Walter E. Williams

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests students in grades four, eight and 12 on several broad subject areas every few years. Just 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders and 12 percent of 12th-graders were at grade-level proficiency in American history in the 2010 exams. Because students don't learn American history, they learn little about our founding principles and they fail to learn why America is an exceptional nation. But that's a part of the progressive/liberal agenda. If Americans knew and understood our founding principles and values, special interest groups and politicians couldn't run roughshod over our liberties.

But it's not just K-12 students who are ignorant of our history. In a 1990 survey -- and there's been no improvement since -- almost half of college seniors couldn't locate the Civil War within the correct half-century. More recently, 60 percent of American adults couldn't name the president who ordered the dropping of the first atomic bomb, and over 20 percent didn't know where -- or even whether -- the atomic bomb had been used. The same people didn't know who America's enemies were during World War II (Germany, Japan and Italy). In a civics survey, more American teenagers were able to name The Three Stooges (Larry, Moe and Curly) than the three branches of the federal government (executive, legislative and judicial). A third of the people who were asked the origin of the statement "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" responded by saying it's from our Bill of Rights, when it's actually from "The Communist Manifesto."

I'd say that the education establishment has been successful beyond its wildest dreams in reducing Americans' ability to think and therefore causing them to have little knowledge of or love for our founding principles.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Walter Williams' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.