Lately, I have noticed the many mistakes from promising candidates for president and other high offices concerning American history. When I hear from a presidential press secretary that she never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or a potential candidate confusing Concord, N.H., with Concord, Mass., and another telling a silly story of Paul Revere's ride as if it were part of the National Rifle Association, it makes me shudder. These are people in so-called high places who should know better, but evidently, they do not.
Maybe someone could help me out there. Is history, especially American history, actually taught anymore, at any level or at any school? I wonder.
I have seen numerous man-on-the-street interviews on TV, including some from comedian Jay Leno. When questions of a historical nature are asked to college students, they sometimes confuse Washington with Lincoln, the Civil War with the American Revolution and stumble mightily just on basic history questions that our teachers pounded into our brains years ago. They may even confuse the Constitution with their favorite bar and grill that happens to have the same name. Evidently, history as it was taught 50 or more years ago is not the same as it is today. Could it be that some of the problems of our nation are a result of history being forgotten or maybe sometimes rewritten to fit some sort of agenda?
History, to some, doesn't really mean anything. After all, why think of the past when the future holds so much ahead of us? I believe that everyone should at least have a basic knowledge of their country and who did what and why, and the many struggles that were made to make living here so great. Many great people have died just to protect our way of life.
But is hope on its way? According to the Denver Post, fourth graders are the sharpest group of students tested for U.S. history knowledge. But only 20 percent of them scored proficient or advanced on a test given by the National Center for Education Statistics. The group tested fourth, eighth and 12th graders. Across the nation, 17 percent of eighth graders scored proficient or advanced on the exam and 11 percent of high school seniors were proficient or advanced this year.
I believe also that local politicians, when running for office, should have a good knowledge of history in our Valley. They should know that Ephraim Quinby founded Warren in 1798 on land purchased from the Connecticut Land Company, which was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Warren was named after surveyor Moses Warren, and it became the county seat in 1801. There is a current population of approximately 40,000 people. Did you know that Warren was the first town in the U.S. that got electric street illumination provided by the Packard Electric Company? What about the Trumbull County Courthouse that contains one of the largest courtrooms in the state of Ohio?
Youngstown was named after John Young from New York, who also purchased land from the Western Reserve Land Company that was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Youngstown was originally part of Trumbull County. Youngstown was incorporated in 1848 and chartered as a city in 1867. It became the county seat of Mahoning County in 1876. The 2010 census proclaimed that the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman metropolitan statistical area contains 565,773 people. Youngstown has a fine history of coal and steel and a great Mill Creek Park system. These are just a few things that all of us should know about our Valley.
Whether history will be taught aggressively again, who knows? But, hopefully, the people, especially those who run for office, will learn to have a basic knowledge and understanding of history and the role it played in shaping our Valley and the world today.