Fox News Channel host Jesse Watters hit the beach for Memorial Day weekend to quiz young people about the meaning of Memorial Day and past military conflicts involving the United States. The answers were both hilarious and horrifying.
“This weekend, we celebrate Memorial Day, a day for remembering America’s fallen soldiers,” Watters said during a Saturday evening episode of FNC’s “Watters’ World.” “But how much do Americans really know about the history of that sacrifice? I have to warn you: It is shameful.”
There are plenty of “shameful” answers to Watters’ questions to choose from, but several worth highlighting came in response to Watters’ simple question about the Revolutionary War.
“Who did America fight in the Revolutionary War?” asked Watters to several beachgoers.
“The French,” responded one woman.
“That’s a good question,” said one man. “I don’t know.”
“China,” answered another young woman.
“North versus South,” responded one particularly confident-sounding man. “The Confederate [sic] versus the Union.”
Watters also asked people to name the victor of the U.S. Civil War.
“Britain,” replied one woman.
“America and Britain and Spain, some part of Spain, and uh, uh yeah,” said another young woman.
As funny and disturbing as the answers were to Watters’ questions, the results shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Numerous studies and surveys have shown Americans know very little about their own history and even less about world history.
As a writer for the Smithsonian Institution noted in a 2015 article, in 2008, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute surveyed more than 2,500 people and found only about 50 percent could properly name the three branches of government (executive, judicial, and legislative). Similarly, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card,” found in 2014—the most recent test data available—only 21 percent of male students in the eighth grade and 16 percent of female eighth-grade students scored “proficient” or higher in NAEP’s U.S. history assessment.
Americans’ poor understanding of history is nothing short of pathetic, but as the nation celebrates Memorial Day, it seems more than just a little funny and sad; it’s also, as Watters stated in the introduction of his segment, “shameful.”
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