Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Remembering George Washington -- or not

I'm a huge fan of George Washington. If you've ever read about him, you'll discover that he was an extraordinary person: intelligent, self-disciplined, a brilliant strategist, humble (he did, after all, refuse a kingship), and the only president ever to free his slaves. Kathleen Parker's column about how ignorant American's are about this man is therefore quite depressing:

Tests, surveys and studies further confirm America's increasing ignorance. A test of high school seniors, for example, found that only one in ten was proficient in American history. A survey of fourth graders found that seven of ten thought the original 13 colonies included Illinois, Texas and California. Six of ten couldn't say why the Pilgrims came to America. Only seven percent of fourth graders could name 'an important event' that took place in Philadelphia in 1776. When seniors at the nation's top 55 universities were asked to name America's victorious general at the Battle of Yorktown, only 34 percent named George Washington. These depressing statistics, which Mount Vernon executive director James Rees rattles off with thinly disguised ennui, shouldn't be surprising considering that Washington today receives one-tenth the coverage in textbooks that he received 30 years ago. Rees tells of one textbook that offers fewer than 50 lines of text about Washington, but 213 about Marilyn Monroe. Meanwhile, the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington, a reproduction of which used to hang in nearly every American classroom, is long gone. As is the historical background and context critical to future generations' conduct of the nation's business.
It is becoming increasingly unclear to me what we are teaching our students. It's not history, it's not math, it's not science. What the heck are they doing 6.5 hours per day in school? Anyone?