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Survey Shows Kids, Some Parents Lack Fundamental Knowledge of American History

If you were to ask a kid why we're celebrating a holiday Saturday, there's a 50-50 chance he or she wouldn't know, according to a new survey commissioned by the Colonial Williamsburg restoration in Virginia.
The survey shows that almost half the kids polled don't know the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. And about 1 in 6 parents don't know that the document declared the American colonies free from British rule. The survey also shows that only about 1 in 8 children can correctly identify the nation's founding fathers, that only about half know that "the shot heard round the world" started the Revolution, and that a third don't know that the "Redcoats" were British soldiers who fought in the Revolution - and not in either the Civil War or World War I.
"Many parents, especially the Baby Boom generation, are concerned their children aren't learning enough about how and why the United States came to be," says Colonial Williamsburg Foundation president Robert Wilburn. "Kids are inundated with information from movies, television, the Internet and theme parks, but how much of it is really stimulating, relevant or even accurate?"

The telephone survey consisted of 1,004 adults between the ages of 35 and 54 and 502 children between the ages of 9 and 12. On average, the adults got 7 of the 10 multiple choice questions correct, while the kids got about half. Questions both groups found easy were the identification that George Washington was our first president and that there were 13 original states.

Other stumpers were the fact that the concept that all Americans are entitled to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence is known to only about 30% of those polled, that two-thirds of kids and that one-third of adults don't know that Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty, or give me death."

The survey, of course, is designed to serve Colonial Williamsburg's purpose of drumming up visitors to the restoration in the Tidewater area of Virginia. The foundation says those surveyed believe visiting historic sites is second only to reading history books in conveying the concepts of American history.

"Our nation's future depends in part on our understanding of the past - the ideals and values on which this country was founded," Wilburn says.

Read the next parenting article on things to be learned in school >>
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