The 10 Most Famous Americans in History

by Guest Blogger
February 5th, 2008

by J. Martin Rochester

The February 3 USA Today reports on a study done by Sam Wineburg of Stanford University that will be appearing in the March issue of the Journal of American History. The study validates what I had to say in my article on “The Training of Idiots” in Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? published by the Fordham Foundation. The top ten list of “the most famous Americans in US history,” compiled based on a survey of thousands of American high school students (who were told only to exclude presidents) is a sad commentary on the grotesque triumph of the PC (and celeb) culture in our schools and the larger society.

Rosa Parks #2? Harriet Tubman #3? Amelia Earhart? Oprah? Marilyn Monroe? I suppose we should be thankful that Paris Hilton and Britney Spears did not make the list! I am surprised that the Grimke Sisters did not come in at #3 and #4. I can think of no better evidence of how our k-12 social studies educators, thanks to the NCSS and other such organizations, have failed to give kids a sound, accurate, serious KNOWLEDGE of American history as opposed to racial and gender cheerleading.


  1. Just because people such as MLK and Rosa Parks were black, are you suggesting that PC is the main reason kids consider them famous and know that black people broadened the fight for liberty the way the founders originally did? Does a fight to live out constitutional guarantees have to be white only? Are you suggesting that liberty is not RED, WHITE AND BLUE? Being able to choose a seat in a restricted section of a bus was an inalienable right with a footnote pointing some Americans to the back of the bus. When I was a boy in the 50s, I can remember, as if it were today, when we were barred accommodations in a hotel that said “No Carp Eaters Allowed!” That was not in Mississippi, but in the bastion of liberalism –Massachusetts. I haven’t seen that sign since King and Parks, nor have I been barred accommodations because of my last name or the kind of food my grandmother enjoyed. Didn’t King’s struggle for liberty to participate equally, partly remove America’s blinders so that Colon Powell and Condi Rice could be respected faces of America because of their talent, instead of being ignored because of their color? Could they have been prominent faces in 1958? Whether we believe in the Iraq war or not, my bet is that had we stayed out of Iraq, and really won in Afghanistan, today’s war weary kids and their parents may have had them in the top 10 too.

    Comment by bobbyjoel — February 11, 2008 @ 7:05 am

  2. If you read how the reoprt was done they asked students to name the 10 most famouse americans then they asked them to name the 10 most famous american women, then combined the 2 list and reported as “The Most Famous Americans” intentionally skewing the results

    Comment by Anonymous — February 17, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

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