Teens losing touch with common cultural and historical references

From the usatoday.com article:
Big Brother. McCarthyism. The patience of Job.

Don’t count on your typical teenager to nod knowingly the next time you drop a reference to any of these. A study out today finds that about half of 17-year-olds can’t identify the books or historical events associated with them.

Twenty-five years after the federal report A Nation at Risk challenged U.S. public schools to raise the quality of education, the study finds high schoolers still lack important historical and cultural underpinnings of “a complete education.” And, its authors fear, the nation’s current focus on improving basic reading and math skills in elementary school might only make matters worse, giving short shrift to the humanities even if children can read and do math.

“If you think it matters whether or not kids have common historical touchstones and whether, at some level, we feel like members of a common culture, then familiarity with this knowledge matters a lot,” says American Enterprise Institute researcher Rick Hess, who wrote the study.

Among 1,200 students surveyed:

•43% knew the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900.

•52% could identify the theme of 1984.

•51% knew that the controversy surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism.

In all, students earned a C in history and an F in literature, though the survey suggests students do well on topics schools cover. For instance, 88% knew the bombing of Pearl Harbor led the USA into World War II, and 97% could identify Martin Luther King Jr. as author of the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Read the article here.

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3 Responses to “Teens losing touch with common cultural and historical references”


  1. 1 Steve Rosenbaum February 26, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I don’t think this is a very new concept. People of all ages have black holes in their knowledge about history and culture. Let’s see how you’re older and more knowledgable readers do with these questions:

    1. What were the years of the Ming dynasty?
    2. Who was the famous daughter of Pope Alexander?
    3. Who become President as a result of the compromise in 1877?
    4. What ammendment repealed prohibition?
    5. What ammendment lead to a federal income tax?
    6. Why was Andrew John impeached?
    7. Who were the 7 U.S. Presidents who never finished high school?
    8. What president wanted to close the patent office because there was nothing new to invent?
    9. What was the year that the American west was officially considered closed?
    10. Who discovered Korea?

  2. 2 westernparadigm February 26, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Your questions, although interesting, are mostly obscure topics. My take on the article is that there is a lack of understanding the common cultural references which in turn has an adverse affect on communication. It is less a contest to see which generation knows more then it is a breakdown in the ability to understand what everyone else is talking about.

  3. 3 http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=191509&id=259063494656#!/pages/Berton-Vineyards-Fine-Australian-Wines/259063494656 February 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm

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