Alex Massie

American history as it’s taught today...

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Ross and Rod despair, quite naturally, over this poll asking American teenagers to name the "10 Most Famous Americans". Presidents and First Ladies were excluded from the poll. It's an illuminating view of how American history is taught these days. anyway, The results were:

1. Martin Luther King Jr.: 67%

2. Rosa Parks: 60%

3. Harriet Tubman: 44%

4. Susan B. Anthony: 34%

5.Benjamin Franklin: 29%

6. Amelia Earhart: 25%

7. Oprah Winfrey: 22%

8. Marilyn Monroe: 19%

9. Thomas Edison: 18%

10. Albert Einstein: 16%

Interesting that only MLK and Rosa Parks received the endorsement of more than 50% of high school students. I suspect that most kids, however, thought they should respond "seriously" and consider who might be the most "significant" Americans, rather than those merely "famous". Then again, perhaps OJ Simpson is ancient history to teenagers these days.

Still, Ross mutters "O tempora, o mores" over this:

The study acknowledges that the emphasis on African-American figures by the schools leaves behind not only 18th- and 19th-century figures but others as well, such as Hispanic icon Cesar Chavez, Native American heroes such as Pocahontas and Sacagawea and labor leaders such as Samuel Gompers and Eugene V. Debs.

Yeah, not enough Samuel Gompers...

Since parlour games of this sort are always entertaining, here's my own off-the-top-of-the-head alternative list of non-Presidential Famous/Significant Americans who did not appear in the high schoolers' top ten. In no particular order:

Muhammed Ali

John Wayne

George S Patton

Neil Armstrong

Mark Twain

William Randolph Hearst

Robert E Lee

Alexander Hamilton

Davy Crockett

Sitting Bull/Geronimo/Crazy Horse

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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