Monday, November 12, 2012

* The Twenty Dates: American Monuments

In a segment on “60 Minutes” last night 11/12/12, the great historian David McCullough declared  that we are “raising a generation of historical illiterates.”  He seemed to focus on American history.

As an example he cited a young, intelligent student on a mid-western campus who approached him after a lecture and “didn’t know that the Colonies were on the East Coast.”  

Ten years ago a survey found that 80 % of high school students didn’t know in what century the Civil War occurred.   This, it seems to me, can be explained quite easily as confusion over the wording of the question, not ignorance. How many 16 years olds think of themselves as being in their 17th year?

I propose that all public schools should have in their front lobby not the Ten Commandments, but the Twenty Dates.  After twelve years of walking through these lobbies students should be expected to know these dates cold.

Teachers can color-in the in-betweens as much as they want, but these dates should remain as Chronological Monuments in our history.


1.) 1693 Salem Witch Trials end theocracy in the Colony of Massachusetts

2.) 1776 Declaration of Independence issued

3.) 1789  The Constitution of the United States ratified

4.) 1863  The Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln

5.) 1865  Civil War Ended / Lincoln assassinated

6.) 1879 Patent for the light bulb filed by Edison

7.) 1903 Human air flight achieved by Wright brothers

8.) 1908 Assembly-line auto production invented by Ford

9.) 1918 W W I ends followed by Treaty of Versailles

10.) 1929 The Stock Market crashes / Great Depression begins

11.) 1942 First dose of penicillin given in U.S. (Yale-New Haven Hospital)

12.)  1945 Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima /WW II ends

13.)  1951 First commercial computer produced (the UNIVAC)

14.)  1963 Kennedy assassinated

15.)  1965 Civil Rights Act  passed

16.)  1969 Man lands on the Moon, Apollo 11

17.)   Nixon resigns; first president to do so.

18.)  1995 The Internet is commercialized

19.)  2001 Manhattan’s Twin Towers destroyed by terrorists

20.) 2003 Human Genome Decoded

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