A recent article, Teens Losing Touch with Historical References, in USA Today briefly outlines the results of a study that found American teens to be lacking in some basic knowledge about history and literature:
Among 1,200 students surveyed:I don't know about you, but I find the idea that 57% of teens couldn't place the timeframe of the Civil War within a 50 year period to be pretty disturbing!
•43% knew the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900.
•52% could identify the theme of 1984.
•51% knew that the controversy surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism.
I hate to offer quick fix solutions, but maybe a look at these books would help:
Davis, Kenneth C. Don't Know Much about the Civil War: Everything You Need to Know about America's Greatest Conflict But Never Learned [973.7 DAV]. (At the very least readers should be able to get the dates correct after reading this!)
Hirsch, E.D. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know [R 973 HIR].
If you're a parent, don't despair--I bet your teen can tell you how to program your cell phone!