The American Council of Trustees and Alumni recently conducted a survey on American engagement in civics education, and the results are not pretty. Among other misconceptions, a poll found that 10 percent of university graduates believe that Judith Sheindlin (aka Judge Judy) serves on the United States Supreme Court.
The study, aptly titled “A Crisis in Civics Education,” found that, “The grim reality is that college graduates continue to show a level of ignorance of America’s system of government just as high school students do.”
Apart from the belief that TV court Judge Judy somehow has a say on the Supreme Court, polls found that less than 30 percent of college grads could identify James Madison as the father of the Constitution, more than half did not know how to ratify an amendment, and 40 percent did not know that Congress has the ability to declare war.
An interesting trend detected from the results was that younger graduates perform more poorly in terms of civic knowledge. The study suggests that this can be attributed to “a proliferation of programs that do not address the problem. Too many colleges and universities confuse community service and student activism with civic education.”
It’s true that most colleges do not require a comprehensive civics education—that is left to high schools, which clearly do not adequately address civic knowledge.
The need for such education is not arbitrary. As the study states, “Our civic values will fail unless they are constantly renewed through an education that prepares each generation to participate in a democratic republic and to understand the struggles, past and present, that sustain our liberty.”
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