U.S. schools provide a great deal of useful information, but also leave out a great deal. Please see whether you can answer the following questions before scrolling down and clicking a link at the bottom for the answers. How many can your kids answer? Can your kids’ teachers answer them? Can your parents answer them? Can your uncle who tells you whom to vote for and what to think answer them?
These questions are not intended to comprise an ideal comprehensive course in U.S. or world history. They are intended as a quick sampling of the sort of material that would be included, along with other material, in a basic education that wasn’t twisted by the interests of the U.S. government. There might be many questions I would have chosen to include in the place of some of these if I knew more. I was educated in public schools in Fairfax Country, Va., where the schools were ranked among the best in the country. I have a Master’s in philosophy from the University of Virginia. I didn’t learn the answer to a single one of these questions in any school.
If you can give a generally accurate response to most of these questions, you have almost certainly gone out of your way to learn things not taught in U.S. schools. If you find most of them difficult to answer, I would urge you not to quickly conclude that this is because the topics asked about are of minor importance. Please consider with an open mind whether these questions are not in fact central and vital to the education of a citizen of the United States. And please consider how they relate to what you would expect people in other countries to learn about their own histories.
1. Should German schools teach how many people Germany killed in World War II?
2. How many was it?
3. Should U.S. schools teach how many people the United States killed in wars on Native Americans, in the Philippines, in Vietnam, or in Iraq?
4. How many was it?
5. How many Africans were put on ships to the United States in chains?
6. How many made it there alive?
7. How many people lived enslaved in the United States before slavery was officially ended?
8. How many after that?
9. Who was Olaudah Equiano?
10. What percentage of deaths in wars of the past half-century have been civilian?
11. How many people has the United States killed in wars, large and small, since 1950?
12. How many democratic governments has the U.S. government overthrown?
13. If you persistently asked for money for a trip, finally got some, went on the trip to a foreign country, and then murdered anyone you met there who failed to give you lots of gold, would a good teacher praise your persistence in asking for the money for the trip?
14. Would they praise Christopher Columbus’ persistence?
15. Can you name some Virginians who chose to free everyone they had enslaved while Thomas Jefferson was enslaving more people?
16. What is the appropriate justification for Jefferson enslaving people?
17. What percentage of people in the world are in the United States?
18. What percentage of prisoners in the world are in the United States?
19. What percentage of military spending in the world is by the U.S. government?
20. What percentage is by the U.S. government and its close allies?
21. What percentage of foreign military troops stationed in nations around the world are U.S. troops?
22. What percentage of the world’s nations have U.S. troops in them?
23. In what nations of the world do people have the longest life expectancy? Name 3 of the top 10.
24. What nations of the world poll highest for happiness? Name 3 of the top 10.
25. What nations of the world have the highest inequality of wealth? Name 3 of the top 10.
26. What nations of the world have the greatest economic opportunity and mobility? Name 3 of the top 10.
27. What nations’ students score highest in academic tests? Name 3 of the top 10.
28. How many of the world’s 50 wealthiest nations provide free and universal health coverage?
29. Which countries provide the best retirement security? Name 3 of the top 10.
30. How much does it cost to attend college in Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden?
31. In which nations do people average the shortest working hours? Name 3 of the top 10.
32. How many wealthy nations guarantee no paid parental leave?
33. Which nations have the highest labor union representation? Name 3 of the top 10.
34. In which nations of the world does one face the lowest risk of violent crime? Name 3 of the top 10.
35. Approximately how much money does the U.S. government spend every year?
36. Where does that money come from?
37. How much of that money is in dedicated permanent funds separate from the rest of the budget or otherwise mandatory, and how much is subject to the discretion of the Congress?
38. What percentage of discretionary spending is for war preparations?
39. What percentage is for foreign aid, education, or environmental protection?
40. What is the correlation between Congress members’ actions and their sources of funding?
41. What is the correlation between greatest campaign funding and electoral victory?
42. What is the success rate in Congressional reelection campaigns by incumbents?
43. Does the U.S. government subsidize fossil fuels?
44. Does the U.S. government subsidize nuclear energy?
45. How many private insurance companies insure nuclear power plants?
46. Is the United States a democracy, republic, communist collective, dictatorship, or oligarchy?
47. Which nations are the world’s top weapons exporters?
48. Name at least three recent wars in which weapons from the same nation were used on both sides.
49. Explain, by comparison to Canada, how the United States benefitted from its revolution against England.
50. How did the U.S. revolution benefit Native Americans, farmers, enslaved people, and women?
51. Were there more or fewer popular rebellions in the United States after the revolution?
52. What nation did Congress members predict would welcome invaders as liberators in 1812?
53. Did it?
54. What nation did the United States steal the northern half of in the 1840s through a bloody war despite that nation’s willingness to negotiate a nonviolent sale of the land?
55. What was the one condition the United States insisted on in acquiring that land?
56. What President lied to start that war?
57. What Congressman denounced his lies?
58. What hero of that war and future president denounced the war as an immoral outrage?
59. What percentage of nations that abolished slavery fought civil wars before doing so?
60. Why did Mississippi say it was seceding from the United States?
61. How was slavery ended in Washington DC?
62. How many years since 1776 has the United States gone without any wars?
63. What evidence was there that Spain blew up the Maine?
64. What did Spain propose instead of the Spanish-American war?
65. Name three reasons President McKinley gave for occupying the Philippines.
66. Name three good reasons for World War I.
67. What was the general theme of the most common lies of the Four-Minute Men?
68. What was the Lusitania carrying on its fateful voyage, and what advertisement had Germany placed in U.S. newspapers prior to its sailing?
69. What U.S. Secretary of State resigned over President Woodrow Wilson’s position regarding the Lusitania?
70. What were the Greer and the Kerney and which U.S. President lied about them?
71. Is the Monroe Doctrine popular in Latin America?
72. What U.S. President encouraged Japanese imperialism, promising them a Monroe Doctrine for Asia?
73. Name one or more observers who predicted at the time of the Treaty of Versailles that it would lead to World War II. Why did they say that?
74. Would a stalemate in World War I, rather than a lopsided victory, have led to the same future?
75. How many right-wing coups were seriously planned against President Franklin Roosevelt?
76. Who was Smedley Butler and what did he conclude about the institution of war?
77. Why was Butler locked up in Quantico?
78. What U.S. whistleblower was later locked up in Quantico and kept naked in a tiny cell?
79. What had she exposed?
80. During the 1930s and early 1940s U.S. peace activists held demonstrations against growing U.S. hostility and war preparations against what nation?
81. Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, what did Winston Churchill tell his cabinet that President Franklin Roosevelt had promised to do in order to bring the United States into the war in Europe?
82. What did FDR use a forged Nazi map to lie to the U.S. public about, and who forged the map?
83. What was the Ludlow Amendment?
84. Prior to Pearl Harbor, in the diary of the U.S. Secretary of War, when did he say FDR expected a Japanese attack?
85. Did the United States begin supporting China in its war against Japanese aggression before or after Pearl Harbor?
86. What was President Roosevelt’s approach to Jewish refugees?
87. What percentage of World War II propaganda posters in the United States included mention of the need to rescue Jews?
88. Why did the New York Times downplay the story of the holocaust?
89. Why did Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin say she voted against U.S. entry into World War II?
90. During the rise of Nazism, did Wall Street investment in Germany decrease, stay the same, or increase?
91. How many people died in World War II?
92. What percentage of them died in German concentration camps?
93. Who said “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word”?
94. What future director of the CIA rescued numerous top Nazis from prosecution and employed some of them for the United States?
95. How many former Nazis were employed by the U.S. military in Operation Paperclip?
96. What U.S. space agency’s first director was a former Nazi who had employed slave labor?
97. Who remarked in 1937, “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place”?
98. Within hours of Germany’s surrender in World War II, Winston Churchill proposed a new war using what troops against what nation?
99. When did Japan first express willingness to surrender on the terms that actually ended World War II, before or after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
100. When President Truman announced the bombing of Hiroshima what did he lie that Hiroshima was?
101. What nations of the world have nuclear weapons, and how many do they have?
102. What nations have official policies of potentially using nuclear weapons first?
103. What does the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty require nations with nuclear weapons to do?
104. How has Iran violated that treaty?
105. What do the Gulf of Tonkin Incident and a virgin birth have in common?
106. What was Operation Northwoods?
107. Who was Mohammad Mossadegh?
108. What nation proposed to abandon its nuclear energy program in 2003 until the U.S. dismissed the proposal?
109. What nation proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War?
110. What nation tried to spread bubonic plague in North Korea?
111. What U.S. presidential candidate secretly sabotaged peace talks for Vietnam?
112. Did the United States begin arming Islamic radicals in Afghanistan, who would develop into al Qaeda, before or after the Soviet invasion?
113. During the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan that began in 2001, what were the primary sources of funding for the other, or Taliban, side of the war?
114. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, whom did the Taliban offer to turn over to a neutral country to have put on trial?
115. How large has the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan been during the war that began in 2001?
116. How large was the al Qaeda presence in Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion?
117. Has international terrorism decreased, stayed the same, or increased during the Global War on Terrorism?
118. The U.S. government originally announced that a mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden had succeeded despite his armed resistance. What did numerous people involved in that mission later change about that story?
119. When Germany reunited and the Cold War ended, what promise did the United States make to Russia regarding NATO expansion?
120. Was the promise kept?
121. What nation’s army in 1990 took babies out of incubators and left them on the floor to die?
122. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, what nation offered to peacefully withdraw from Kuwait?
123. Prior to September 11, 2001, what did a CIA memo warn President George W. Bush might happen?
124. What nation was behind anthrax attacks in 2001 in the United States?
125. Who in January 2003 proposed that a means of starting a war on Iraq would be to paint an airplane with United Nations colors and fly it low over Iraq until it was shot at?
126. What portion of the nation of Iraq did the Iraqi government offer to let U.S. troops search prior to the 2003 U.S. attack?
127. In 2003, how quickly did Iraq promise to hold internationally monitored elections if it were not attacked?
128. Who offered to leave Iraq in 2003 if he could keep $1 billion and if Iraq would not be attacked?
129. Whose 2003 testimony at the United Nations in favor of attacking Iraq included fabricated dialogue from supposedly wiretapped conversations and numerous claims that his own staff had warned him would not even seem plausible?
130. What war’s aftermath gave birth to a new al Qaeda spin-off called ISIS or ISIL or Islamic State or Daesh?
131. Where did ISIS get most of its weapons?
132. What have been top sources of ISIS funding?
133. What did ISIS ask the U.S. to do in order to boost its recruiting?
134. Did the U.S. do it?
135. Did it boost ISIS recruiting?
136. Did the U.S. drone war on Yemen replace a worse form of war or help create one?
137. Who supplied Saudi Arabia with its weapons for its 2015 war on Yemen?
138. Does the U.S. know the names of most of the people it targets with missiles from drones?
139. Does the U.S. target with drones only people it cannot arrest and put on trial?
140. Name three former top U.S. officials who have warned that drone wars produce more enemies than they kill.
141. Name three current or former top U.S. officials who maintain that every nation must have equal and identical rights in the use of drones.
142. Which nations did former NATO commander Wesley Clark say the Pentagon wanted to overthrow in 2003, and which nations did former Prime Minister of the U.K. Tony Blair say that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to overthrow at the same time? What has happened to those nations?
143. In which nations of the world do the highest percentages of people say they would go to war for their nation?
144. In which nations of the world are the highest percentages of the people religious?
145. What percentage of human beings who have ever lived, and of human societies that have ever existed, have experienced or participated in war?
146. In which nations of the world are children regularly told to pledge allegiance to a flag?
147. If you read that peace activists many years before your birth helped to end a war or halt the production of a weapon, would a good teacher expect you to write about that activism in the first person, using the word “we”?
148. If you read about the United States invading a Central American nation before your birth, would a good teacher allow you to write about it in the first person, using the word “we”?
149. Which nations of the world have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Why haven’t they?
150. Which major military nations have not joined the International Criminal Court, or the treaties banning land mines, cluster bombs, racial discrimination, discrimination against women, or weapons in space, or those establishing rights of migrant workers, regulating the arms trade, providing protection from disappearances, defending the rights of people with disabilities, or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
151. Which nation has used the power of its veto at the United Nations most frequently and for what purpose?
152. How many people were killed or driven out of their homes during the 1948 creation of Israel?
153. Who was the last president to propose abolishing the CIA?
154. What president created the CIA and came to regret it?
155. What was the Safari Club?
156. Which article of the U.S. Constitution sanctions secret agencies?
157. How does war preparation and weapons testing benefit human and environmental health?
158. Have more U.S. citizens been killed by working on nuclear weapons, fighting in wars, being victimized by foreign terrorists, or by domestic gun violence, or smoking cigarettes? What are the numbers?
159. How many U.S. wars has the U.S. Institute for Peace opposed since its creation?
160. What do the people of Diego Garcia, Koho’alawe, the Aleutian Islands, Bikini Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, Culebra, Vieques, Okinawa, Thule, the Aetas, the Cherokee, and most native peoples of the United States have in common?
161. What percentage of U.S. wars are marketed as promoting freedom?
162. During what percentage of U.S. wars are civil liberties in the United States curtailed?
163. How many average Europeans, Asians, Africans, or Latin Americans would it take to damage the natural environment as much as the average person in the United States?
164. What single institution creates the most environmental destruction?
165. How did women in the United States and around the world vote themselves the right to vote?
166. What did it take to win children’s rights in the United States?
167. What is the Vietnam Syndrome?
168. What were the most successful tactics of the Civil Rights movement?
169. How many corporations control most major U.S. media outlets?
170. How was Apartheid officially ended in South Africa?
171. What happened on Rosenstrasse?
172. Which have succeeded more often and with longer lasting successes in struggles against tyranny during the past 100 years, violent or nonviolent revolutions?
173. Who were the Wobblies?
174. What was the Prague Spring?
175. Who was A.J. Muste?
176. What percentage of prisoners ever kept in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo had been convicted of terrorism?
177. What three interlocking evils did Martin Luther King Jr. say needed to be ended?
178. When did the people of Hawaii vote to join the United States?
179. Why did the United States bomb West Virginia?
180. Why did the United States drop nuclear bombs on North Carolina?
181. Why did the British end the occupation of India?
182. Who was Abdul Ghaffar Khan?
183. When was the damage from Agent Orange finally cleaned up in Vietnam?
184. How did Norwegian teachers have to teach under Nazi occupation?
185. Which nations resisted Nazi orders to kill Jews most successfully?
186. Why did duelling end?
187. Why did Marcos’ rule of the Philippines end?
188. Who kidnapped the President of Haiti in 2004?
189. Who was Claudette Colvin?
190. What was the income tax created to pay for?
191. How did the United States prevent the Three Mile Island accident from killing anyone?
192. Did more U.S. troops die in Vietnam or from suicide after returning home?
193. What is the leading cause of death for U.S. troops sent to U.S. wars in recent years?
194. Why did Congresswoman Barbara Lee say she was voting against the Global War on Terrorism in 2001?
195. Who did the U.S. attack with chemical weapons in 1932?
196. How did a ban on war get into the Japanese Constitution and who has been trying to remove it ever since?
197. Who assassinated the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994?
198. Who killed Paul Robeson, Ernest Hemingway, and John Wayne?
199. How do U.S. gun laws reduce gun violence better than Australia’s?
200. Who overthrew the government of Honduras in 2009?
201. How many people were killed in the recent Russian military invasion of Ukraine?
202. Why do the people of Okinawa so strongly support the presence of U.S. military bases on their island?
203. What was the anti-imperialist league?
204. What was the outlawry movement?
205. What law was General Custer enforcing when he died?
206. Who urged all scientists to refuse any military work in 1931?
207. Who was Garry Davis?
208. Who was Jane Addams?
209. What was the New England Non-Resistance Society?
210. What ended friendly relations between Eisenhower and Khrushchev?
211. When did Armistice Day become Veterans Day and why?
212. What was the Iran-Contra scandal?
213. What is the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
214. Which recent wars have complied with the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
215. Which recent wars have complied with the United Nations Charter?
216. Which recent wars have complied with the separation of powers stipulated in the U.S. Constitution?
217. If the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed the state of Florida to count all its votes in 2000, who would have become president of the United States in 2001?
218. What thwarted efforts by the African Union to negotiate peace in Libya in 2011?
219. Who proposed a peace process for Syria in 2012 that would have included a change of government?
220. Who dismissed it out of hand?
221. What did the U.S. military / White House plan for Syria in 2013 before being blocked by public, international, and Congressional pressure?
222. When the CIA produced a report in 2013 on past successes of arming local proxy armies, what was missing from the report?
223. Which nations still use the death penalty?
224. In how many nations in history have the majority of rape victims been male?
225. How many unarmed people do U.S. police kill each year?
226. Which stages of the criminal justice process in the United States are racially biased?
227. How much wealth do the average white, black, and Latino households have in the U.S.?
228. What percentage of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth?
229. What percentage could provide the world with clean drinking water?
230. What percentage could double U.S. investment in clean energy?
231. Is clean coal clean?
232. Is natural gas natural?
233. Is safe nuclear power safe?
234. Which nations are getting the highest percentage of their energy from sustainable sources?
235. Which nation did people in the most countries around the world view as the greatest threat to peace on earth in a 2013 Gallup poll?
236. Is terrorism among the top 100 causes of death in the United States?
237. What are 10 of them?
238. Does domestic terrorism in the United States kill more or fewer people than foreign terrorism?
239. What percentage of foreign terrorists in the United States provide a clear explanation of their motives?
240. What do they say?
Click here for the answers only after trying to answer the questions to the best of your ability.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. The updated second edition of that book will be published April 5, 2016, by Just World Books. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.