History Matters

  • How much U.S. history do Americans actually know? Less than you think, reports Smithsonian magazine, which asks David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, how we can fix this problem

    By Saba Naseem
    SMITHSONIAN.COM 
    MAY 28, 2015

    Last year, PoliTech, a student group at Texas Tech University went around campus and asked three questions: “Who won the Civil War?”, “Who is our vice president?” and “Who did we gain our independence from?” Students’ answers ranged from “the South?” for the first question to “I have no idea” for all three of them. However, when asked about the show Snookie starred in (“Jersey Shore”) or Brad Pitt’s marriage history, they answered correctly.

    This lack of knowledge in American history is not limited to college students. Studies over the years show Americans of all ages fail to answer the most simple of questions. A 2008 study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which surveyed more than 2,500 Americans, found that only half of adults in the country could name the three branches of government. The 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report found that only 18 percent of 8th graders were proficient or above in U.S. History and only 23 percent in Civics.

    To help address this problem, David Bruce Smith, an American author and editor, founded the Grateful American™ Foundation in 2014. The interactive educational series aims to restore a passion for history in kids and adults. We interviewed Smith over e-mail about his program and his thoughts on how teachers can make American history enjoyable to learn. (more…)

  • Americans recognize ‘past presidents’ who never were, Washington University study finds

    Ask Americans to name the former US president whose face is on the US $10 bill, and most will be quick to answer Alexander Hamilton. Do you agree?

    Sure, it’s a trick question. But a new study from memory researchers at Washington University in St. Louis confirms that most Americans are confident that Alexander Hamilton was once president of the United States.

    “Our findings from a recent survey suggest that about 71 percent of Americans are fairly certain that Alexander Hamilton is among our nation’s past presidents,” said Henry L. Roediger III, a human memory expert at Washington University. “I had predicted that Benjamin Franklin would be the person most falsely recognized as a president, but Hamilton beat him by a mile.” (more…)

  • Half of Americans don’t know when the Civil War took place, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni

    Seven Score and 10 Years After Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination, One in Five Can’t Name John Wilkes Booth as Lincoln’s Assassin in a Multiple Choice Survey. (more…)

  • New poll shows most Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice

    March 20, 2017 — In conjunction with Sunshine Week and timed for the opening of confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, C-SPAN asked polling company Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) to learn more about the public’s interest in the third branch of government. The results: Fifty-seven percent of those polled weren’t able to name any, or gave an incorrect name.

    Click here to review the survey. And click here to study the poll results.