In the days leading up to the 4th of July this year, a polling firm decided to ask U.S. residents a timely question: From which country did we win our independence?
Overall, 74 percent answered correctly, while 20 percent were “unsure” and 6 percent identified other countries, according to the survey conducted last month by Marist Poll. (Thanks to the blog Eduflak for highlighting these results.)
It gets even more alarming when you dig more deeply into the results. Broken down by age range, those 18 to 29 years old had more trouble answering the question, with only 60 percent identifying Great Britain. Furthermore, when examined by race, 82 percent of white respondents answered correctly, compared with 56 percent of non-whites. Also, in one rather curious result, 81 percent of men got the right answer, compared with 67 percent of women.
Of course, it’s no secret that many Americans are a tad weak on their knowledge of U.S. history and civics. And plenty of organizations are trying to correct that through improved education in those subjects. Just last week, the nation lost a leading advocate for civics and history education with the death of Sen. Robert Byrd.
Sen. Byrd was among those to protest a proposal by President Obama that would consolidate funds for a variety of programs at the U.S. Department of Education, including the Teaching American History grants program, into a larger competitive fund focused on ensuring a “well-rounded education.” A chief concern has been that the consolidation effort would potentially diminish federal resources for many of the individual programs identified.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.