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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