Top Colleges Rank Lowest on Civics Exams
Posted by iusbvision on October 9, 2006
I was having a nice chat with one of my favorite professors the other day about the state of academia. I mentioned that I have noticed that professors from some of the most prestigious schools tend to be more like blind ideologues and have weaker critical thinking skills than professors that hail from smaller schools. Now before everyone throws a fit, I can think of a couple of professors who I know that buck that trend, this was just a general observation I have noticed over time. Now I have some empirical evidence to back up that observation.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute with the University of Connecticut tested 14,094 students at 50 universities with a 60 question civics exam with half of the students being freshman and the other half being seniors. The results were not encouraging. Not a single university’s seniors, based on an average score, passed the exam with what we at IUSB would consider a passing grade. Rhodes College of Memphis Tennessee scored the best with an average improvement of test score between freshman and seniors of 116 percent.
The most interesting results came from the list of universities where the freshman consistently out scored the seniors, meaning that the longer the students stayed at that university more ignorant of civics they became. Here are some of the results taken directly from the study:
– Seniors lack basic knowledge of America’s history. More than half, 53.4 percent, could not identify the correct century when the first American colony was established at Jamestown. And 55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end (28 percent even thought the Civil War battle at Gettysburg was the correct answer).
– College seniors are also ignorant of America’s founding documents. Fewer than half, 47.9 percent, recognized that the line “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” is from the Declaration of Independence. And an overwhelming majority, 72.8 percent, could not correctly identify the source of the idea of “a wall of separation” between church and state.
– More than half of college seniors did not know that the Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits the establishment of an official religion for the United States.
– Nearly half of all college seniors, 49.4 percent, did not know that The Federalist Papers—foundational texts of America’s constitutional order—were written in support of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Seniors actually scored lower than freshmen on this question by 5.7 percentage points, illustrating negative learning while at college
– More than 75 percent of college seniors could not identify that the purpose of the Monroe Doctrine was to prevent foreign expansion in the Western Hemisphere.
– Even with their country at war in Iraq, fewer than half of seniors, 45.2 percent, could identify the Baath party as the main source of Saddam Hussein’s political support. In fact, 12.2 percent believed that Saddam Hussein found his most reliable supporters in the Communist Party. Almost 5.7 percent chose Israel.
I know that you are all eager to know what colleges did the worst when it comes to negative learning. Dartmouth actually showed an improvement of .1 percent of seniors over freshman. Johns Hopkins, University of California at Berkeley, Cornell, Brown, Duke, Yale, Georgetown, M. I. T., University of Chicago, and this one strikes close to home, University of Michigan, all displayed negative learning.
Students don’t learn what colleges don’t teach or teach poorly. Having done much research into the culture of academia at large, in my view this is no accident. What better way to destroy the ideas that America was founded upon than to forget them.