Should We Cry About People’s Ignorance Of History?

On his radio show yesterday, Dennis Prager said he wanted to cry about young people’s ignorance of history.

What precipitated his outburst? Watching Jay Leno interview young people about history.

Various people called in and said they thought the Leno segment was representative of the younger generation.

I’m not so sure. Jay Leno is only going to show people who are funny. People who accurately answer his questions about history are not funny, ergo they will not air. Also, where are the incentives to answer these questions accurately? There are no incentives. You know you will not get on TV if you answer correctly.

This same analysis holds true for pollsters and survey takers. If someone calls you up and asks if you can locate Afghanistan, what incentive do you have to answer correctly? None.

Dennis Prager has often said that his math skills are abysmal. Why isn’t he ashamed of this? I assume his science knowledge is similarly retarded. History is something Prager loves. It is one of his strengths. It is very easy to lambast people who are weak in areas where you are strong, but what about things where you are weak compared to most?

Dennis: "Not to know what the Iron Curtain is is to be illiterate about modern history. The man thought it had something to do with the Pittsburgh Steeler defense."

The Iron Curtain is not in existence. The Iron Curtain was the line between Communist Europe and free Europe.

Dennis: "There is a body of data you expect literate people to know."

You could say a similar thing to criticize Prager’s abysmal math skills.

Dennis: "What do you know when you get a high school diploma? Knowledge of some algebra equations, the use of which I am dubious about. But what do you actually know?"

If Prager’s math skills are representative, not very much is the answer to his question.

Prager doesn’t waste any of his time berating himself and his own education. Instead he questions whether knowing algebra has any importance. Prager doesn’t seem to know much algebra. But I guess that doesn’t matter.

American school districts are getting $100 billion from the stimulus bill. "Children will not learn any more," says Dennis. "We spend more pupil than any nation in the world. The district that spends the most per pupil has some of the worst results — Washington D.C."

At the end of his second hour, Prager said (with the background being a discussion of Iran’s threat: "Every generation has to fight evil. That has always been the case… Why would we be immune? Why would we be the first generation that did not have the terrible problem of human evil? Because there’s a United Nations? Because people are enlightened? Because people are ‘better educated’? Why? We are the least prepared for it because we have been duped that there is no real evil except for natural ones like Global Warming. We fight non-evil in decent places such as America as a substitute for fighting evil."

Prager looked at to read reviews of a new book on Chairman Mao and how many people were upset that the book described Mao as evil. "If Mao is not evil, then the word has no meaning."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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