Video: Leno demonstrates effectiveness of American education on history

posted at 6:30 pm on July 3, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

I briefly considered using this clip for tomorrow, but it’s too depressing to post on Independence Day. Instead, we’ll let this serve as a warning on the eve of the nation’s 234th birthday. If you can’t do any better than the people in this clip interviewed by the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno in his Jaywalking segment, turn on the History Channel and try to catch up before tomorrow morning. And who saves the day in this clip?

If you want the right answers, get Grandpa to answer them, a message I heartily endorse. Hopefully, he took Jay’s advice and sat his family down with a history book or two, but in fairness, it looks as though plenty of Americans don’t have a clue about their own history.

Addendum: The First Mate and I have been watching a tremendous collection on the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution from the History Channel — a 14-DVD set that we hope to complete some time tomorrow. I’ll have a post about it for the Fourth of July, so keep an eye out for it. (Disclosure: Purchasing from the link below will result in compensation for me at no additional cost to the purchaser.)

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And I bet that first woman on the clip, who thought we got our independence from Greece, and that Jennifer girl at the 4 minute mark in the pink getup and “college professor” credentials, both line up to make fun of stupid Sarah Palin.

Coulter was right when she said that women should not be allowed to vote.

CarolynM on July 4, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Jay Leno grew up in a time when certain basic US history was taught. So as he gathered voluminous video coverage over the past few decades of typical young Americans not being able to answer the most simplistic of historical questions, I must think behind his laughter he’s just gotta be thinking WTF.

Are Algebra and Geometry even taught in high school anymore? I think one has to have something higher than a room temperature IQ in order to even grasp their concepts. If todays’ pincushions’ knowledge of history is an example of contemporary education, I would assume higher Math would be as obscurely pigeon-holed as Latin or cello lessons.

Coronagold on July 4, 2010 at 9:19 AM

My junior high granddaughter has been studying American History and has gotten as far as the War of 1812. We are bending over backwards to pique her interest. We even go so far as to visit historical sites around New England and try to instill a love for it by making it as real as possible. Is it taking? You’ve got me!!

jeanie on July 3, 2010 at 6:48 PM

I’m a homeschooler, and my 15 year old son’s favorite subject is early American history. I believe the secret for getting kids to love history is to get them out of the text books! A British educator named Charlotte Mason called text books “twaddle”. Most are crammed with pre-digested bits of information, edited by a committee which are presented largely out of context. So there’s no reason to care.

The anecdote to historical text books is what Charlotte Mason called “whole books”, or “living books”. A whole book has one author, a storyline with a beginning, a middle and an end, and a protagonist with whom the reader empathizes. Well-written, historically accurate fiction, like “Johnny Tremain” or “Moccasin Trail”, is a great way to get a kid to love history. Rather than reading “about” history, historical fiction puts the reader “in” history, where they can see, hear and experience the action through the eyes of the protagonist. That’s when they care!

For more information on this style of education, or simply for a PHENOMENAL reading list, please visit:

http://www.sonlight.com

The section called “no more boring text books” is very insightful.

parteagirl on July 4, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Can we take an honest poll here of who went to public schools and who went to private schools? I’m starting to feel uncomfortable surrounded by all this wealth and privilege around here!

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 3, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Private and very poor Lutheran school until 6th grade, when I transferred to public. Ostensibly due to disagreements with a new principal…but I’m beginning to wonder if mom & dad saw the writing on the wall for the place. (it closed for good not long after)

Public education history:
6th grade sucked, massive culture shock.

7-8th grades were ‘meh’ on social, pretty good education.

9-12th grades rocked. If one could ignore the behavior of the ‘minority’ populations and kept to the higher-level classes, you got a pretty awesome education. The minimum-level must-take-to-graduate classes were all stuffed with the idiots and the lazy, although that was hardly unique to the school. Hooray Northwest Huskies!

Dark-Star on July 4, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Happy Independence Day! Celebrate freedom! Join the Tea Party Movement!

Christian Conservative on July 4, 2010 at 9:46 AM

Uh oh. Must have clicked the wrong square. Is this the clip titled, “How Obama Got Elected?”

redneck hippie on July 4, 2010 at 10:20 AM

When my children were in public school I had to teach them there was more to the U.S. than Martin Luther King, slavery and rich white founders who were in it for the money. The big wake up came when I showed them the what the founding fathers risked and how most of them ended up. Sobering. Oh, they are both in college and both conservative. The truth did set them free.

faol on July 4, 2010 at 10:24 AM

These are the people who make fun of the Tea Party. What a joke. We may survive 4 years of a fool like Obama, but can we survive the fools who elected him like these morons.

volsense on July 4, 2010 at 10:41 AM

This is truly a sad indication of how effective our education system. A few weeks back I was listening to a morning talk show where a couple of morning DJ’s were calling people and asking a simple question – How many tires are on an eighteen wheeler truck. The results were sad. Now I’m sure that the calls were edited, just like Jay’s segment, but the fact that “educated” adults do not have a grasp of the basics is scary.

SPIFF1669 on July 4, 2010 at 10:55 AM

The answer is simple, just go into the school archives, pull out the books and lesson plans from the 1950s and use them. When I went to grade school in the 50s, every teacher regardless of what subject they taught, even the gym teacher, corrected our grammar. Those teachers were pre union. We have had whining incompetents in the classrooms since the 70s and we are reaping what we’ve sown.
In the mid 1990s, I mentored some recently arrived Vietnamese families. One 20 y/o girl had a 9th grade Viet education and spoke no English. In under two years, she had learned English and enrolled in Denver Community College. As electives, she took math, accounting and science courses. She got straight “A”s. When I congratulated her, she said it was not hard because the Americans in her classes were stupid. The Vietnamese marveled at their new country but were also completely dumbfounded as to how it became so great and wealthy since most Americans they worked with or met in school were “stupid”.

scullymj on July 4, 2010 at 11:04 AM

I suspect that some clever editiing was involved, but I’d love to know the percentage of people who actually got it right.

Jay owes us that, at the least.

As for Grandpa in the end, he needs to go to the local school district in his part of the world and raise some serious heck.

itzWicks on July 4, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Umm…you are aware that he mainly only keeps in the people who give stupid answers. The vast majority of people he asked likley got them right. Lefties LOOOOOVE using this stuff as a means to show “see, Americans are STUUUPID!!!”. Stop adding fuel to the fire by adding this stuff and making it look like it’s representative of the majority of Americans.

DethMetalCookieMonst on July 4, 2010 at 11:27 AM

Even she had to pass.

maynila on July 4, 2010 at 11:28 AM

This was a great segment and very telling. The last clip dramatically how many generations it has taken for the Demoncrates to dumb down our citizenry. Just think of how much more they have to go before there is a giant answering machine in D.C. that you can consulate with and get the answer that the Demoncrates want you to know.

If we keep going at the rate we are going it’s not going to be long before we will be celebrating Dependence Day. The day we all became totally dependent on the government for our total well being and existence – if they choose to allow U.S. to exist. Because, Demoncrates will watch the population growth to sure there are enough people to tax to maintain their existence.

I guess it will be about 5 years at the rate Demoncrates are going before the sign on Johnny’s Lemonade stand says, Lemonade 5cence (sic).50 Cents, plus local taxes of $1.00, State Taxes $1.50, Federal taxes $2.00, of course the cost to rent the space on the sidewalk $1.00 per square foot per month. General Liability Insurance $20.00 for a 6 month premium. Let’s see, that will be $33.00 sir, the government thanks you.

MSGTAS on July 4, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Yep, heavy editing no doubt. People are this dumb out there, yes. I never really like this form of comedy, though. It has a Daily Show (back before Stewart considered himself some great political pundit), Borat, smarmy, smart-ass feel to it. “Hey let’s make fun of people and laugh at them when they don’t realize it.” Very juvenile.

He could have asked some tougher questions, and folks still should know the answers. But then the slightly less stupid audience wouldn’t be able to giggle.

reaganaut on July 4, 2010 at 11:54 AM

I suspect that some clever editiing was involved, but I’d love to know the percentage of people who actually got it right.

Indeed. In all fairness, there are people who are still “star-struck” and do get nervous when a camera and microphone are in front of you, ready to beam your image and words to millions thousands …dozens? of viewers.

reaganaut on July 4, 2010 at 12:01 PM

And (of course) Grandpa doesn’t miss a beat.

Congratulations to the today’s Government Eucation system – keep cloning those idiots!!

Today’s teacher – worth every penny!

Tim_CA on July 4, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Always look for the union label…

elifino on July 4, 2010 at 12:38 PM

I’m all for personal responsibility. Let’s start with holding union teachers accountable for their work.

My 4th grade history consisted of a series of find word worksheets.
My 8th grade history consisted of watered down folk tales.
My 11th grade history was make a map of the United States and more folk tales
My 12th grade government class consisted of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

Skywise on July 4, 2010 at 2:40 AM

Pretty sure the majority of teachers don’t belong to teachers unions.

In my experience a lot of history and other social science classes are “taught” by PE coaches…and they’re not exactly at the forefront of the Progressive Movement. But I guess it’s also their fault that modern American kids tend to be fat and lazy.

Seen a lot of great ideas around here. A lot of folks to volunteer at their local schools for 180 days a year and make American history come alive for the youngins!

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 4, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Let’s not forget that Jay’s been doing this segment for many, many years. Intelligent people already know that if you see Jay Leno outside with a camera crew doing man-on-the-street interviews, there’s no point in getting involved because you’ll get the answer correct and never got on TV. (Nor do you want to risk blanking out and looking like an idiot in front of millions of people.) It’s the stupid ones who run up to him likes moths to a flame.

Are they edited? Of course. But if this were 1962, Jay would have to be out there for 8-10 hours at a stretch just to collect 5 minutes’ worth of usable material; he wouldn’t have the time. Today, it’s probably more like 45 minutes at most. I think Leno’s overarching point stands.

The Lone Platypus on July 4, 2010 at 12:50 PM

When you are teaching people to hatetheir country its important to not teach history. Mission Accomplished.

skanter on July 4, 2010 at 12:50 PM

(Yes, I made a typo above. Got = get. Put me on TV.)

The Lone Platypus on July 4, 2010 at 12:51 PM

I think the Jaywalking episodes are funny. But i do wonder how many people he asked these questions, and they got the right answers.

denverbiblio on July 4, 2010 at 1:07 PM

I grew up knowing that my great great great great great grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, so regardless of the tripe they taught in school, I knew my history.

Plus, my dad would have me dead before ignorant, so there’s that. Most parents seem to think education is the school’s business. Not so. Education is what happens AFTER you do your schooling, at home, where it is brought to life, namely yours.

Quarter for an A, dime for a B, nickel for a C and seriously dirty looks for anything less, or a bad discipline report. Guess that’s old school, but it worked.

tcn on July 4, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Relevant commentary: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20100702_Beyond_bells_and_bonfires.html

onlineanalyst on July 4, 2010 at 1:41 PM

Grampa knows. Which is why he would be the first to go. The rest of the family stays because they are ignorent to the principles of this country and that which it was founded.

What will happen when Granpa and he rest of his generation are gone.

mechkiller_k on July 4, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Grandpa rocked. I bet he went to a dipladated school during or near segregation and STILL managed to learn.

Thank goodness the younger generation has fancy schools with a/c, computers, free lunches, and overpaid teachers.

Laura in Maryland on July 4, 2010 at 2:31 PM

Thank God for Grandpa!

We are in deep doo doo.

chaswv on July 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM

A lot of kids/people simply don’t give a crap about learning many things and no one’s stopping them (yet) if they wish to learn.

Kids have to be lead–by their parents.

A kid fails an American history exam and I’ll give you two guesses who many fellow Conservative parents will blame. If you commit a sin do you blame the preacher? If you eat, drink and smoke yourself to death do you blame the physician? If you neglect your vehicle do you blame the mechanic?

None applicable. An adult is responsible for self wrt the examples above. Again, a child must be lead.

The break down comes in said kid passing anyway. Again, few teachers and principals want to deal with that nonsense. Move ‘em through no matter what…parents can pretend their child learned something and the principal has less to worry about in the way of recycling.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 3, 2010 at 8:38 PM

Agree totally here.

About your school poll: I went to inner-city public schools in Los Angeles for most of my K-12 education. However, for the first half of my childhood, I was raised by the previously-mentioned great-aunt and my great-uncle (RIP). Both were 40 years old when I was born. Before I went to Kindergarten, one of them read to me every night. They created a chart of the multiplication tables up to 12×12=144 and made a game of it. Other games created by them: memorizing the presidents (then up to LBJ); memorizing the capitals of each state and some countries. My uncle bought me a States of the Union puzzle and a globe.

Aunt and uncle only had high school educations and were blue-collar sorts: a city construction worker and a beautician.

The point: parents and guardians are the ones who have to instill love of learning into their children and do it early. And it’s a heck of a lot easier now than it was 49 years ago. They can’t leave up to the desires of the child or (as you say) the schools.

baldilocks on July 4, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Can we take an honest poll here of who went to public schools and who went to private schools? I’m starting to feel uncomfortable surrounded by all this wealth and privilege around here!

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 3, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Public… even went to a state supported college. But that was in the day when teachers really were teachers. I had excellent history teachers. They not only taught dates and events, but also why the birth of this country was extraordinary. I thank God for my teachers/mentors often because my parents didn’t see the point of higher education. BTW, my parents were Democrats who believed the government’s role was to take care of the “little people.”

itsacookbook on July 4, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Can we take an honest poll here of who went to public schools and who went to private schools? I’m starting to feel uncomfortable surrounded by all this wealth and privilege around here!

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 3, 2010 at 9:06 PM

For elementery (the most important part I think for history/civics) I went to public school in a small south Texas town in the late 80′s. How different and far better it was than what I hear from most people who wet to school around then and since.

jarodea on July 4, 2010 at 7:11 PM

Today’s teacher – worth every penny!

Tim_CA on July 4, 2010 at 12:13 PM

overpaid teachers.

Laura in Maryland on July 4, 2010 at 2:31 PM

I’d love to know what you would do with a class full of five-year-olds who come to school 1. unfed 2. uncared for 3. not knowing whose home they will stay that night and 4. wondering if their single mom is going to have their sixth brother or sister soon.

Oh, I know, I know. Sit their little rear ends in chairs and MAKE THEM LEARN, DARN IT! Too bad children don’t work that way. Many kindergarten teachers spend an ENTIRE YEAR teaching children basic social skills: how to button coats, tie shoes. How to give and accept proper social interaction, including love.

You can do very little to speed human development. If a child is not taken care of, they WILL NOT LEARN. I know that sounds leftist and wishy-washy, but it’s true. That’s why we have some excellent public schools, where children come ready to learn, and others where children spend two years–yes, two full years–just getting socialized.

Illustration: a teacher I know taught in a very underprivileged district in the inner city. He read a book to young children; they were unable to process the story. When he asked why, one of the children asked, “What is a ‘park’?”

The breakdown of the educational system IS owed, in part, to the teachers’ unions. But in larger part, it’s due to lax parenting.

Bottom line: you can either teach or parent. You cannot do both.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 4, 2010 at 8:31 PM

Please allow me to clarify: parents make great teachers for their own kids, as in homeschooling. Public school teachers cannot, and should not be expected to, parent and teach thirty children in their class.

I apologize for not making that more clear.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 4, 2010 at 8:41 PM

Grace, good thing you rebounded there. I was going to respond to your last paragraph in your 8:31 post. We home-schooled and we parented, the home-schooling part for a couple of years. Two boys five years apart. Both are college graduates, the older “summa cum laude.” Both good citizens and earning decent living. And we are immigrants from a third world nation. Came here legally, I might add. Now proud citizens of these United States of America. I had to know the answers to those questions to pass my citizenship test.

miron on July 4, 2010 at 9:02 PM

Another 750 billions for the teacher’s union may be needed.

bayview on July 4, 2010 at 9:10 PM

Bottom line: you can either teach or parent. You cannot do both.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 4, 2010 at 8:31 PM

Idiot.

My mother did both, as well as her mother and grandmother.

If you cannot do both, then YOU are the problem.

Teaching is easy, I teach (AKA train) adults all the time to do more complex things than basic algebra. Teaching, as far as I’ve known it, is a complete joke in school.

And yes, as previously stated, I went to public school.

MadDogF on July 4, 2010 at 10:59 PM

A kid fails an American history exam and I’ll give you two guesses who many fellow Conservative parents will blame. If you commit a sin do you blame the preacher? If you eat, drink and smoke yourself to death do you blame the physician? If you neglect your vehicle do you blame the mechanic?

None applicable. An adult is responsible for self wrt the examples above. Again, a child must be lead.

baldilocks on July 4, 2010 at 4:12 PM

Somewhat agree…a child has to learn responsibility for their actions throughout their lifetime. It doesn’t magically happen when they turn 18.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 5, 2010 at 12:04 AM

Grandparents rock! Do kids listen? – NO.

HellCat on July 5, 2010 at 12:40 AM

My mother did both, as well as her mother and grandmother.

MadDogF on July 4, 2010 at 10:59 PM

Did you read my clarification? Were your grandmother and mother public school teachers? Did they parent their students AND and teach them algebra? Or did they just parent YOU and help with homework and studying?

Teaching adults is nothing like teaching five-year-olds, especially those who come to school with the challenges I presented. I have extensive experience with the latter and some experience with the former. Do you have experience teaching children, I wonder? Or did you just go to school, so now you’re an expert?

I agree with my fellow conservatives on the problems with the teachers’ unions. No question about it. I don’t understand why conservatives vilify teachers en masse when many of the problems stem from the children’s home life. Conservatives who vilify the entire teaching profession without actually understanding the complex family problems children bring to school are short-sighted, simplistic, and often nasty, as exhibited by your name-calling.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 5, 2010 at 8:06 AM

I don’t understand why conservatives vilify teachers en masse when many of the problems stem from the children’s home life.

Teachers and their NEA were the driving force in having laws passed which stripped parents of their authority in what teachers claimed was the answer to child abuse such as telling every pre-teen in the country that if their parents spank them the school will have them arrested. These simplistic, myopic and outrageous intrusions into family life will rightfully result in more than just ‘nasty name-calling.’

If teachers and their Union had a clue they would work on rebuilding the two-parent home with traditional principles and values which were lost with the Hippy (It’s about what I want) 60′s.

Beginning to understand know, Grace??

Winghunter on July 5, 2010 at 8:58 AM

National Education Association Union
http://www.teachersunionexposed.com/nea_overview.cfm

Socialism Lives in Public Schools
http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0301g.asp

Fred Thompson on Education And The NEA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnOvU1TsT3g

Winghunter on July 5, 2010 at 9:06 AM

If teachers and their Union

Two different entities. You have teachers, and you have the union. Haven’t I made that sufficiently clear?

These simplistic, myopic and outrageous intrusions into family life…

If teachers and their Union had a clue they would work on rebuilding the two-parent home with traditional principles and values

Oh, NOW I get it. You want teachers to stay out of families’ lives. Fair enough. Oh, but wait! You ALSO want us to ‘work on rebuilding the two-parent home’.

How are you going to have this both ways? Hmmm? How are you going to have us out of your business but also up in your business? Or is it just arbitrary–when it seems beneficial to you, it’s acceptable for teachers to ‘rebuild homes’, but when not, get our noses out of your family life?

Beginning to understand know, Grace??

Yes, I understand that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 5, 2010 at 9:41 AM

I have to admit, without the clue of “Betsy”, I thought Dolly Madison sewed the first flag. Fiancee corrected me.

Also, when Jay asked what Revere said when he said “The British are coming”, I can see how that could be confusing. Popular belief is that he said that, and Jay saying it in the question could make someone think it’s a trick.

The rest, however…Christ. College instructor. Did she get her degree in a box of Lucky Charms?

MadisonConservative on July 5, 2010 at 12:23 PM

It’s sad that an as*hole Canuck like myself knows exponentially more than the vast unwashed masses of Americans do about their own history.

And people here are blaming the teachers? Are you f’ing kidding?

How about the morons who had American history throughout school and never gave enough of a patriotic sh*t to remember any of it?

Dave Rywall on July 5, 2010 at 12:48 PM

. . . Pretty sure the majority of teachers don’t belong to teachers unions.
Dr. ZhivBlago on July 4, 2010 at 12:49 PM . . .

WRONG! The vast majority of teachers DO belong to teachers’ unions whether they want to or not. If they do not voluntarily sign up, they are forced to do so by the teachers associations or the school district. In most places, it is not optional. They are pressured by having the dues withheld from their paychecks, or being ‘educated’ on the importance of joining up etc. I found this out personally in my very first teaching job.

francesca on July 5, 2010 at 1:35 PM

. . . Pretty sure the majority of teachers don’t belong to teachers unions.
Dr. ZhivBlago on July 4, 2010 at 12:49 PM . . .

WRONG! The vast majority of teachers DO belong to teachers’ unions whether they want to or not. If they do not voluntarily sign up, they are forced to do so by the teachers associations or the school district. In most places, it is not optional. They are pressured by having the dues withheld from their paychecks, or being ‘educated’ on the importance of joining up etc. I found this out personally in my very first teaching job.

francesca on July 5, 2010 at 1:35 PM

WRONG! If I may be allowed to quote Newspeak magazine:

The National Education Association has 3.2 million members, 14,000 locals, and in 2007 they collected about $400 million from their members. In America about 12 percent of the workforce is unionized, but in education it’s 38 percent.

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/03/18/debate-are-teachers-unions-the-problem-or-the-answer.html

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 5, 2010 at 2:31 PM

WRONG! ;)
Everything is not the NEA. There are state ‘associations’ as well; for example, the CEA here in Colorado which all teachers are STRONGLY encouraged to join. There is another teachers’ union, too, I believe. The money from dues is used politically to support Democrats and liberal legislative policies regardless of what the individual members desire.

I would be shocked if the union membership % is as low as stated by the Newsweek article.

francesca on July 5, 2010 at 3:25 PM

In America about 12 percent of the workforce is unionized, but in education it’s 38 percent.

I’m sorry, but unless I’m reading the source incorrectly it doesn’t say that the 38 percent are NEA members…it clearly says that 38 percent are unionized.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 5, 2010 at 6:44 PM

After hearing Grandpa ace the questions, I wonder how many of the succeeding generations know of the existence of the Federalists Papers.

MSGTAS on July 6, 2010 at 11:06 AM

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