Is American history even taught in schools?

Hallie Gardner

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. 

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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 Townhall.com 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 blogs@collegian.com and on her twitter page @gardner_hallie.