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Diversity and Student Perceptions of Famous Americans

Who are the most famous Americans in history, not including presidents or first ladies? In 2008, Sam Wineburg and Chauncey Monte-Sano put this question to 11th and 12th graders in public high schools in each of the 50 states in the United States, collecting a total of 2,000 responses. To compare student and adult responses, they also surveyed 2,000 American-born adults aged 45 and older. This entry describes the construction of the surveys, the results, and reactions to them.

The Surveys

The questionnaire designed by Wineburg and Monte-Sano contained 10 blank lines, split into Part A and Part B. In Part A, they asked,

“Starting from Columbus to the present day, jot down the names of the most famous Americans in history. The only ground rule is that ...

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