What if I were to tell you that 7 out of 10 students got an “F” when taking a basic civic literacy test? That’s the finding of Jim Tonkowich, president of Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). Jim has a passion for American history and civic education which is why he’s alarmed by a disturbing trend in education today, namely, that our high schools and colleges are failing to provide students with a clear understanding of their American heritage.
ISI recently conducted a basic Civic Literacy Test and their findings are, admittedly, stunning: 71% of the 2,508 participates who took the test failed the test. Why is that failure such a big deal? Jim believes if we fail to teach children how American freedom was won, established, and preserved, we shouldn’t be surprised when they cannot pass that knowledge of their heritage on to the next generation.
What’s more, without this fundamental knowledge, he fears it will be difficult to have any intelligent public discourse on American history or the public policy issues that effects all of us. What about you? Do you think you have a solid grasp of American civics? Let’s see how you do. Here are just four questions from ISI’s Civic Literacy test. I’ll provide the answers at the end of the post. You’ll also be able to see how the majority of other readers have answered:
You can take the entire civic test by clicking here
By the way, while completing college improved the scores, there was scant difference between those who had graduated from college (they got just 57% of the answers correctly–a failing grade) and those who finished high school but didn’t complete college. This group had a mere 44% of the right responses.
Here, then, are the answers to the above questions.
Less than half who took the ICI test could name all three branches of government (1a). Only 1-in-4 knew that establishing an official religion is prohibited by the Bill of Rights (2d). Just 1-in-5 could identify that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” was from the Gettysburg Address (3d). Likewise, only 1-in-5 knew the “wall of separation” was written by Thomas Jefferson in a letter (4e).
If this were a game of trivial pursuit, we’d be on the losing team. But there’s nothing trivial about understanding the basics of our American heritage and freedom. We, as a country can, and must, do better.