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On Fourth of July, Californians Celebrate Independence from…China?

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In the above clip, Mark Dice* tests ordinary California beachgoers’ knowledge about the Fourth of July, asking them when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and which country we broke away from in the American Revolution. (One apparently popular answer to the second question was China.) A few times Dice fed the interviewees the answers in the question itself and they still couldn’t get it. We should take some small comfort in the fact that at least one person on the video knows that the US broke away from Britain: a German tourist.

The interviews are both humorous and deeply saddening. At the very least, they suggest that California’s history teachers may have a bit more work to do before they earn their lifetime tenure.

In all seriousness, this video reminds us as we come down from our 4th of July high that we have to continually work to secure the promise of our founding ideals. The Founding Fathers all thought democracy couldn’t function properly without an educated and alert populace. History is a crucial part of the civic education all Americans should receive. To be ignorant of our past is to be ignorant of our future.

*Dice himself seems to be confused on a few points, judging by his biography. But that doesn’t make this video any less tragi-comic.

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  • rheddles

    The Founding Fathers didn’t think democracy functioned very well at all. That’s why they created a mixed form of government. The belief that they did create a democracy lies behind much of the mischief known as the Blue State.

    • Corlyss

      How do you figure that?

      • Joseph Blieu

        The founders created a constitutional republic with state legislators
        and state boards contoling the senate and presidency. We have
        subsequently moved toward direct democracy, I think that is what was

        • Corlyss

          Well, I should wait for Rhed to explain what he intended, but I may not get back here tonight.

          The public’s dubious understanding may be based solely on the idea that we elect our public officials. To a lot of people that is the most notable feature of “democracy.” That is not what a direct democracy is, but the distinction may be lost most. Fuzzy thinking about public policy, not to mention history, abounds. [I hesitate even to call that “thinking.”] I don’t think that fact means the public actually thinks we have somehow moved to a direct democracy. The word “democracy” is so freighted with misconceptions that westerners in the middle east have to separate out individual elements that go to make democracy as the West understands it in order to get even a glimmer of enthusiasm from Arab/Islamic audiences. See below:

          THE PILLARS OF DEMOCRACY Sovereignty of the people.

          Government based upon consent of the governed.

          Majority rule.

          Minority rights.

          Guarantee of basic human rights.

          Free and fair elections.

          Equality before the law.

          Due process of law.

          Constitutional limits on government.

          Social, economic, and political pluralism.

          Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.

        • lukelea

          I just read Unruly Americans, about the ten years between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. You’re right that the elites were worried about popular democracy, but they also feared a majority would never approve a more elitist form of government. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read in American history, out of hundreds. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Written by a South Carolinian too!

          • Corlyss

            Thanks for the tip.

  • lukelea

    At the very least, they suggest that California’s history teachers may have a bit more work to do . . .

    It’s not just in California but all over the United States, and not just in the high schools, middle schools, and primary schools, but in our colleges and universities. (I’ve even seen some howlers from Harvard undergraduates.) My daughter managed to go all the way through, including a very fancy private high school without taking a single survey course of world or American history apart from a single AP American history course, which was such a rush job through thousands of relatively minor minutiae that she never got a feel for the big picture or the basic themes. She did take world geography about three times though.

    If there were one thing I could change about our education curriculum it would not be adding more science and math. It would be teaching world and American history the way it used to be done: in 5th and 6th grade, in 7th and 8th grade, and in 10th and 11th grade. Then I would require a two year double course survey of Western history, literature, and philosophy like I got in Reed College’s required Humanities core curriculum. But that was in 1961-1963 before the counterculture struck. We may never recover.

  • Andrew Allison

    A stunning indictment of the state of “education” in California.

  • JDogg Snook

    Jesse Ventura, a founding father. Along with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and George “The Animal” Steele. I like it.

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