It's not just American schools:
Most Norwegian high school students (65 percent) don't know who Pol Pot was or what the Gulag means (64 percent). A new survey shows Norwegian 15-20-year-olds are sorely lacking in their knowledge of 20th-century history.
The survey, carried out under the auspices of Norwegian "think tank" Civita (www.civita.no), made front page news in Norway, and unleashed a storm of reaction and commentary.
[. . .]
Aftenposten's own political editor pointed out in a commentary accompanying the article that the Norwegian results are not especially different from those of similar surveys carried out in other lands.
A 2007 poll in Sweden showed that 90 percent of the students had no idea what the Gulag was and practically none had heard of "The Great Leap Forward" or "Bolshevik".
In a new poll of 10th and 11th-graders in Brandenburg, Germany, only half knew when the Berlin Wall was built and just as many believed that East Germany was not a dictatorship, wrote Stanghelle.
And this just in from Great Britain:
Never, in the field of human ignorance, have so many known so little about famous Britons.
A quarter of the population think that Winston Churchill never actually existed, a survey suggests.
While a poll recently named him the greatest Briton of all time, the wartime prime minister is seen by many as a mythical figure along with the likes of Florence Nightingale and Sir Walter Raleigh.
[. . .]
In a damning indictment of the nation's historical knowledge, many of those surveyed said they believe Sherlock Holmes was a real person, along with the pilot Biggles and even the Three Musketeers.
Almost 50 per cent were certain that Eleanor Rigby existed not just in the imagination of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Several years ago, I realized we had reached some kind of milestone when Steven Spielberg said he got his movie ideas from other movies -- not from books or plays or real life. That gives us a different kind of movie, missing some of the depth and breadth that can come from using other source materials.
We may be close to another one. Life is becoming a combination of reality show and video game. Some people no longer know -- or even care -- what is real and what is fantasy.