November 2010
« Oct   Dec »

Who would American schoolchildren have in their list of top 10 Americans

When Sam Wineburg carriked out some research in to how the school history curriculum shapes adults’ preceptions of significance he came up with the following interesting results-not all dead white Anglo-Saxon white Protestant males!

Researchers gave blank paper and pencils to a diverse group of 2,000 high school juniors and seniors in all 50 states and told them: “Starting from Columbus to the present day, jot down the names of the most famous Americans in history.” NB They weren’t allowed to name presidents or first ladies.

Topping the list: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Three of the top five — and six of the top 10 — are women.

Sam , says the prominence of black Americans signals “a profound change” in how we see history.

“Over the course of about 44 years, we’ve had a revolution in the people who we come to think about to represent the American story,” Wineburg says.

“There’s a kind of shift going on, from the narrative of the founders, which is the national mythic narrative, to the narrative of expanding rights,” he says.

Yes, but how does he explain No. 7: Oprah Winfrey?

She has “a kind of symbolic status similar to Benjamin Franklin,” Wineburg says. “These are people who have a kind of popularity and recognition because they’re distinguished in so many venues.”

Joy Hakim, author of A History of US, says taking out the presidents “isn’t quite fair” but concedes that the list isn’t too shabby.

Comments are closed.