'Don't Know Much About History'

George Orwell wrote in his classic novel, 1984: "Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

So there’s a battle over history. That battle continues in our day.

A recent survey finds that many of our young people are failing to learn basic facts of our nation’s history. For example, only 35% of fourth-graders know what the purpose of the Declaration of Independence was.

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That’s scary because if we don’t know where we came from, we don’t know where we are going. That’s a paraphrase of President Woodrow Wilson.

Our 28th president said in a rally in 1911 before his election: “A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about....” He went on to speak of America’s spiritual heritage.

In my opinion, political correctness is at the root of the problem. Too often the schools are more concerned about children’s self-esteem than they are about how much they learn.

Schools teach, by-and-large, a multi-cultural approach to the world. The idea, for example, of America being exceptional is so anathema that it would be unthinkable to teach today. Meanwhile, thousands of would-be immigrants will literally risk their lives to try to get to this supposedly non-exceptional nation.

The survey released this month was conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2010-entitled “The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2010.”

They found there has been little overall progress in the same realm since 2006. The only good news to the survey seemed to be that there was a slight uptick in the performance of black and Hispanic students.

The survey found that only 22% of fourth-graders in this country and only 17% of eighth-graders were in the category of “proficient” or “advanced” in their knowledge of U.S. history. That means 80% or more were not proficient.

They found that more than half of all high school seniors showed a less-than-basic knowledge about our history. In fact only 13% of high school seniors have a “solid grasp” on the subject. Ouch.

In light of the dismal results, I guess it’s true what the old song says: “Don’t know much about history.”

As noted, I personally suspect that the liberal agenda is a big part of the problem.

Just the other week, I read about a public school in Arkansas, where the students voted on the five worst people who ever lived. Two of the results were not surprising: Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. But among the five worst human beings who ever lived, according to these public school students, were George W. Bush and Dick Cheney!

Wow. If that’s what they are teaching in Arkansas, I don’t think I want to know about the curriculum in Massachusetts.

At one time, America was one of the best educated nations in the world. In New England, after generations of Puritan influence, John Adams remarked that finding an illiterate man in New England was as rare as a comet.

The founders understood that our experiment in self-government could only be maintained by a well-educated populace. James Madison, one of the key architects of the Constitution, said in his Second Inaugural Address, “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.”

That’s why an accurate grasp of history matters.

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