Leonard Pitts Jr.: Like Sarah Palin, Many of Us Don't Know U.S. History





Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

...Where history is concerned, this is fast becoming a nation of ignoramuses and amnesiacs.

The alarm bell has been ringing for years. Consider “Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century,” a 2000 study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a Washington-based advocacy group. Researchers found that the majority of seniors at the nation’s best colleges could not identify the words of the Gettysburg Address or explain the significance of Valley Forge. They did not know, the study concluded, because they had not been taught. History, the study said, was no longer a requirement in the nation’s top schools.

And then, there is a 2006 assessment by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, often called The Nation’s Report Card. It found that nearly 40 percent of 12th graders could not identify the purpose of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and only 14 percent could identify and explain a factor leading to U.S. involvement in the Korean War....

We all should [care]. No child should be able to finish public school, much less college, without a firm grasp of American history. Because history is not dust. Nor is it myths we tell to comfort and acquit ourselves. Nor is it a lever we twist in order to gain political advantage. No, our history is the master narrative of who we are....

...How can our children write the next chapter of a story they don’t even know?...



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