It’s That Time Again…

Time to see how ignorant we Americans really are:

US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday. Skip related content

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

It is bad enough that the voting public has no real understanding of American history or government, but when our own elected leaders are just as ignorant, it bodes ill for our future.

Meanwhile, Victor Davis Hanson may have found the reason for our slide into historical blindness:

The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what Okinawa, John Quincy Adams, Shiloh, the Parthenon, the Reformation, John Locke, the Second Amendment, or the Pythagorean Theorem is. An entire American culture, the West itself, its ideas and experiences, have simply vanished on the altar of therapy. This upcoming generation knows instead not to judge anyone by absolute standards (but not why so); to remember to say that its own Western culture is no different from, or indeed far worse than, the alternatives; that race, class, and gender are, well, important in some vague sense; that global warming is manmade and very soon will kill us all; that we must have hope and change of some undefined sort; that AIDs is no more a homosexual- than a heterosexual-prone disease; and that the following things and people for some reason must be bad, or at least must in public company be said to be bad (in no particular order): Wal-Mart, cowboys, the Vietnam War, oil companies, coal plants, nuclear power, George Bush, chemicals, leather, guns, states like Utah and Kansas, Sarah Palin, vans and SUVs.

Since World War II, our nation has enjoyed immense prosperity. Especially after the end of the Vietnam War and through the economic recovery of the 1980s, my own generation has grown up without any real hardships. There has been no Great Depression to really test what we are made of, nor any noble struggle against tyranny to grant us a perspective on our own morality. Instead we have languished as if in a stupor, enjoying the fruits of our forefathers’ hard work without having to pay what they already paid.

Instead of preparing children to live and thrive in the real world, schools teach them that the world should conform to their desires. If something in the world offends us, we are taught to shout and scream until it is remedied. We have completely lost our historical perspective. Young people with cable TV, cell phones, and multiple cars look at high gas prices and dwindling 401k accounts and think that they are walking in the footsteps of their great-grandparents who lost everything in the Great Depression, and the news media enables their self-pity.

If a Nazi Germany or an imperial Japan arose today and began the process of conquering the world and enslaving mankind, our generation would be too lazy to do anything about it. Oh, they might march in protest, or put a sympathy badge on their MySpace, but when push came to shove, they would be too leashed to their cell phones and American Idols to care.

Yet perhaps there is hope. Today I was in a middle school classroom and I overheard some kids quizzing each other on the US government. They knew how many representatives are in our Congress, how many electoral votes we have in the state of Washington, and when we will have a presidential inauguration. It is a good start. To really care for this country that has been so good, too good for us, we have to know its history and customs. There is more to life than whatever is on the television set, and our ancestors fought too hard for us to waste our lives in front of it.

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