The Corner

1776 and All That

Historian David McCullough on the state of historical knowledge in America’s universities:

Further evidence of “something that’s eating away at the national memory,” Mr. McCullough says, is a survey last year of seniors at 50 top colleges and universities by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “It’s astonishing. More than half didn’t know George Washington was the commanding general of the Continental Army during the American Revolution who accepted Brig. Gen. Charles Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.”

“Thirty-six percent thought it was Ulysses S. Grant,” commander of the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. “Six percent said it was Douglas MacArthur,” U.S. commander during the Korean War. “Thirty-two percent said Washington. It was a multiple-choice question. They were winging it.

“If you don’t know what Yorktown was all about, and that Washington was the commander, you don’t know … a lot about American history that you ought to know.”

No, you don’t.

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