Jul 2 2011
09:29 am

A Marist poll released in time for the July 4th Celebration reveals an interesting theme...folks in the US do not know their country's history and it gets worse the younger you are.

Only 58% of residents know that the United States declared its independence in 1776. 26% are unsure, and 16% mentioned another date.

There are age differences on this question. Younger Americans are the least likely to know the correct answer. Only 31% of adults younger than 30 say that 1776 is the year in which the United States broke away from Great Britain. 59% of residents between 30 and 44 report the same. Americans 45 to 59 — 75% — are the age group most likely to have the correct answer. Among those 60 and older, 60% report that 1776 is the year in which the United States declared its independence.

While age was definitely a factor, what was even more depressing for me, was that the south, as a region, was dumber than the rest of the country (trailed closely by the mid-west). Seriously, of folks living in southern states that were polled, 23% were UNSURE of which country the US declared it's Independence from, and an whopping 7% noted a country other than Britain. The charts are here.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


My American History teacher back in high school was hands down the worst teacher I ever had. She was a retired FBI fingerprint clerk--about 110 years old--who sat on a stool at the front of the classroom and read to us from the textbook while most of the class slept. Fortunately for me, I was always a voracious reader and I also took additional history courses in college.

However, a 51 year-old woman I know who had the same teacher in high school a few years after I did didn't fare so well. When I asked her recently about a placement test she had to take to enter a community college, she reported that the test was "really hard." She said some of the questions were awfully obscure, like "who was president of the United States during the Civil War?"

Okay, then.

Rachel's picture

Good teachers can make a

Good teachers can make a difference in almost any subject. I, by contrast, had an excellent high school American history teacher, and much of what I learned from her sticks with today.

Kudos to Miss Ione Youngblood of McMinnville City High School.

CE Petro's picture

Wish there was a "like"

Wish there was a "like" button for your reply, Rachel. I agree, there are some pretty awesome teachers around who's lessons have stuck. But, they "stick" with children that WANT to learn.

A big problem I see is places like Texas who are rewriting history to fit some convoluted notion they have of history.

Meanwhile the Herman Cain's, Michele Bachmann's, Sarah Palin's, most notably, who mangle our country's history, and see no reason to correct their inaccuracies.

Closer to home, we have Ivan Harmon, who brought the God Resolution to Knoxville. Except god is not a foundation of the founding of this country.

And there's the rub. Teachers that really want to, and try to teach historical accuracy to their students are fighting against our elected officials at all levels, faux news, pastors, and parents that believe the clap-trap spewed by these outlets. And, that, I believe, is a tough nut to crack, and it's showing.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Our family vacation last month was an 8-day trip to Virginia to visit the Williamsburg/Yorktown/Jamestown Triangle, so before we left I hit the public library to check out a stack of history books--including some really interesting National Geographic picture books--to read during the drive.

I was competing with a dual-DVD player my teenagers had hooked up in the back seat, though; only the mister expressed any interest in the excerpts I kept reading aloud.

Finally, I insisted that the kids cease movie-watching for an hour or two to read for themselves. They did remove their earphones, but just crossed their arms across their chests and looked at me stonily. So I started reading aloud to them again.

And they began finishing ALL of my sentences. They knew this stuff inside-out. Humbled, I let them return to their Beevis and Butthead DVD (which apparently was acquired when the one who drives took the one who does not yet drive to McKays to spend his trade credit, because I didn't buy it for him).

Oh...they did learn quite a bit about betting on horses at Colonial Downs. Their wins covered admission for four, programs for four, lunch for four, and our entire gambling budget AND they cleared $50 plus. The younger one grumbled that he coulda made a lot more money if he'd had his TI-84 with him.

I'm not altogether distressed about this "millennial" generation :-)

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