News Flash: Americans Know Nothing About Being Americans

Walter Williams discusses the results of a terribly distressing study: Ignorance Reigns Supreme:

How about a few civics questions? Name the three branches of government. If you answered the executive, legislative and judicial, you are more informed than 50 percent of Americans. The Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) recently released the results of their national survey titled “Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions.” The survey questions were not rocket science.

Only 21 percent of survey respondents knew that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” comes from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Almost 40 percent incorrectly believe the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war. Only 27 percent know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States. Remarkably, close to 25 percent of Americans believe that Congress shares its foreign policy powers with the United Nations.

Among the total of 33 questions asked, others included: “Who is the commander in chief of the U S. military?” “Name two countries that were our enemies during World War II.” “Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?” Of the 2,508 nationwide samples of Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test, 71 percent failed; the average score on the test was 49 percent.

Needless to say (although I’ll say it anyways): this is disturbing. It’s also not terribly surprising, given the bankruptcy of our public education system, and the philosophical vacuum of secondary education. And it’s not about to change, I’m afraid: multiculturalism says that studying American history and civics should be no more important than studying the bathing habits of African primitive societies.

It’s justice, really.

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