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Cultivating the Minds of America in United States History

by June Jordet

News Editor

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For the majority of students at Lassiter, being ignorant of United States history is very improbable, especially since it is a required course to graduate. But for the rest of America, recalling accurate facts about their country means seriously racking one’s brain. Now, even highly regarded universities including Harvard University, an Ivy League school, do not make it mandatory for history majors to have a credit in U.S. history. The increasing lack of emphasis on the importance of knowing America’s heritage could be the explanation for the staggering statistics for the amount of people knowledgeable in civic education.

According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a government organization, only 46% of the United States population know that the Bill of Rights is the name given to the first ten amendments of the Constitution. Furthermore, only 48% know the first amendment, which grants freedom of speech. These same people who are unaware of the most basic facts about their country’s government are the same people who vote for politicians to maintain the rights they cannot remember.

United States citizens also fail to call to mind one of the greatest wars in American history, the Civil War; a whopping 50% of the population could pinpoint the twenty year span, 1840-1860, in which this war took place. Fast-forward nearly seventy years to the Great Depression, and an astonishing 51% of modern Americans do not know that Franklin D. Roosevelt headed the New Deal- a series of acts put in place to rebuild the economy in the 1930’s, many of which are still in place today, such as the Social Security Act.

It is not just America’s heritage that many are ignorant of but even considerably the largest worldwide disaster in all of history, the Holocaust. Eleven out of every hundred individuals do not recognize what the Holocaust is, and twenty-two out of every hundred millennials do not recognize it either. In addition, out of the millenials that were surveyed about the Holocaust, 41% of them believe that less than two million Jews were killed; six million Jews were put to death, not just two million. The same source of these statistics found that 96% of the same group know who Lady Gaga is. Is it not an ignominious reputation of America that more people know who a pop artist is than know what the Holocaust is?

To some, this information may seem trivial. It may appear to be simply numbers and names, but this is far from the truth. Alone, each fact just takes up space in one’s brain, sure, but if it is linked with how that fact impacts or has impacted the United States, it suddenly becomes extremely valuable. When one knows the first amendment, then that individual can be consciously aware of how voting for certain policies affects or maybe even restricts their personal rights as a U.S. citizen. When one knows the causes of the Holocaust, then that individual can be consciously aware of how a leader who abuses power can bring tyranny to a country, and he or she can work to prevent such an event from occurring once again. Simply stated, knowing America’s heritage as its citizen allows one to be a more cultivated and enriched member of society.

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