Originally created 07/09/01

Giving kids some credit



See if you can answer these questions:

Which country did America declare independence from during the Revolutionary War?

How many original colonies were there?

Who fought in the Civil War?

What are the three branches of government?

Who wrote the Star Spangled Banner?

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation surveyed more than 1,000 teens with a multiple choice quiz and found that 22 percent couldn't say what country America declared independence from. Fourteen thought it was France.

Seventeen percent of teens don't know that there were 13 original colonies.

Almost a quarter of them don't know who fought the Civil War, but 13 percent of them are pretty sure it was the United States and Britain.

Nineteen percent don't know what the three branches of government are.

And 31 percent don't know who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.

It sounds pretty dire, doesn't it? But to remind ourselves of how statistics look when presented in different ways, consider that:

78 percent of teens know that America declared independence from Great Britain.

83 percent of teens know there were 13 original colonies

76 percent know the Civil War was between the North and South.

81 percent know that the three branches of government include legislative, executive and judicial (12 percent said Supreme Court - we'd give them the points for being in the ballpark, although the Williamsburg Foundation didn't).

And 69 percent know Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner.

There is work to do to educate our youngsters about American and world history. But when the foundation conducted a similar multiple choice quiz last year, it did a separate one for parents, and found the results were nothing to write home about.

We Americans spend an awful lot of time poor-mouthing our children and not enough time recognizing what they do know. Most of them can run circles around us when it comes to computers and quite a few of them are pretty good musicians and artists.

And when it comes right down to it, most American children are far better educated than most of their great- great-grandparents.

Unlike generations who went before them, a majority of American children graduate from high school, greater numbers than in the past attend college and most go on to lead pretty successful lives.

And sooner or later, most of them pass the Williamsburg test about as well as their parents do (who, by the way, only get seven out of 10 questions right, according to the foundation's 2000 survey).