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Uninformed Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It$
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Arthur Lupia

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190263720

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190263720.001.0001

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All in Good Measure

All in Good Measure

(p.261) 18 All in Good Measure
Uninformed Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It

Arthur Lupia

Oxford University Press

This chapter is about how to word recall questions effectively. An example of why this topic matters occurred just days before the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. At that time, a New York Times headline proclaimed that “1 of 5 in New Survey Express Some Doubt About the Holocaust.” The Times article’s lead paragraph described the finding in greater detail (emphasis added): . . . A poll released yesterday [sic] found that 22 percent of adults and 20 percent of high school students who were surveyed said they thought it was possible that Nazi Germany’s extermination of six million Jews never happened. In addition to the 22 percent of adult respondents to the survey by the Roper Organization who said it seemed possible that the Holocaust never happened, 12 percent more said they did not know if it was possible or impossible, according to the survey’s sponsor, the American Jewish Committee. . . . Reactions to this finding were swift. Benjamin Mead, president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, called the findings “a Jewish tragedy.” Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate and concentration camp survivor, conveyed shock and disappointment: “What have we done? We have been working for years and years … I am shocked. I am shocked that 22 percent … oh, my God.” Similar headlines appeared across the country. In the months that followed these reports, many struggled to explain the finding. Some blamed education, as a Denver Post editorial described: . . . It’s hardly surprising that some Americans have swallowed the myth that the Holocaust never happened… . [E] ither these Americans have suffered a tragic lapse of memory, or they have failed to grasp even the rudiments of modern history… . Such widespread ignorance could lull future generations into dropping their guard against the continuing menace of ethnic intolerance, with potentially devastating consequences… . To this end, the public schools must obviously do a better job of teaching 20th century history, even if it means giving shorter shrift to the Civil War or the Revolution. . . .

Keywords:   Civic Education Study, Denver Post, Gallup, National Center for Education Statistics, double-barreled questions, evolution theory, high school education, history textbooks, jargon, national defense, oil consumption, verbal recall, visual recall

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