Famous Americans

Ross Douthat, who I typically find interesting, has a really dumb post about multiculturalism in public school teaching.  The issue is this set of poll results on the top ten most famous (non-President/First Lady) Americans, administered to high school students and then adults.  In order, they are:

Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein.

This is a crazy list, but it’s a little weird to get to multiculturalism.  I’m stuck on “what the fuck?!”  On the other hand, since it’s a list of the most famous, it’s somewhat self-ratifying.

The oddness of the list seems to be widespread, but in many ways it’s explicable.  Oprah is probably one of the most famous Americans now–her presence probably has nothing to do with history education.  Benjamin’s presence probably has to do with the $100 bill.  Martin Luther King is legitimately on any list of famous Americans.  Marilyn Monroe!?! Albert Einstein wasn’t American, but that seems unconnected to multiculturalism, etc.

The fact is, if you removed ‘multiculturalism’ from the curriculum, you would see a crazy list.  It would be a different list, but is there any reason to believe that the list is primarily distorted by multiculturalism?


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