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Letter: 20 Chronological Monuments

To the Editor:

In a segment on 60 Minutes on Nov. 12, the great historian David McCullough declared that we are “raising a generation of historical illiterates.” He seemed to focus on American history.

As an example he cited a young, intelligent student on a Midwestern campus who approached him after a lecture and didn’t know that the American colonies were on the East Coast. Ten years ago, a survey found that 80 percent of high school students didn’t know in what century the Civil War occurred. This, it seems to me, can be explained quite easily as confusion over the wording of the question, not ignorance. How many 16-years-olds think of themselves as being in their 17th year?

I propose that all public schools should have in their front lobby not the Ten Commandments, but the Twenty Dates. After 12 years of walking through these lobbies, students should be expected to know these dates cold.

Teachers can color in the in-betweens as much as they want, but these dates should remain as chronological monuments in our history:

1693: Salem witch trials end theocracy in the colony of Massachusetts.

1776: Declaration of Independence.

1789: U.S. Constitution ratified.

1863: Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.

1865: Civil War ends; Lincoln assassinated.

1879: Edison files for a patent for the light bulb.

1903: Wright brothers achieve human flight.

1908: Ford invents assembly-line auto production.

1918: World War I ends, followed by Treaty of Versailles.

1929: Stock market crashes; Great Depression begins.

1942: First dose of penicillin given in U.S. at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

1945: Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima; World War II ends.

1951: First commercial computer, the UNIVAC, produced.

1963: John Kennedy assassinated.

1965: Civil Rights Act passed.

1969: Man lands on the moon.

1974: Nixon becomes the first president to resign.

1995: The Internet is commercialized.

2001: Manhattan’s Twin Towers destroyed by terrorists.

2003: Human genome is decoded.

Paul D. Keane

Hartford Village