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Keller @ Large: Learning U.S. History Needs To Be A Requirement

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A student views the original Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

A student views the original Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” goes the old saying, and if that’s true, we’re in big trouble.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Historical illiteracy has been a plague on our culture for a long time now.

A 1986 study found 60 percent of high school seniors didn’t know what Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was about; 40 percent didn’t grasp the concept of checks and balances; a third couldn’t identify the Declaration of Independence.

Twenty years later, standardized testing found that high school students knew little about topics ranging from the Korean War to Brown v. Board of Education.

And while improving historical knowledge was a key goal of the 1993 education reform here that poured billions into the schools, we stopped giving standardized history tests in 2009.

Researchers at the Pioneer Institute have produced a study that notes the pitifully low level of historical knowledge among our students even here in the most history-rich state in the nation, and explains some of the reasons for it – political correctness and electronic “distractions” among them.

If Gov. Patrick and the legislature are going to come around asking for more money to spend on education, I hope they do so with the promise that history will be returned to a more prominent place in the curriculum, and a decent knowledge of it will once again become a graduation requirement.

Students who graduate with no understanding of U.S. history are ill-equipped to function in the adult world. They cannot follow the news, make important decisions about voting or their finances, or understand their fellow man very well without it.

And they surely will wander through life with little understanding of who we are, why we are that way, and what we can become.

You can’t remember the past if you know nothing about it. And if you know nothing about your past, you are helpless to determine your future.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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