July 2nd, 2010
11:24 AM ET
4 years ago

Don't know much about history?

 One in 4 Americans had difficulty identifying who this nation declared independence from.
One in 4 Americans had difficulty identifying who this nation declared independence from.

(CNN) – As Americans get ready to spend a long weekend marking this country's independence 234 years ago, a new poll suggests more than 1 in 4 Americans don't know which country America declared its independence from.

According to a new survey from Marist College, 26 percent failed to correctly identify Great Britain as the country the United States fought an eight-year war with to gain its independence.

That percentage of Americans includes the 20 percent who were "unsure" and the six percent who thought the U.S. fought a revolution against another country. Among the countries mentioned were France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain, according to the poll.

The poll's internals show younger Americans know least about this country's founding: only 60 percent of 18-29 year-olds could correctly name Great Britain. Men also had a considerable 81-67 percent advantage over women in naming the correct country.

The poll surveyed 1,004 Americans between June 17 and 24. It carries a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


Filed under: July 4
soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    A very sad commentary on the NEA dominated public education system. Very sad indeed. But you can bet that all the students have been told how wonderful unions are and had it reinforced throughout the time they have been under NEA control.

    July 2, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. John In Ely

    God, bless America...if this is any example of what we have become...we sure need it.

    July 2, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  3. faithful democrat, no matter what

    It's common knowledge that students in Europe and Asia
    are superior to American students. That could be due to
    no dicipline in schools or inferior teachers. What ever the problem, it
    should be addressed ,and soon.

    July 2, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. no genius, but

    Would Mark Twain have said:
    Show me a room full of dumb students and I'll show you a
    room full of bright teachers ?

    July 2, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. XWngLady

    What a surprise. We cut funding to our education systems until there is hardly anything left, we don't value those with social science degrees and we pay our teachers/professors squat and then we wonder why. The summation of what average Americans know about American History is this: JACK.

    July 2, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. tulsa

    All hail to our fine teachers.

    July 2, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    The effects of the passage of time, might indicate, that we should not put too much stock in our youth.

    July 2, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Pam

    That is pretty sad!!!
    If they don't know which country, then they certainly have no idea "why" !!

    July 2, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. SLP

    t's common knowledge that students in Europe and Asia
    are superior to American students. That could be due to
    no dicipline in schools or inferior teachers. What ever the problem, it
    should be addressed ,and soon.

    Oh here we go. The dumbing down of America has very little to do with inferior teachers. Are there inferior teachers? Yes, just like in all professions. However, there are also many wonderful, dedicated teachers all across this country. The majority of the problem lies with the fact that teachers can only teach what they are allowed to teach. That is due to the wonderful Department of Education. Our education system has gone down hill since that stupid waste of taxpayer money was first introduced by Jimmy Carter (another wonderful president brought to the American people by the wonderful democrat party...not). Our kids are not being taught vital parts of our history because progressives have taken it upon themselves to intentionally leave it out of public education. That is why that I am filling in the gaps with my children and if anyone wants their children to learn true American history, they had better do the same.

    July 2, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Bobby Frank-Dallas, Texas

    This is exactly why this country is in bad shape. Maybe we should give a test to all Americans in order to maintain their citizenship. If you fail the test then you are deported to Arizona. That would give us an opportunity to import some intelligent people from other countries which could improve everything across the board for all us smart folks.

    July 2, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Dave

    Jay Leno proved this point many time on the "Tonight show" by asking simple basic question about our country to yung people walking around the city. Most couldn't even name who the President or Vice President was at the time.

    July 2, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. Republicans is smart in the head area

    Love how all the right wing knuckle draggers are trying to pin this on Obama. Seriously, the poll is talking about 18-29 year old people. That would put this population of geniuses somewhere in the middle of Reagan/Bush 1. Not surprising.

    July 2, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. Mad Matt

    I wouldn't be surprised if many of those polled were knuckledragging Tea Party folks who have a very limited knowledge of our history and the our constitution beyond the second amendment.

    July 2, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. concerned coloradan

    This isn't a problem created by either party. If parents took more
    responsibility for their children's education, teachers would have more time to teach instead of worring about discipline.

    July 2, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. Barack.Hussein.Obama-America's-Benevolent-DICTATOR

    The liberals and Progressive Communists have controlled the schools in this country for DECADES. The fight to get their destructive influence out just started in Texas with the fight over history textbooks. So much of our history has been cleansed and distorted by them it is ridiculous.

    So if you want see why our children are nearly blithering idiots, you need look no further than the NEA and teachers unions around the country. It is impossible to fire the bad teachers and the children pay the price. Throwing money at the problem is a complete waste.

    July 2, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. Hows that oil slick coming along Rush?

    All you have to do is look at the stupid rightwing kids that post on here to see how dumbed down we have become.hahaha

    July 2, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  17. J Russ

    and all we hear – even from our president – is happy fourth of July. Perhaps if we were still allowed to call it Independence Day some of you might have a clue.

    And like they say, those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.................makes you wonder how much Barry knows about the great depression since he seeems hell bent on repeating it.

    July 2, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  18. S Callahan

    Amazing....and to think we pay huge salaries at the local levels in comparison to the local economies....yet we aren't getting the bang for our buck. This has to come from home AND the schools. Another case of dumming down our students...

    July 2, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  19. altoonagirl

    But I'm sure all of those young people feel GOOD about themselves and think they're above average. Our school system is all about self esteem and touch feely crap and nothing about real content or deep thought

    July 2, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. KLK

    I bet they only polled those brain-dead, fat, southern tea-partiers. If they would have polled the "real Americans" they would have gotten a better result.

    July 2, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. Augsbee

    One of the most exciting American History event to me was the ride of Paul Revere, William Dawes and the famous " The British are coming, the British are coming".

    I wish kids today would get to hear about these incredible times in our history, people's struggle, their fights, passion, creativity all for the freedom of our country which we now so enjoy.

    Unfortunately, not many Americans want to hear about Paul Revere, William Dawes these days.

    July 2, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Anon.

    In response to Jeff Jackson:

    Teaching is not a "part time job." Even though to you it looks like during the summer teachers are not doing anything, think again. States require teachers to continue their education – this includes enrolling in new college courses over the summer. Additionally, new lessons need to be created before the start of school.

    In response to the article:

    While it is true that there are teachers out there who just don't care, there are many that do and are having a hard time trying to find a teaching job. Those that are lucky enough to have one are now faced with the reality that they may or already have lost their job.

    The problem with people not understanding our country's history – particulary younger Americans – can not be solely blamed on teachers. Our education system is flawed. States are so focused on making sure that students pass standardized tests, they've almost forgotten what teaching really is all about.

    In Pennsylvania, students must pass the PSSA tests. These tests do not include any questions regarding social studies: only reading and math. I know that in some school districts, students are pulled out of social studies and art classes in order to take prep classes to pass the PSSA. (Passing the PSSA in Pennsylvania is important for school districts to meet AYP via No Child Left Behind.)

    I really hope our education system can change. There are so many bright and talented new teachers that still want to teach your children. I still have faith that someday things will change and our students can compete with their peers around the world.

    July 2, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. new yorker

    To Victim of GOP taliban
    Are you really proud of our board of education ?
    Do you know where Britain is ?
    Is an ex-confederacy responsible for our dumb kids ?
    Are you high on your liberal Kool Aid ?

    July 2, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. annie s

    Ah, now I understand why Americans vote Republican – they really ARE stupid.

    July 2, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. Jack in Gainesville, FL

    I am a single guy, 30 years old. I want a marriage partner and kids someday. This is the pool of women I get to pick from? 40% of them don't know that we declared our independence from England. Seriously.

    I'm not denying this is true, I see the proof every day. It's just painful walking around with a functional brain, watching these pretty young things bounce around with no awareness about the world they live in. They want someone else to take care of them, spend all their time and resources on the way they are superficially percieved by men, and wonder why they can't find a good partner.

    I'm going to give this an honest shot for another 2 years or so, then it's off to the Ukraine.

    July 2, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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