The National Assessment of Educational Progress has made known that more than half of American students tested scored “below basic” on their history knowledge. Fewer than one quarter scored “Proficient” or better.
Sample questions for 12th-graders included a 1940 poster of the Statue of Liberty with a giant boot poised above it ready to crush it. The boot has a huge swastika on it. The question asks which country this poster was trying to warn Americans against. Another sample question deals with triangular trade in the colonial period, while a third asks about Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis (that last one was pretty good, actually).
I wasn’t surprised by these numbers because it has become abundantly clear to me over the last seven years that my college students come into my classes ignorant of these things. All of which raises the question: What on earth do high schools do these days?