As The United States of America celebrates Independence Day an important question has been raised by many historians across the world. Do Americans actually understand their own history? Are schools in America teaching their children the right events or are politician's confusing youngsters with their constant mistakes over how and why the United States gained its independence from Great Britain. Studies are constantly showing that American's are unaware of what they are actually celebrating.
The question that must be asked is does history matter? Of course history matters, history is important because it relates the social experience of our people in concrete and detailed form. It deals with specific and unique events instead of with averages and abstractions. It is interested in the experiences of groups of ordinary individuals as well as in the achievements of extraordinary persons. History arranges its materials in chronological order and thus is naturally led to stress the concepts of change and continuity, of development and decay.
A 2007 poll conducted by the U.S Mint revealed some very worrying results. 26 per cent of the people polled did not know that the United States gained its independence from Great Britain. Even more worrying was the fact that six per cent of the people polled chose a different country. The countries included China, France, Japan Mexico and Spain. In the same poll, it showed that only seven per cent of those surveyed could name the first four presidents in order: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Thirty per cent knew that Jefferson was the third president, 57 per cent identified Jefferson as the main author of the Declaration of Independence, and 57 per cent knew that Washington led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
It must be time to panic in relation to what American's know about their own history. Politicians must take responsibility; especially when it comes to the mistakes of the Tea Party. The movements darling, Herman Cain announced his candidacy for the U.S Presidency and cited words from the U.S Constitution to enforce his points. However the passage he was reading from was the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.
Further mistakes have embarrassed the movement. Sarah Palin's butchering of Paul Revere's role in the American Revolution or Michelle Bachmann's truly revisionist mangling of the facts to claim that the founding father's tried to abolish slavery is truly shocking. The disdain for knowledge, facts and learning is something the Tea Party and the American right can't hide behind.
The movement has got American history wrong on so many occasions but instead of admitting their mistakes they have continued to confuse the population. Supporters of both Palin and Bachmann edited the Wikipedia page on Paul Revere and John Quincy Adams to reflect their mistakes. To try and cover over such horrendous mistakes is criminal and the two must be held to account.
The materials of history cannot be understood if the content of other subjects has not been studied. The lessons of history cannot be applied if they are not given direction and meaning by the other social studies and the other fields of human knowledge.