How Much Do Americans Know About America?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The flag from Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. The flag from Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. (Department of Interior, National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection, Harpers Ferry Center)

When it comes to American history, Americans are often on shaky ground. Even politicians can never seem to get straight which text "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" appears in, let alone where Mount Rushmore gets its name, or what happens in the Bill of Rights after the fifth amendment.

How important is this to being a United States citizen? If naturalized citizens have to pass a citizenship test, should native-born Americans know this information too? What role does civic knowledge play in our lives as Americans, and what role should it play?

Denise Kiernan is the co-author, with Joseph D'Agnese, of "Stuff Every American Should Know."


Denise Kiernan

Produced by:

Ben Gottlieb and Rebecca Klein

Comments [26]


Got to confess... I thought french fries were invented in America -- just assumed a French American invented them.

Jun. 08 2012 06:13 PM
Li from Harstville


But then I don't think they are food...

Jun. 07 2012 05:31 PM
Justin from Denver

all kinds of cheeses.....

Jun. 07 2012 04:57 PM
Justin from Denver

Buffalo wings

Jun. 07 2012 04:52 PM

Chop suey was invented in San Francisco and the chimichanga in Santa Fe

Jun. 07 2012 03:35 PM
Mike Howell from Stillwater, OK


Jun. 07 2012 11:33 AM
homebuilding from Oklahoma City

Weren't ice cream comes invented on Coney Island, when some vendor folded a large, moist cookie into a cone to reduce the drips from the melting ice cream? Surely, some 'coastal' can respond


PS surely Coca Cola qualifies as an American invention, though food value continues to be a bit dubious. Of course a T/F re cocaine in the ingredients would be a good question for some

Jun. 07 2012 11:30 AM
Mike from Rhode Island

Regarding the origin of fortune cookies: I've heard they were invented in San Fransisco in the early 20th century by a Chinese restaurant owner who used them as a gimmick to attract customers. I've also heard that they were unknown in China until the 1990s, and were marketed there as "American fortune cookies".

Jun. 07 2012 10:34 AM

What about Obama and the "57 states" comment while highlighting Republicans speeches?
Oh, yeah...this is public radio

Jun. 07 2012 10:32 AM
CRSMIAMI from Miami

How about the most important of American foods... peanut butter?

Jun. 07 2012 09:52 AM
Susan Stromer from Troy, MI

Ahem, every Nebraskan can tell you that the Reuben Sandwich was created in Omaha Nebraska circa 1916. It was created by a grocer/chef named Reuben for members of a weekly poker group and later went "viral" when the recipe won a national contest. I believe the actual hotel where the poker group met and the sandwich appeared on the menu was "The Blackstone".

Nebraska may not be known for much, but certainly the Reuben Sandwich is one of them!

Jun. 07 2012 09:48 AM
Patricia Boyd from Pittsburgh, PA

I didn't think fortune cookies are Chinese, either. I heard a piece on All Things Considered about a couple of guys who write these fortunes. Years ago, my son got a fortune cookie that read "That lump is cancer." The writer must have been having a very bad day!

Jun. 07 2012 09:43 AM
mark scheinbaum from ANGEL FIRE, NM

Foods created in America: Tabasco sauce, (Heinz) catsup/ketchup, chow mein, A1 steak sauce, (Birds Eye) fast frozen foods

Jun. 07 2012 09:41 AM
Patricia Boyd from Pi

Ice cream?
Anything cranberry or blueberry (berries native to North America, I think)?
Also, THE BIG GULP, haha!

I thought (w/out cking internet) that denim came from Denime, France, and used indigo dyes from India and that Levi Strauss modified jeans with brass studs for sturdiness during Gold Rush, omitting the one near the fly after standing by a fire too long. I knew defacing was technically illegal, but figured tearing up to destroy was not defacing.

Jun. 07 2012 09:39 AM
Cynthia from Ballinger, Texas

I would like to think that I know something....good ol' history comes back to haunt my memory. Thanks for the opportunity to test myself.

Jun. 07 2012 09:38 AM
John from Boston

I just heard Celeste laugh at the idea that fortune cookies were invented in the USA. Put on the dunce's cap and go to the corner, Celeste. There is some debate about whether fortune cookies were invented in New York City or Toronto, but one thing that is certain is that they were NOT invented in China. I speak Chinese, have been to China 10 times, lived in Taiwan for 2 years and have also been to Hong Kong and Singapore. I also lived in South Korea and Japan for extended periods. In all that time, I have found fortune cookies in only one Chinese restaurant, a hoity toity place in Beijing that catered solely to Americans.

Better luck next time, Celeste.

Jun. 07 2012 09:35 AM
Amber FLORIDA! from Fort Lauderdale, FL

I got all the answer right! Wasn't confident about Andrew Jackson but just had a funny feeling! Feeling better about being an American lol.

Jun. 07 2012 09:33 AM
Halex from New York City

Cornflakes! Invented by Mr. Kellogg in 1897 to feed the patrons of his sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan!

Jun. 07 2012 09:32 AM
Jim from Michigan

Peanut Butter,George Washington Carver "Right On"

Jun. 07 2012 09:18 AM
Navigator from Windsor, Ontario

Food invented in America: Delmonico's Restaurant in NYC claimed to have invented Lobster Newberg, Eggs Benedict, and Baked Alaska. The evidence is pretty strong for Lobster Newberg (originally Lobster Wenberg).

Jun. 07 2012 09:17 AM
Buster from South Dakota

Corndogs! Mmmmm!
Yummy! My all time
favorite vegetable!

Jun. 07 2012 08:08 AM

Jun. 07 2012 07:54 AM
LOLeah from YOU cannot STOP freedom of SPEECH!!

I KNOW some "foods" INVENTED IN the USA!!!! GMO's=Genetically Modified Organism's!!!!!!! GMO CORN GMO SOY GMO SUGAR GMO COTTON GMO.......the list goes on and ON...and OUR LIVES DO NOT...when WE ingest ANY of these GMO'S over a SHORT period of time!!! Our HEALTH and LIVES are DRASTICALLLY SHORTENED due to OUR Countries INVENTION of GMO'S and they are IN ALL OF our grocery store "FOODS!!!!!!!" Thanks to the U.S. Big Business' the "Most evil business in the World" = monsanto!! NO to GMO'S..YES to ALL OUR HEALTH!!!! DOWN with monsatan!!!!

Jun. 07 2012 07:11 AM
win from SRQ

rhe Takeaway audience scored a low B, what does that say?

Jun. 07 2012 07:09 AM
Billy Strain from Kennesaw Georgia

I hope to prove myself smarter than a fifth-grader.

Jun. 06 2012 09:37 PM

Good quiz

Jun. 06 2012 08:56 PM

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