A groundbreaking multi-year survey of 28,000 students attending 85 U.S. colleges and universities by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (www.isi.org) found that American institutions of higher learning are not providing students even basic instruction on American history, economics and government -- probably not even enough for them to make informed decisions at the ballot box.
Even Ivy Leaguers could not pass a multiple-choice test on America’s foundational principles. Students at Harvard scored highest nationwide, but only managed an average score of 69 percent on the 60-question test – compared to 54 percent on average for seniors and 51 percent for college freshmen.
“Nobody got above a D+,” political scientist Richard Brake, co-chair of ISI’s Civic Literacy (or more accurately, Illiteracy) Board, told The Examiner. “Less than half knew about federalism, judicial review, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and NATO. And this was a multiple-choice test, with the answers staring them right in the face.”
“Ten percent thought that ‘…we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’ came from the Communist Manifesto,” he added. Only 49 percent - less than half of all college students – could correctly identify the three branches of the federal government. The dumbing-down of the American electorate from the days of the Founding Fathers has been precipitous. “The Federalist Papers were originally newspaper articles trying to persuade the common man. The common man can’t read them today,” Brake pointed out.
The survey data confirms the fact that college attendance has a liberalizing impact, with graduates more likely to be Democrats, supporters of abortion and same-sex marriage, and opponents of school prayer than their less educated counterparts. But merely going to college has zero effect on graduates’ subsequent involvement in the political process.
“Our study clearly shows that college has absolutely zero positive influence. The Number One factor that encourages them to do more than vote is civic self education,” Dr. Brake said. “The better they did on our test, the more likely that they said ‘yes’ to writing letters to the editor, contributing to a political candidate, or volunteering.”
But Dr. Brake says he’s encouraged by Tea Party members, who have made it a point to read the U.S. Constitution. “I think it’s a great thing that Tea Party members are making it a priority to educate themselves. You can’t read the Constitution with all its ‘Congress shall nots…’ without coming to the conclusion that the Constitution limits government.”