NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

CONSTITUTIONAL IGNORANCE

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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