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How can Obama save our economy and our democracy? Humanities education

President Obama called the push to revamp our math and science education this generation's 'Sputnik moment.' But how many Americans even know what Sputnik is? Studies show US students don't know their own history. That's what the president should really be concerned about.

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Calling America’s present economic challenges “our generation’s Sputnik moment,” President Obama used his State of the Union address last month to call for more federal spending on math and science education.

One might have wondered, while listening to the president’s speech, just how many of his fellow Americans knew what Sputnik was – and what it represented to the United States in the 1950s. Obama gave a capsule account of the Soviet satellite, launched in 1957, which shook America’s confidence about its ability to compete in space and the future world economy.

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But such analogies can fall flat in a nation full of historical illiterates, and that is what the leader of the free world should be most concerned about.

Each day’s headlines seem to bring fresh evidence of how little many Americans know about their country’s past. One survey by the nonprofit American Revolution Center found that many more Americans knew that Michael Jackson sang the hit song “Beat It” than knew that the Bill of Rights was part of the Constitution. More than one third of the survey participants didn’t know the century in which the American Revolution took place.


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