[Henriksson] hastens to add, however, that the book is not a criticism of teachers. Society's interest in what is current tends to eclipse attempts to focus on history. "We are bombarded with an array of material, and it is hard for kids to sort out what's important and what's not. We are losing our common body of knowledge. Teachers are battling uphill against an information revolution that devalues the past."On the subject of common knowledge, I'm pretty sure I have only one student who knew what an adjective was when the semester began.
Still, Henriksson, who teaches a world history survey course taken mostly by college freshmen, points out that many students lack the most basic historical and geographical background. At the beginning of a recent term, he says, he distributed a series of basic history and geography questions to 80 of his students. The majority did not know that Dublin is in Ireland. "Either they never absorbed what they were taught, or they were never exposed to it," Henriksson said.
Some students confuse periods of history in their essays, Henriksson notes, citing the following example from the book: "Wars fought in the 1950s and after include the Crimean War, Vietnam, and the Six-Minute War. President Eisenhower resorted to the bully pool pit. John F. Kennedy worked closely with the Russians to solve the Canadian Missile Crisis."
Some students are simply confused, however, including the one who claimed, "Judyism had one big God, named 'Yahoo.'"
Based on his own experience, Henriksson says, the following general understandings represent the basic accurate historical knowledge one can assume of U.S. college students:
- At some point "in the distant past," the United States fought a war of independence against a major European or Asian power.
- George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon were presidents of the United States. Washington was the first president and Lincoln was in office a long time ago.
- The United States still suffers from the legacy of slavery, whenever that occurred.
- The Civil War, which took place sometime between 1750 and 1930, had something to do with slavery.
- Adolf Hitler, "a foreigner of some kind," was a bad person.
- There was at least one world war but not more than three.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Information isn't knowledge
re: Ignorance is Blitz: Mangled Moments of History From Actual College Students, Education World reports: