Don’t know much about history…

America’s top colleges and universities are doing a terrible job of preparing tomorrow’s leaders in the basics of history, government and the market economy, according to a study conducted by the University of Connecticut and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Dunce713973_1 

The eye-opening survey of 14,000 students at 50 large and small colleges and universities revealed that many of our country’s most prestigious schools including Duke, Johns Hopkins and Yale finished at the very bottom of the list. The reason, says various academics, is that our colleges and universities are focusing more and more on theory and less and less on basic, core requirements.

So, while they may be graduating the next Voltaire or Galileo, our schools aren’t equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the basic tools they’ll need to govern (note: that said, how much worse they could do at governing than our current crop?). To underscore the horrific lack of basic knowledge of history and current events, consider this: half of the students couldn’t correctly identify the century when the first American colony at Jamestown was established (17th). Nor could the majority identify the main source of Saddam Hussein’s political support in Iraq prior to the war (the Baath Party).

These findings don’t surprise me. With a rare exceptions, it seems like even our best and brightest college students have little appreciation for, or understanding of, history. In fact, to most of them, it almost seems as if the world simply didn’t exist before MTV or the Internet. An out-of-touch and unaware next generation will not only further tarnish our country’s lousy image and reputation around the world, it will damage our ability to remain competitive. The UConn survey provided a real wake-up call and should be taken very seriously by leaders in academic, political and business circles.

The findings remind me of the old television commercial for, I believe the United Negro College Fund that carried the memorable tagline: "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." By not teaching our kids about history, government and current events, we’re wasting an entire generation of minds, and putting our country’s future at risk.

9 thoughts on “Don’t know much about history…

  1. Well, you’re still making grammar mistakes even though you closed such a great deal. Congrats!!!

  2. Actually lunch idiot, if you had half a brain you would realize that i haven’t posted in weeks. but that’s b/c i was busy closing a 5-year, multi-million dollar contract- something that you likely can’t even dream of.

  3. I’m surprised how everyone focused on the grammar issues raised in this entry. What concerns me the most is the lack of attention and respect paid to history.
    We are so obsessed with the future that we neglect the past and fail to learn from the mistakes and successes of past generations. That’s a dangerous trap and bad omen for the future. Just think about all the lessons of the past 100 years that could apply to the struggles of today from fighting wars to running a business to raising our children. Maybe if our leaders in business, politics, religion, etc., paid more attention to how their predecessors behaved and performed, they would be making smarter, more strategic decisions.
    This reminds me of an old but very famous quote by George Santayana that is a personal favorite of mine: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
    How those words ring true today…

  4. I bet all of these posts were read and then checked again.
    Has anyone noticed that the MSE stays away from posts on grammar issues?

  5. As a recent college grad, I couldn’t agree more! The situation was so bad in my senior capstone course that we had to dedicate a full session to basic grammar use and spelling (followed by a subsequent letter grade penalty for typos on our next paper). Even today, emails fly back and forth with obvious errors, probably made in haste, but nevertheless.
    In this proverbial “real” world, the reputation you create is your own.

  6. I can totally help you on that book. I was an English 101 instructor at a local satellite campus of a Big 10 university. Let’s just say we played Mad Libs for two weeks so they knew what nouns, verbs, pronouns, etc, were. I have many, many stories to tell.

  7. You’re preaching to the choir, Trish. I agree 100 percent and shudder when I come across truly horrific misspellings, poor grammar or embarassing malaprops. Ann Barlow and I have talked about writing a book that would contain a compilation of especially egregious examples such as the ones you highlight. We have a running list of our own. Hey, maybe we’ll ask you to contribute a chapter.

  8. It is very true – but how about our native language of English?! My friend at another PR firm, has an intern who claims she was an editor at her college newspaper but does not grasp basic grammar at all. She writes the date October, 5 2006 and says Your welcome instead of You’re welcome. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Needless to say they did not extend her and she went directly to HR. Ah, the rules of entitlement. So many children are given so much, except what is needed.
    Oh and there is my friend who sent me an e-mail talking about a guy the other night with big mussels. I asked if they tasted good and she did not understand what I meant.