Struggling with the basics of history

This isn’t encouraging.

Last year, on the Friday before July 4, Marist released a poll proving that America’s ignorance about its own history is a stereotype grounded in truth. It showed that 26 percent of Americans didn’t know which country the United States gained its independence from. This year, Marist ran the same poll and came up with basically the same depressing results. A full 24 percent of Americans still can’t identify Great Britain as the country we ditched on July 4, 1776. Oh, and about 1776: Only 58 percent of Americans could identify that as the year we declared independence.

Taking a look at the internals (pdf), a couple of other angles stand out. For one thing, there’s a noticeable regional difference — Americans living in the South did noticeably worse than everyone else in both questions.

There are also age differences — on both questions, the younger the respondent, the more likely he/she was to be wrong. Here’s hoping wisdom comes with age.

Rick Santorum recently argued the public’s limited historical knowledge is the result of a liberal conspiracy — apparently, ignorance will help lefties “impose … new values” on the country” — but under the circumstances, it appears we’d be much better off if Americans simply ignored the historical recollections of people like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.