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Is American history even taught in schools?

Last weekend, my friend and I spent an awesome afternoon down at the Tidal Basin enjoying pre-Cherry Blossom Festival activities and the nice weather. We eventually made it over to the Jefferson Memorial and joined in on a tour given by one of the Park Rangers. The group was fairly small and was comprised mostly of 14-year-old tourists wearing matching school shirts and flashy “Washington, D.C.” flat billed hats (*sigh* Oh, middle school). 

The Ranger who was giving the talk was awesome with the kids–very informative and interactive. He made a great speech about Jefferson, his life, and facts surrounding the Memorial itself. 


Jefferson Memorial
Photo credit: Hallie Gardner

When he finished his presentation, the Ranger began asking the students a few simple American history trivia questions and to be quite honest, I was shocked– embarassed, even– at their answers (or lack thereof). These kids didn’t know anything!

Ranger: “Can you tell me who were some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence?” Kids: *silence*

Ranger: “Name some of our founding fathers!” Kids: *avoidance of eye contact*

Ranger: “Can someone name one of the 10 Amendments?” Kids: *uncomfortable squirming*

What?! You can’t tell me that an 8th grader has never heard of Benjamin Franklin, or the right to bear arms?

Before writing this blog, I did a little follow-up on the decline of American history being taught in schools. An article on writes, “A new report shows that students anywhere from high school to fourth grade are solely lacking in their knowledge of American History. Results from the 2010 gold standard of testing, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 13% of the nation’s high school seniors showed proficiency in their knowledge of American history, and only 18% of eighth graders and 22% of fourth graders scoring as well.” 

What I find to be even more ironic was that as these kids were standing at the Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, little did they know that Thomas Jefferson himself believed that being an educated citizen was essential to the preservation of the American country. 

American history is important! It’s our heritage, it’s who we are, and we should be proud. Those kids should have been spouting out facts, not slumping over from boredom. Something’s got to change. 

Hallie Gardner can be reached at and on her twitter page @gardner_hallie.


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Comments (8)

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  • P

    photocrazyMar 26, 2017 at 3:42 am

    I live and grew up in Washington State. We had to take Washington State History as Sophomores, US History as Juniors and World History as Seniors, these classes were for the whole school year, so you really learned a lot about it. You can tell that it isn’t taught anymore by the way younger people, I am 60, don’t understand why Putin is bad, or anything about the USSR and why Hitler was a bad guy and how he took over Germany. If we don’t teach these things, they are lost and we end up reliving the worst horrors of the past. You only had to know a minimum about Hitler to see that Trump based his whole campaign on Hitler’s, including when Hitler said “I will make Germany great again!” (he didn’t put it on hats to sell) and the lying press is another one that Trump stole from Hitler. Trump made good use of the book My New Order, the book of Hitler’s speeches he kept in a cabinet next to the bed, probably the only book he ever read. No wonder kids in the USA are falling behind the rest of the world. People must learn where we have gone and been so that we don’t make the mistakes of the past.

  • J

    Jakob ZurekJan 18, 2017 at 7:19 am

    “Can someone name one of the 10 Amendments?”
    There are 26 amendments >.<

  • G

    Gabriel DiLaurentisSep 18, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Given the current events in the american society it’s more important than ever to make American History an obligatory course in all american schools, private or public.

    • H

      HSFastpitchOct 21, 2016 at 9:38 am

      I first thought your comment was apropos, but upon consideration I think there should be human history of science and discovery, teaching regional history stresses local bias, and patriotism can (and has) lead to conflicts not unlike religion has and still does. rather than mandatory regional history, I feel it would be better to make mandatory courses in Ethics and another in Altruism. In my thoughts teaching patriotism is pretty much the same as religion. and I feel religion teaches selectively wrong lessons on race. but your thoughts are better than most. (IMHO). And given a thousand years, I would still know sh*t about the universe that surrounds you or anyone else’s but my own.
      Leaders, Lead; everything else follows.

      • J

        Jim_in_COOct 26, 2016 at 9:38 pm

        You, slow pitch, are part of the ignorance problem

        • H

          HSfastpitchOct 27, 2016 at 12:08 am

          Was this supposed to be a Donald Trump impersonation? A personal Insult and a general insult in nine words. When you reply to this make sure you mention, You are good with words, You use the best words.

    • N

      Nam VetNov 26, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      I agree with you 100%. It makes me feel a lot warmer when I think of George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and all of our forefathers who fought that this nation might be free. Or as Nathan Hales last words before being hanged were purported to be “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for for my country.

    • J

      Jakob ZurekJan 18, 2017 at 7:21 am

      Who will enforce that? Big government?