Friday, May 27, 2005


I was up late last night, trying to sleep while my wife was away with a friend in Boston (our friend blogs at Theologygirl). After two episodes of Good Eats on the Food Network, I switched to latenight comedy/talk whatever Letterman and Leno are. Letterman was a rerun, so it had to be Jay Leno and the Tonight Show, at least because it was a Jaywalking night. Don't get me wrong, I find that stuff funny, but this time it was a bit disturbing.

Jay's goal was (allegedly) to discover whether men or women knew more about U.S. history, but as you know if you've ever caught Jaywalking, Jay's real point is to tell us just how little our fellow citizens know about the subject. My fellow historians, from the inexperienced first-year history major, to the emeritus professor at an ancient and venerable University -- where did we go wrong?

Don't get me wrong, I can understand Americans not remembering there was a War of 1812, or details about the Spanish-American War, or even who assassinated Lincoln, but some of the things people said last night were beyond funny -- they were downright scary. Jay asked who was Supreme Allied Commander during WWII, who later became president, and one man said George Washington... He asked what side Japan was on during WWII, the United States' or the Nazi's, and another man said the U.S.... He asked true or false (TRUE OR FALSE DEAR READERS), whether jet aircraft were first used during the American Revolution -- you've got it SOMEONE SAID TRUE!

I guess it wouldn't be so bad, but we let these people vote. We actually encourage them to vote. To be fair, democracy scares me (slightly less than most other forms of government), but this kind of ignorance is why. How can we expect people to make informed judgments about government when they don't know anything about the past -- it's not like we have another equally valuable source to consult to determine what might be best to do in the present. It's enough to make me wish for the Second Coming.

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