From an editorial in today’s Opinion Journal:
A study released this week by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute–www.americancivicliteracy.org–demonstrates that the answers to both questions are no. The study concludes that “America’s colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America’s history and institutions.” In a 60-question multiple-choice quiz ,”college seniors failed the civic literacy exam, with an average score of 53.2 percent, or F, on a traditional grading scale.” And at many schools “seniors know less than freshmen about America’s history, government, foreign affairs, and economy.”
Among college seniors, less than half–47.9%–correctly concluded that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” was from the Declaration of Independence. More than half did not know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the governmental establishment of an official religion, and “55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end” (more than one quarter believing that it was the Civil War battle of Gettysburg that had ended the Revolution).
The blame should not be on colleges and universities. I suspect they’re not increasing knowledge about America’s history and institutions because the assumption is that students should already know those facts. History and civics are taught at the middle and high school levels. If the kids lack the basics, blame the schools tasked with teaching them.