History Test

July 13, 2000

Do the words "Give me liberty or give me death" sound only vaguely familiar? Are you unsure who was "the architect of the Constitution"? Well, you are not alone.

Nearly 80 percent of seniors at 55 top colleges (including Harvard and Princeton) could not pass a high-school level American history test. In other words, they received a D or an F on a 34-question test aimed at high school students.

More than a third of the students tested in December 1999 didn't know that the Constitution established the division of power in American government. This is but one of the many glaring errors found by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis.

Now the students weren't completely ignorant. For example, 99 percent of the seniors could identify foul-mouthed "Beavis and Butthead" as "television cartoon characters." The problems they had were with history. Only 23 percent could identify James Madison as the principal framer of the Constitution.

Senator Joseph Liberman (D-CT) lamented the findings. Quoting Jefferson, he said that "if a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be." Liberman argued that "this nation seems well on its way to testing this proposition."

So how do we solve this problem? Perhaps the first thing to do would be to require a course in American history. One study found that none of the 55 schools surveyed required American history for graduation. Students are allowed to graduate with a dismal understanding of America's historical foundations.

Second, I believe we should also teach the Christian roots of American history. If this isn't being taught in the public schools, then we need to teach this in our Christian schools, in our Sunday Schools, and in our homes. We cannot let your children be ignorant of history.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.