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A Story Worth Telling

June 29, 2005

By Bruce Cole, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities

WASHINGTON, June 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following is an editorial from Bruce Cole, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities:

This summer, countless Americans will emerge from their local bookstore with historian David McCullough's best-seller '1776' tucked under their arms -- an engaging account of the birth year of our freedom.

For many of us with a passion for the humanities, this is something from which to take heart.

Let's face it. In an age of e-mails, iPods and Xboxes vying for our (and our kids') attention, history can be a tough sell.

Many of us have seen Jay Leno's man-on-the-street interviews - the groan-inducing clips of folks unaware of who our first president was, what the Bill of Rights is, or what the branches of our government might be.

All of which might be funny if the consequences weren't so serious.

While millions of us today raise flags to celebrate the birthday of freedom, a startling number won't be able to tell us how that freedom came to be.

Recent surveys show most high school students (57 percent) don't have even a passing knowledge of U.S. history, about 40 percent not knowing who our allies were in World War II. At the university level, a recent study of 50 elite colleges showed that 45 percent of students didn't know that Abraham Lincoln was President during the Civil War. And a recent study from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that just 21 percent of college administrators and 30 percent of students could name religion as one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment...