Widespread ignorance of U.S. history is only the most visible symptom of a troubling decline in popular knowledge of the nation’s core principles.
Some hopeful news, as well as sobering facts, arrived earlier this month in “E Pluribus Unum,” a report issued by the Bradley Project on America’s National Identity. The purpose of the project, brainchild of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, is to begin “a national conversation … to affirm the belief that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.” The report warns:
Many Americans are more aware of what divides us than of what unites us. We are in danger of becoming not ‘from many, one’ — E Pluribus Unum — but its opposite, ‘from one, many.’
Among results of a HarrisInteractive survey of more than 2,400 American citizens conducted for the study:
- 96% of Americans agree it’s important “for the future of the American political system that all citizens be able to speak and read English.”
- 89% say colleges and universities should be required to teach U.S. history and government.
- 89% say America is “somewhat divided” or “very divided” along ethnic and cultural lines, including 74 percent of Hispanics, 80 percent of whites and 86 percent of blacks.
- 84% agree we “share a unique national identity” — but 63% of those citizens say it grows weaker by the year. The younger those surveyed, the less likely they were to be proud of their country or believe a national identity exists.
Heritage has compiled some of this information for our latest À La Chart, coming a week before America celebrates the Fourth of July.