Colleges elevate trivia, neglect fundamentals

Tim Goral's picture

One hundred and fifty years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln stood on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa., and delivered what many consider the greatest speech in the history of our nation.

The two-minute speech, punctuated five times by applause, was the climax of a six-hour ceremony honoring those who had died at the Battle of Gettysburg months before. Former Harvard University President Edward Everett, who spoke just before Lincoln, noted that President Lincoln achieved more in those two minutes than he (Everett) had in two hours of speaking.

Since that November day in 1863, the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has been become the iconic words of the American experience. But for how much longer? According to a multiple choice survey administered by GFK Roper, just 17 percent of college graduates — graduates! — could identify the Gettysburg Address as the source of that phrase.

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