Can You Pass this American History Quiz?

kids and history, education
History and kids are a natural fit. So don't American kids know much about it?

More bad news in American education!

Recently released results of a national test given to fourth-, eighth- and 12th- graders shows that U.S. kids don’t know much about history. Or probably geography. Who knows how they did with trigonometry.

The evidence is clear: we need to add U.S. history to the long list of areas in which American kids are failing.

Only 13 percent of high school seniors who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress could answer most questions in American history correctly.

Just 22 percent of fourth-graders performed well enough. And 18 percent of eighth-graders did.

The quiz covers stuff like colonization, the American Revolution, the Civil War and what’s going on in the U.S. today.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said these test results show a failure to educate. Education experts say the scramble to meet No Child Left Behind requirements, which mostly focus on reading and math, has led to the learning lag in subjects like history and science.

I’d argue history IS reading and science IS math and that there’s plenty of overlap, if only schools could figure out a way to get there.

Anyway, the latest scores aren’t much different than scores from 15 years ago, which sort of indicates we’ve never taught U.S. history (or any history, really) that well in the U.S. In fact, I’d argue kids’ parents couldn’t do much better on those tests.

MSNBC, which reported on the low scores, published some sample questions. Do you know the correct answers?

4th grade quiz samples:

1. Match the event to the date:

A. Jamestown is founded.

B. The United States Constitution is written.

C. Christopher Columbus sails to the Americas.

D. Abraham Lincoln announces the Emancipation Proclamation

__ 1492; __ 1607; __ 1787; __ 1863
2.Aung San Suu Kyi lives in a country called Myanmar (Burma). She has spent many years trying to change her country’s government. She spoke the words below in 1996. “Those fortunate enough to live in societies where they are entitled to full political rights can reach out to help the less fortunate in other parts of our troubled planet. Young women and young men . . . might wish to cast their eyes beyond their own frontiers. . . . Please use your liberty to promote [help] ours.”

What document helps to give Americans what Aung San Suu Kyi wants her people to have?

A. The Mayflower Compact

B. The Gettysburg Address

C. The Star-Spangled Banner

D. The Bill of Rights

8th grade quiz samples

3. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, northern and southern delegates debated whether or not slaves would be counted as part of the state’s population. Disagreement over this question led to bitter tensions among delegates. To resolve the question referred to in the passage, delegates agreed to …

A. include all male slaves in population totals.

B. include no slaves in population totals.

C. count each slave as three-fifths of a person in population totals.

D. count slaves in the southern states but not in the northern states.

4. (Under a picture, right, of an advertisement touting the invention of barbed wire)
The invention shown in the advertisement contributed to the

A. end of the era of the open-range cattle industry.

B. end of the expansion of railroads.

C. Northern victory in the Civil War.

D. growth of the West Coast population and California statehood

12th-grade questions

5. Why did Missouri’s application for statehood in 1819 cause a political crisis?

A. The United States had equal numbers of slave and free states, and Missouri’s entry would have upset the balance.

B. The United States had never before established a state west of the Mississippi, and Missouri’s entry would have likely caused conflict with American Indians.

C. Missouri was a center of abolitionist activity, and its admission would have antagonized southern states.

D. Missouri was a center of secessionist activity, and its entry would have antagonized northern states.

6. During the Korean War, United Nations forces made up largely of troops from the United States and South Korea fought against troops from North Korea and

A. the Soviet Union

B. Japan

C. China

D. Vietnam

Answer key

1.C. 1492; A. 1607; B. 1787; D. 1863






Do you worry about history education in schools? What stuff do you do outside of school to instill a love of — or at least get some exposure to — history? We’re big readers in my house so my 10-year-old has learned about different historical events through literature. Though I personally liked the Magic Treehouse series, she never did (neither does my 6-year-old) but I think for any kid who’s into those, there’s definitely an introduction to history there.

Photo: adulau via flickr

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