Press Releases | General Education

Americans’ Limited Knowledge of the Roosevelts Shows Need for Colleges to Restore American History

39% of Americans Don't Know Franklin D. Roosevelt was President During World War II
September 17, 2014

Only 18% of Colleges Require Even a Single Course in American History or Government

WASHINGTON, DC—As Ken Burns’ documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” airs this week, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni today released a survey that shows how little Americans know about Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

According to the study, 39% of Americans don’t know Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during World War II; 59% don’t know Theodore Roosevelt had a role in the construction of the Panama Canal. College graduates didn’t do much better on the survey. Nearly half didn’t know Teddy Roosevelt had a major role in the Panama Canal; one-third didn’t know FDR spearheaded the New Deal and almost three in five didn’t know he was elected four times. Examine the full survey here.

The survey underscores a problem of historical amnesia made worse by the weak curriculum of many American colleges and universities. According to the What Will They Learn?TM study, only 18% of institutions require students to take a course in American history or government.

This survey is the latest in a series conducted by GfK Custom Research. Previous studies have included a 2014 survey on D-Day that found that a quarter of Americans don’t know D-Day occurred during World War II, and a 2012 survey that found only 57% of college graduates know John Roberts is the chief justice of the United States.

Daniel Burnett                       
Director of Communications                                                           


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