By Gary Lantz
America’s Right to Keep and Bear Arms grew out of a real, flesh-and-blood past more riveting, captivating and emotionally charged than any movie could ever capture or any novelist could ever commit to print.
Virginia’s early settlements, the formation of the colonies, the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Louisiana Purchase and the following transcontinental migration—all remain the grist of great history, a story of such magnitude that it continues to captivate the imagination of the world.
Sadly, though, it seems to be tepid stuff for many young Americans, whose concept of history doesn’t entertain much beyond the advent of game consoles and computers.
The struggle to protect the Second Amendment requires constitutional torchbearers who understand and draw strength from the complexities of the American experience. However, it becomes increasingly hard to recruit the next generation of constitutional guardians when a large percentage of America’s young people can’t even grasp our most basic historical concepts.
According to a recent survey, many professors now believe that more than 80 percent of college seniors rank at a “D” or “F” level in their knowledge of American history. Tests show that many can’t identify words from the Gettysburg Address or major concepts included in the Constitution.
Alarmingly, one study found that 23 percent of students interviewed didn’t realize that America won its independence from England. At the same time, some 50 percent of those canvassed couldn’t articulate the purpose of the Declaration of Independence.
One in eight of the students questioned couldn’t identify America’s Founding Fathers. Approximately one half weren’t aware that “the shot heard ’round the world” happened at the onset of the revolution, and approximately a third didn’t know that “redcoats” were Revolutionary War British soldiers.
“Many parents, especially those of the baby boom generation, are concerned their children aren’t learning enough about how and why the United States came to be,” pointed out Colonial Williamsburg President Robert Wilburn. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Va.—the restored 18th century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest and most populous outpost in the New World.
When questioned, students between the ages of 9 and 12 struggled to identify that a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is an integral component of the Declaration of Independence. Two-thirds of the youngsters didn’t know that Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
In another recent survey, only 23 percent of college seniors could identify James Madison as the “father of the Constitution.” However, 98 percent of the same students identified Snoop Dogg as a rapper.
The college survey, conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis, University of Connecticut, questioned some 500 seniors at 55 of the nation’s top universities. Topics covered subjects ranging from the Magna Carta to the Monroe Doctrine to the Battle of Yorktown and Battle of the Bulge. Sixty-five percent of the students—including those from Yale, Northwestern and Smith—failed the test, and only one student answered all questions correctly.
And while the college seniors struggled with questions reflecting the core values of American history, 99 percent correctly identified cartoon characters Beavis and Butthead.
The test summary concluded that only about half of college seniors could grasp the most basic, general information about American democracy and the Constitution. At the same time, most couldn’t answer specific questions about the nation’s major wars.
Sadly, the survey found little difference in the responses of university history majors and those studying in other fields.
Past surveys have shown that two out of three American 17-year-olds couldn’t come within 50 years of pinpointing the dates of the Civil War. More recently, high school students named France, China, Japan, Mexico and Spain as America’s antagonist during the Revolutionary War.
Regionally, pollsters found that 32 percent of students from the South, when asked from what nation the United States achieved independence, either named the wrong country or admitted they weren’t sure. Twenty-six percent of Midwestern students were stumped by the same question, 25 percent of those from the western United States couldn’t answer correctly and 16 percent of youngsters from the Northeast were at a loss.
Only 7 percent could name, in order, the first four presidents. Around 57 percent were correct in naming Thomas Jefferson as the main author of the Declaration of Independence, and that George Washington led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
Pages: 1 2
America's 1st Freedom
NRA's pure news magazine especially for our membership. Its mission is to deliver professional, compelling, accurate, timely and hard-hitting journalism that tells the truth about the threats to our Second Amendment rights.