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San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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How Well Do Students Know Their Presidents?

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy. United States Presidents are some of the most influential and powerful people in the world. Some presidents used their power to help our country out of poverty, war, and civil unrest, while other presidents failed to do so. 

Monday, February 19 marks Presidents’ Day, one of the most patriotic days in the U.S.. While Presidents’ Day was first established to celebrate Washington’s birthday on February 22, it has become a day to celebrate all of our presidents, not just the first. Presidents’ Day was originally celebrated way back in 1882, as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday. In 1968, it also became a day to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, on February 12. 

Juniors Cole Heckman and Ben Callanan engage in a public display of patriorism in honor of Presidents’ Day (Jeremy Strand)

In honor of President’s Day, a survey was conducted to see how much the San Marcos students knew about our presidents, and who the most popular presidents are. With a sample size of 60 students, 25% could name over ten presidents. 10% could name more than 20, and only one person could name every single president. The most common presidents named were Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Most students could not name more than three presidents outside of that list. 

It makes sense for students to be familiar with Trump, Biden, and Obama, as they are the three most recent presidents. Kennedy is most known for his assassination. Washington was the first United States President, and our general in the Revolutionary War. Lincoln was famous for abolishing slavery, as well as for his assassination in Ford’s Theater. 

Some students incorrectly identified Benjamin Franklin as a president, when in fact he was an inventor, founding father, and the first United States Postmaster General. The most liked president according to San Marcos students was Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, nicknamed “Honest Abe.” However, Kennedy was a close second. 

“My favorite president is Donald Trump because I like his face and he is a really smart businessman,” said junior Joshua Duncan.

Barack Obama was the third most liked president, with many calling him “cool,” “charismatic,” and “overall really chill.” 

 According to the Chicago Tribune in their article “Presidents day quiz: How many U.S. presidents can you name?” published on February 17, 2014, the average adult American can only name eight presidents. The fact that only 10% of Americans can name over 20 presidents brings to light the question: do Americans know enough about their own history? If the average student can name only 10 out of 46 presidents, do schools need to teach more about our history? 

“Ten presidents is actually a lot for the average student, so if they can name ten presidents that means they have some of the basics and then some of the more obscure ones. And I do think learning about the presidents is a good way of learning US history, so in my history class I talk a lot about the presidents,” said U.S. history teacher Luke Ohrn.

It seems students do indeed know their fair share of presidents, according to Mr. Ohrn. Presidential history is not dead after all.

 

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About the Contributor
Jeremy Strand, Staff Writer
Jeremy is in 11th grade at San Marcos Senior High School. He joined the Kings Page during the spring of 2024. In the classroom, Jeremy enjoys history, along with the sciences. He is an avid athlete, making varsity Track and Field as a freshman, along with playing basketball for his first two years of high school. Off the track, Jeremy enjoys hiking, chess, listening to The Beatles, and the Detroit Lions. #OnePride.
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