Aug. 8 -- To the Editor:

It’s a sad fact that general knowledge of this country’s founding and governing principles is pretty dismal. In one poll, The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that only 36 percent of those interviewed could name the three branches of government. 35 percent could not name any of the branches.

It is incumbent on us to acknowledge this deficiency and attempt to correct it.

One of the things we can do is to point out misconceptions of our history when they appear. I read recently that there will be a showing of the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” at the Music Hall on Aug. 28. In the movie there is a scene in which Jimmy Stewart (in the role of a lawyer) is conducting a class for some of the local townsfolk. He attempts to impart to them information concerning our founding documents. What he does is demonstrate that he is one of those confused citizens who probably flunked the course we used to call “Civics”. It amazes me that in the process of producing a major movie, such a glaring error was not corrected. Somebody had to write the lines. Someone edited the text and hundreds of people were involved in the filming. And yet, no one raised their hand and said to the director or Mr. Stewart or whomever, “You have got it completely wrong”. Also, I have never heard anyone else point out this glaring mistake (if they have, I missed it). I urge those of you who plan to attend this showing to pay particular attention to this scene and test your own proficiency in American history by trying to identify where Mr. Stewart goes awry.

James W Cotter