Making Sure Kids Know
always thought that teaching civics ranked right up there with the old 3 R's in
terms of priority subjects that American schools must deliver. But the
Southeast Asian immigrant who maintains my acrylic nails and just got her
citizenship knows more about American government than my high-school honor
student who has lived here all his life. What has happened to civics?
Can you name the three branches
of American government? (legislative, executive, and judicial) If so, you are
among the one-half of Americans who know this very basic fact about the U.S.
government and Constitution. The rest are clueless on this and many other
principles of American civics.
You can blame it on the textbooks or the left-wing,
pro-Marxist political ideologies of the teachers' union leadership. But the
bottom line is that far too few Americans understand our Constitution and our
government, when they were supposed to be taught those facts while in school.
It's the fault of the school boards who through inaction or incompetence have
failed to insist on this basic mission.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (www.isi.org) has studied college students and
adults on their civics knowledge, and reports that neither group has the civic
knowledge they need to be informed citizens and intelligent voters.
ISI administered a simple, basic test on American
history, government and economics to 2,500 Americans age 25 and older. The
multiple-choice test asked citizens to identify terms that everybody should
know, such as the New Deal, the Electoral College, Sputnik, I Have a Dream, and
The 2,500 adults scored an average of 49 percent - a
grade of "F."
Almost 40 percent of respondents said they thought
the president (rather than Congress) has the power to declare war. Only 50
percent knew that Congress shares authority with the president over U.S.
foreign policy, and almost one in four thought Congress shares authority over
U.S. foreign policy with the United Nations.
You have to conclude that their
schools failed to teach them civics, or if they did, they didn't teach them
very well. Neither situation is good.
study, the Goldwater Institute (www.goldwaterinstitute.org)
gave a version of the United States Citizenship Test to Arizona public high
school students, but only 3.5 percent of them got six or more questions
correct, the passing score for immigrants.
to those disturbing results, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org) gave the same test to
Oklahoma high school students, and the percentage passing was even worse: 2.8
result is yet another piece of evidence that state and national learning
standards don't work, and that school curriculum in the important area of
civics is falling far short of state law. Consider Oklahoma's state civics
standard, and remember that for 97% of Oklahoma students, this didn't happen:
Oklahoma schools teach social studies
in Kindergarten through Grade 12...A social studies education encourages and
enables each student to acquire a core of basic knowledge, an arsenal of useful
skills, and a way of thinking drawn from many academic disciplines. Thus
equipped, students are prepared to become informed, contributing, and
participating citizens in this democratic republic, the United States of
Homework: Here's a thorough article on the problem that you could
share with your school board members:
Here is a bank of civics
questions (with answers below) that you could give to your school board. How
well do THEY score? Ask that these facts be taught to the kids in your
district, followed up with a test and maybe a celebration on Sept. 17, which is