NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 18, 2007

Not only do American high schools fail to educate students about U.S. history and civics, but by the time many students finish college they know even less.  That's the conclusion of the largest statistically valid survey ever conducted to determine what colleges and universities are teaching their students about America's history and institutions.

That study, conducted for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy, surveyed 14,094 college freshmen and seniors at 50 U.S. colleges and universities from Massachusetts to California.  It found a stunning ignorance:

  • Seniors scored an average of 53.2 on the 60-question civics test.
  • More than half of college seniors could not identify the correct century in which the Jamestown colony was founded or name the battle that ended the American Revolution.
  • More than half also did not know that the Bill of Rights forbids the federal government from establishing a national religion.

These are college seniors.  Among the institutions whose students were surveyed: Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan.

In a republic, civic education is a fundamental necessity.  If even our elite college graduates have no idea what the First Amendment does, the country is in trouble, says the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Source: Editorial, "Our civic ignorance: A stunning failure to educate," New Hampshire Union Leader, January 16, 2007.

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