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A third of the students couldn’t identify the Declaration of Independence as the document that marked the formal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain.

Only 32 percent of the students surveyed could place the American Civil War in the correct half century.

Reconstruction has something to do with silicone implants.

And the Louisiana Purchase means eating out at a Cajun restaurant.

Well, we’re probably not as dumb as those books would have us.

But the sad truth is clear: we are no nation of scholars when it comes to history.

And that’s the point of this book: much of xii Introduction what we remember about our history is either mistaken or fabricated. For all too many Americans who dozed through American History 101, the Mayflower Compact might as well be a small car.

American Indians were portrayed in textbooks in the same way they were in Hollywood Westerns.

Women were pretty much left out of the picture entirely with the exception of a mythical Betsy Ross or a lovely Dolley Madison rescuing the White House china. Our historical sense is frequently skewed, skewered, or plain screwed up by myths and misconceptions.

Sadly, I must say that things have not improved much—if at all—in the past fifteen or twenty years.

Every few years, it seems, another survey comes along that blasts the historical ineptness of American students.

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Most thirty-seven-year-olds or fortyseven-year-olds might not pass a similar pop quiz.

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