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This Thanksgiving, Know Your History

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Politics, history, civics, Neatorama,

Res Ipsa LoquiturThanksgiving is quickly approaching, and many people gathering for turkey will have no idea what they're celebrating. For one thing, most of the pilgrims didn’t eat turkey, according to Neatorama’s list of Thanksgiving myths; they ate deer. And the settlers didn’t call themselves “pilgrims” back then, opting instead for the far more presumptuous moniker of “saints.”

One could assume that the bevy of misinformation is coming from schools, but if reports on civic literacy are to be believed, most people weren’t paying attention in school anyway. A survey from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute found that more than 68 percent of respondents failed their civics quiz (pdf), scoring less than 50 percent. The survey found that more than “twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase 'government of the people, by the people, for the people' comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.”

You can take the civic literacy quiz here.

And for more on the importance of history, read History Lessons by Keith Goetzman, and Can We Handle the Truth? by Howard Zinn from the September-October issue of Utne Reader.