NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 13, 2006

Public schools have pretty much stopped teaching government, civics and American history.  Consequently, most American kids and adults don't have even a basic knowledge of our Constitution, say observers. 

An alarming Knight Foundation survey of more than 100,000 high school students found that:

  • Nearly 75 percent of students either had no opinion or said they took the First Amendment for granted.
  • Some 36 percent believed that before publishing, newspapers must first get government approval.

And the results of an American Bar Association poll show that adults aren't faring much better:

  • A little more than half of those surveyed were able to name the three branches of our government.
  • Fewer than half had any idea what "the separation of powers" means.

Fortunately the Constitution still lives, at least somewhat -- as an increasing number of organizations are educating school boards and principals across the country in effectively teaching the roots of Americanism:

  • The Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago provides programs and curriculums for elementary and secondary school students -- and their teachers -- in Chicago and across the USA.
  • The Bill of Rights Institute has reached teachers across the country with constitutional seminars
  • The Illinois First Amendment Center has an active national reach and provides curriculum guides from kindergarten to college.

Source: Nat Hentoff, "What you don't know can hurt you," USA Today, July 13, 2006; and "The Future of the First Amendment," John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, January 31, 2005.


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