In the run-up to Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Real Clear Politics is presenting a series of “state of” musings on various and sundry issues facing the nation. A column today addresses the “state of American history,” or, more accurately speaking, the sad state of knowledge on that subject.
Author Samuel Chi takes several well-deserved digs at our elected officials, beginning with the commander in chief who despite being “born and raised in Hawaii, once mentioned that a single bomb had been dropped on Pearl Harbor (in the fashion of Hiroshima).” Chi continues:
We’re now a country led by a man who thought JFK talked Khrushchev out of the Cuban missile crisis (he didn’t); claimed that our country built the “Intercontinental Railroad” (must be from New York to Paris); and bragged that his uncle liberated Auschwitz (was he in the Soviet Red Army?).
Chi has enough ammunition left over to fire off barbs at Michele Bachmann, who thought that Concord, New Hampshire, was the site of the Revolutionary War battle; at Rick Perry, who claimed that that war was fought in the 16th century; and at Sarah Palin, whose account of Paul Revere’s ride was at best confused and confusing.
Chi’s bottom line is that the importance of developing an understanding of historical events is overshadowed in a society that values political correctness over the indispensible lessons those events impart.
But the problem runs deeper than just an inability to recite names and dates. In a survey of Americans’ knowledge of the U.S. Constitution completed last year, our elected officials earned a mean score of 49%. The public at large did slightly better, with an aggregate score of 54%.
The results should be mortifying to sitting members of Congress—and probably would be if they cared about doing the jobs they had been elected to do. But as Congressman James Clyburn, third ranking Democrat in the House, told FOX News Channel host Andrew Napolitano last November, “Most of the stuff we do is not authorized by the Constitution.”
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