As Americans, the summer months are a time to relax and go on vacation. It is an age old tradition to embrace our patriotism by having the day off from work, and rejoice in our nation's freedoms by going to a party where we overindulge in food and drink. The 4th of July holiday is a time to hang our flags, wear patriotic T-shirts and spend time with friends and family. Pool parties, picnics, barbeques and fireworks are a big part of our celebrations this time of year, but do we actually know what it is we are celebrating?
Sadly, most of us do not. A recent Newsweek survey showed that 70 percent of Americans cannot explain what the U.S. Constitution is, and 6 percent don't even know what day of the year is considered Independence Day (for the record even I know that it is July 4). In fact, the vast majority of Americans can't name the first five presidents, define the word "amendment," or explain the Bill of Rights or the judicial branch of the government. While most Americans can name the current President, 29 percent cannot name the vice president.
On the flip side, we can tell you about the recent break up of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, correctly identify the number of children that Brad and Angelina have (six, but who is counting?), and weigh in on the Kim Kardashian/Kayne West pairing. Pop culture trivia and celebrity obsession trumps U.S. history in our country, specifically with the younger than 30 age demographic. As a nation, are we uneducated or are our priorities just completely out of whack?
Perhaps education, demographics or socioeconomic standings influence our lack of knowledge, but the fact is: there is just no excuse for not knowing the basic facts about the history of our nation. Just because we are born in this country and are automatically declared citizens should not mean that we are exempt from understanding why we have these privileges. Those of us born in the United States are not required to learn anything about our country in order to live here and enjoy our freedoms.
In fact, a lot of Americans would not pass a U.S. Citizen test if they were required to take one. Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the official U.S. citizenship test, and 38 percent failed. This test is given to all immigrants who apply for citizenship in our country. Some of the categories are: U.S. government, rights and responsibilities, U.S. history and civics. While only 62 percent of Americans could pass this test, 97 percent of immigrants passed.
Ironically, of the people who were polled, more than 60 percent believe that passing the U.S. citizenship test should be a requirement for high school graduation. Maybe that is the solution; it certainly couldn't hurt to force us to learn our history. But it shouldn't come to that; we should want to know why we are lucky enough to live in this country.
If you are like me, and you think you know your basic facts, I recommend taking a sample citizenship test online. It's actually very eye opening. I hadn't remembered my history as well I had hoped, but I didn't fail. I did realize that most of what I learned in school had long been forgotten in order to make room for all this new and utterly useless information that clouds my brain.
Nobody's perfect, even celebrities like Christina Aguilera forget the words to the national anthem. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to make an Orioles reference in the "Star Spangled Banner" if you live in Maryland. I am sure Francis Scott Key would understand.