are told to discern; ask students to indict John D. Rockefeller; assess Ronald Regan as ‘an agent of selfishness’; and contrast the ecological virtue of Native American culture with our rapacious industrialism.” Did I mentioned 15 million jobs were created when he was president? No? Apologies.

    The evil leftists “denied ‘anti-Western’ bias”.

    The children would be stealthy taught forgone conclusions AGAINST the western world and civilization which they were beneficiaries of. What a bunch of filthy punks. At least right-wingers are open and up front about teaching children to value their civilization despite its failings.

    Children were to be steered by the selected “facts” to absorb the biases the history committee held and those biases would be hatred of self (country/traditions/western history). They were not so interested in presenting the facts honestly or fairly and letting the kids think about what it had to do with the privileged lives most of them inherited. Through the organization and selection of facts, an anti-western viewpoint was next to impossible to ignore. And seeing the kids we have today and knowing what they think, I guess the “standards” have been wildly “successful”.

    McDougall also writes that “In practice, this curriculum would overtax the capabilities of most teachers, not to mention pupils, with the result that 90 percent of the students would flunk, or else (more likely) 100 percent would pass, under the ‘Wizard of Oz” syndrome. (You’re just as smart as anyone else….)’. In other words, the blizzard of information would produce little real knowledge. This is typical of those trying to pull something over on someone: bombard them with information so they cannot process anything substantive.

    McDougall writes that the new standards de-emphasized the history of ideas–a key feature of the 20th century which lead to the slaughter of nearly 100 million persons (because of ideology).

    He writes “What is more, a student restricted to Core standards might well escape high school without ever being exposed to the ideas of Mill, Marx (he appears once, so do not play hooky that day), Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and Einstein. Nor do any of the study plans appear to explain the origins and nature of ideology. How then can students comprehend the relativism and totalitarianism that are defining features of ‘modern times’?

    The standards were so obviously biased, they were revised to address the truths put forth by the critics. About a year later McDougall writes: “On balance, the new U.S. Standards are fairer and more objective than the originals. But do they restore the quest for individual freedoms and fulfillment to the center of the American experience, while making due reference to the freedom denied certain citizens in the past? That is a matter of judgment. Lynne Cheney and John P. Diggins are undeniably correct in stressing that the authors still approach their task with an ideological chip on their shoulders and a partisan interpretation of the American experience. But with the removal of the offending study lessons, less now depends on the language of the Standards themselves than on the quality of and predisposition of teachers and the textbooks and teaching aids they employ.” Which we know is low seeing that U.S. school teachers are among the dumbest graduates from college themselves.

    Diane Ravitch and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. are also right to prefer the standards to having none at all.” (McDougall, Commentary, July 1996, What Johnny Still Won’t Know About History.)

    But even those stupid standards have clearly failed. They have utterly failed. And what with the tens of millions of immigrants with on average a lower IQs than immigrants of the past, we are really in deep doo doo.

    Just what the seditious, subversive, and treasonous Democrats want!

    My kid scored in the upper level on the SAT History test taken before college. But being mostly home schooled, I didn’t provide a formal history curriculum that spanned the many years. Instead we read biographies, watched the History Channel, The Learning Channel, and The Discovery Channel. This was when they were real good too. Sadly TLC and the Discovery Channel are bunk. Though the Discovery Channel is getting better these days.

    They have expanded the History Channel to military and international versions. Good stuff most of the time.

    Sit your kids in front of history programming when they are very young. I mean starting in the Sesame Street years. In fact, sit them there instead of Sesame Street. Let them play with their toys while you run the programming. They automatically absorb it. Monitor viewing for violence, etc.

  4. Some of the topics to be taught at the TeaParty Summer Camp:

    How Jesus wrote the Constitution

    Moses handed down the Bill of Rights to the Republicans wandering in the Wilderness

    Immigration is the Anti-Christs’ plan to destroy the U.S.

    Civics 301: It is better to take than to recieve.

    Why Taxes and Gun Control are destroying the American Christian Family

    Happy Time Play: Liberals burning in Hell

    Sara Palin, Our National BVM

  5. tootie, your seemingly racist bs that immigrants of today (mostly from Mexico) are less intelligence than the immigrants of a former generation (mostly Europeans) hurts your efforts to make people listen to your point. Lets ignore the fact that the idea of an IQ score being an accurate measure of intelligence is silly and ignorant. Even if we do assume that, where is your proof?

    Teachers are the dumbest graduates? Really? Again, any proof of that?

    Also to suggest that you can get an outstanding education by watching the entertainment network called “history channel” is laughable.

    You seem like a very intelligent person, but your bias hurts you – but evidently it does help Planned Parenthood.

  6. I love history, but the History Channel has fallen way down in recent years in presenting history. Even when they rarely present a topic I’m interested in, the presentation is superficial and offers no interesting new facts.

  7. All this blame the republicans shit would be funny if the sobering reality of our future generations being wholly unprepared to be functional adults in the real world wasnt staring you in the face.

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