The Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the University of Connecticut's department of public policy recently released a study that tracks the decline of "civic literacy" in college seniors. The survey was conducted for the institute (which advocates traditional curriculum and supports conservative student publications on college campuses) by the University of Connecticut's department of public policy. It contained 60 multiple-choice questions on American history, political science, and economics, and was completed by 14,000 seniors and freshmen at 50 different higher-education institutions.
Apparently, my classmates were required to learn the details of the Stonewall Riots, but only 55.4% can name the final battle of the Revolutionary War. While the Marx-Engels reader is required in many introductory philosophy classes, 47.6% of students couldn't properly define "federalism." And, while college students commonly stage anti-war protests, fewer than 25% can identify the purpose of the Monroe Doctrine.
And we're not talking little-known schools, either:
According to the report, "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions," scores for college seniors on average were only 1.5 percent higher than those for freshmen. At some institutions — including such prestigious universities as Brown, Georgetown, and Yale — seniors actually scored lower than freshmen. The overall average score for seniors was 53.2 percent, the equivalent of a failing grade. Colleges Fail to Teach Civic Literacy, Report Says, by John Gravois, The Chronicle For Higher Education, 09/27/06