No Wonder the Kids are Historically Illiterate

Generally, when a buyer is defrauded of services, the demand for the goods diminishes. As more emerges of what colleges and universities across this country are not doing, the demand will dry up unless there are drastic changes.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has published a report titled "What Will They Learn?"  It is a survey of core requirements at our nation's colleges and universities and one does not need a Ph.D. to comprehend the paucity of education now apparent in far too many places. In fact, "for over a decade, ACTA has expressed concern that rising employer dissatisfaction with college graduates, as well as the decline in civic competency and informed discourse in the public square, are attributable to an overall deterioration of core curricula in the liberal arts. That is why ACTA evaluates over 1,100 general education programs every year in light of standards and criteria established by the committees of scholars... convened."


many colleges and universities are watering down their requirements, allowing students to bypass college-level writing, mathematics, and economics courses and to graduate with a mediocre knowledge base and skillset. The 'joke' or 'easy-A' courses, such as 'Science in Film,' 'American History through Baseball,' or 'History of Rock n’ Roll in America,' may be fun and easy, and there is certainly a place for the odd niche course as a free elective or advanced topics course in a major. But as students often discover after they leave campus, they graduated without developing the intellectual abilities that would position them to excel in a competitive job market -- because their institution did not require them to take challenging courses that discipline and furnish the mind. It is hardly any wonder that two-thirds of college graduates express disappointment with some aspect of their college experience today.

This is not a new story. In July 2016 ACTA revealed that some college history departments deliberately leave the United States out of the major! Is it any wonder that nearly one in five Americans believes that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez created the New Deal, which was, of course, the package of government interventions established in 1933 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Equally alarming is that "fewer than half of college graduates surveyed could correctly identify the term lengths for members of Congress -- in a multiple-choice question.  And only 19% correctly answered that the 13th Amendment freed all the slaves in the United States."

But it should not be a surprise when only 18% of colleges and universities surveyed require students to take a course in American government or history. 

And when left-wing outlets such as the New York Times push the error-filled and historically tainted 1619 Project, is it any wonder that American youth do not have an allegiance to the miracle of American ideas?  They never learned them.  As Max Eden explains:

To understand their country, students should read America’s Founding documents and the works of great figures like Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, and grapple with history’s circumstantial and moral complexities -- not 'reframe' history to make it fit partisan purposes. They should be taught about the moral abomination of American slavery -- but not that 'slavery is our country’s very origin,' or that its legacy is baked into all our social institutions, allegations that cannot stand up to any fair-minded examination of American history. The themes and messages of the 1619 Project are not only historically dubious; they will also lead to deeper civic alienation. Conscientious teachers should file the 1619 curriculum where it belongs: in the waste bin.

Moreover, Thomas Sowell asserted 17 years ago in his article "Twisted History" that "[i]n short, propaganda has replaced education as the goal of too many 'educators.'"

Schools are not the only institutions that twist history to score ideological points. 'Never Forget That They Owned Lots of Slaves' is the huge headline across the front page of the New York Times' book review section [.] Inside is an indictment of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

This, despite the fact that "[a]mong those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other American leaders. You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there.  But who is singled out for scathing criticism today? American leaders of the 18th century." Yet, in modern-day Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria, black slavery is alive and well but scant attention is paid to this.

Repeatedly, a chorus of very concerned and qualified people have decried the educational morass in which American children have been confined.  One cannot blame the students -- it is the educational establishment that has fostered this despicable situation -- all to the tune of thousands of dollars of tuition money.

Thus, socialism with its idealistic drivel appeals to young people.  They have never learned the dire consequences of socialism wherever it has been enforced.  Heck, they do not even know where countries are on a map.  It never ceases to amaze me that my own college students cannot find Africa or India or Ireland on a map.  Geography is simply not taught anymore.

Allen C. Guelzo debunks the latest damn-America mantra by stating that "the 1619 Project is not history; it is conspiracy theory. Furthermore, the "1619 Project is not history; it is ignorance."

Finally: the 1619 Project is not history; it is evangelism, but evangelism for a gospel of disenchantment whose ultimate purpose is the hollowing out of the meaning of freedom, so that every defense of freedom drops nervously from the hands of people who have been made too ashamed to defend it. No nation can live without a history, and no free nation can flourish without a history that affirms -- in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words in 1856 -- 'that the evil eye can wither, that the heart’s blessing can heal; that love can exalt talent' and 'overcome all odds.'

By deliberate and calculated choice, "w]hat the 1619 Project offers instead is bitterness, fragility, and intellectual corruption -- not history."

Yet "since its publication... the 1619 Project has been adopted in more than 3,500 classrooms in all 50 states, according to the 2019 annual report of the Pulitzer Center, which has partnered with the Times on the project. Five school systems, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., have adopted it district-wide. It is mostly being used as supplemental, optional classroom teaching material. By and large, school systems are adopting the project by administrative fiat, not through a public textbook review process." In fact, "[i]n January, Buffalo Public Schools became the most recent school system to announce that it was making the 1619 Project a required component of the 7th through 12th grade curriculum."

Gordon Wood, "a leading historian of the American Revolution and emeritus professor at Brown University, asserts that the Times material 'is full of falsehoods and distortions.' In its current form, without corrections, which the Times has declined to run, the only way to use it in the classroom... would be 'as a way of showing how history can be distorted and perverted.'"

So, start spreading the historical lies when they are young, endlessly repeat them, balkanize people into ethnic categories, ramp up racial discord, and eliminate any genuine study of history at higher levels.  Then do not be surprised by the abject ignorance and misguided rage and anger that so many American young people have of this country.  How can they possibly cherish their birthright with this shameful state of affairs?

Eileen can be reached at