The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Opinion

July 23, 2013

Editorial: Royal event can be history lesson

A royal son was born to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William at 4:24 p.m. Monday.Buckingham Palace’s formal declaration was barely longer than a birth announcement that we would see in any American newspaper: “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24 p.m. The baby weighs 8lbs 6oz. The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth."

Tweets flew around the world. Facebook and online media pages exploded with the news. And then everyone, except for those in Commonwealth realms, returned to their own worlds. After all, what else is there to know?

Well, consider that Prince William and Kate Middleton’s son is third in line to the British throne after grandfather Prince Charles and the infant’s father. Or how about the fact that British Parliament is changing a 300-year-old law so the child – whether it had been a boy or girl – would be heir to the throne?

Some of this sounds so foreign — as in sense that it’s new — to younger Americans. Despite this country’s unique path to freedom, Americans tend to overlook world history, and as it turns out, a fourth of us aren't clear on our own history.

In 2011, the nonprofit Marist Institute for Public Opinion asked Americans if they knew from which country the United States declared its independence. Of the respondents, 76 percent knew the correct answer: Great Britain. But 20 percent were unsure and 6 percent declared another country including Mexico, Spain, France, Japan and China.

Of those under 30 years of age, 67 percent knew the right answer; the percentage increases as the age goes up.

If only the American Revolution had taken place via text messages then younger folks likely would have paid attention.

What this tells us is what we always suspect. The study of history doesn’t seem to figure into young lives as much as we would hope. That is why certain events — an Olympics, destructive tsunami or stunning assassination — tend to stay in our minds as we identify a specific site with a specific incident. Some of us might not know of any world history if it wasn't for such otherwise common events as the birth of a child to celebrity parents.

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