The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has just released study results that point out a disappointing, but not surprising, lack of knowledge by Americans about some of our most basic civic literacy. During the past 2 years ISI has quizzed 14,000 Freshmen and Seniors at 50 colleges nationwide with a 60 question multiple-choice exam on basic knowledge of American Heritage. Freshmen scored 51.25% on average for the two years while Seniors averaged 53.7%. Jeez, four years of college tuition and your knowledge of fundamental American civics only increases by 1 1/2%. Party on, Garth.
This year ISI decided to learn more about the real-world consequences of this collegiate failure. They came up with a test of 33 questions that was distributed randomly to 2,508 American adults. The test was designed to see if Americans became any more knowledgeable of how our country works after college, or if that low point in gathering critical knowledge was as good as it was going to get.
Well, you make the call. From a starting point where only half our college educated citizens know diddly about our country and system of government, do people get any smarter as they age? As they have to vote for candidates, raise families, pay taxes, get jobs and suffer the consequences of their actions, do they take the time to become any more knowledgeable of the basics of how the whole system works?
FAIL! It probably comes as no surprise that we fail. With an overall average of just 49%, liberals score 49%, conservatives score 48%, Republicans score 51% and Democrats score 49%. Nice. Here are a few specifics:
- Only 49% can name the three branches of government. Actually, if you look at the test, you don't even have to name them - it's multiple choice the names are already there. (Legislative, Judicial & Executive). Other choices - federal, state & local; bureaucratic, industry & military.
- The oft quoted term "government of the people, by the people and for the people" comes from where? Only 21% knew that Abe Lincoln coined that phrase in his Gettysburg Address. Other choices - The Constitution; the 'I Have A Dream' speech.
- Only 54% could identify a basic description of our free enterprise system. (Well, that explains the last election).
- Just 27% know the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.
- A whopping 25% believe the U.S. Congress shares foreign policy powers with the United Nations.
- 'Who is the Commander in Chief of the US military?'
- Name two countries we were at war with during the Second World War?
- Business Profit Is...?
- The Purpose of the Electoral College is...?
ISI posted 5 major findings or conclusions based on their results including:
- Americans Fail the Civic Literacy Test
- Colleges need to start teaching America's Heritage.
- Colleges currently add little to Civic Knowledge.
- Television - including TV News - 'Dumbs Down' America.
- Elected Officials scored lower than the general public.