As it is the Independence Day weekend, there are two bits of information dear ol’ Eduflack simply can’t pass up. The first comes to us from the Associated Press, where Lauren Sausser reported on a recent analysis of the original Declaration of Independence conducted by scientists at the Library of Congress. Using the latest technologies, they can see that Thomas Jefferson accidentally used the word “subjects” instead of “citizens” when first declaring our independence, undoubtedly a force of habit after a lifetime under the rule of the monarch. Like most good writers, he simply “erased” the error, replaced it with citizen, and the rest is history. Guess that means there is still hope for us educators who can’t help but let works like phonics, scientifically based, AYP, and NCLB to slip through out lips.
While the University of Virginia graduate and all-around Jeffersonian in me was quite taken by the AP story (and talked about it most of yesterday), I was even a little more taken by the Marist University poll Eduflack read last evening. Chalk it up to being the son of a political scientist or a whole host of reasons, but seeing polls on what Americans know about history and civics can be like watching a car wreck for me.
As this is Independence Day weekend, Marist decided to ask a very simple question. In honor of this national holiday, the researchers asked, “On July 4th we celebrate Independence Day. From which country did the United States win its independence?”
A whopping 74 percent of Americans were able to answer the question correctly (and please don’t make Eduflack give the correct answer). Those from the Northeast knew far better than those from the South. Those with higher household incomes were more knowledgeable than those with incomes below $50K. America’s youth (those under 29) seem ignorant of such things. And men know their early American history far better than women seem to.
Of the 26 percent who do not know who the 13 colonies fought to win their independence, most simply declared themselves as “unsure,” or unwilling to hazard a guess. But of those incorrect answers, the most prominent ones were France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain.
Fighting China or Japan or Mexico for our freedom definitely puts a different spin on Schoolhouse Rock’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” that’s for sure. Maybe a quick look at that video can remind that 26 percent who fought who.
Regardless, hopefully these numbers remind us why we need to continue to fund the K-12 civics programs long advocated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) the recently departed U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (WV).
Happy Independence Day!