WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) today released a survey that shows how little college graduates and the general public know about the Constitution.
According to the study, nearly 10% of college graduates think Judith Sheindlin — commonly known as Judge Judy — is on the Supreme Court; one-third of college graduates can’t identify the Bill of Rights as a name given to a group of Constitutional amendments; and 32% believe that Representative John Boehner is the current president of the U.S. Senate. Shockingly, 46% of college grads don’t know the election cycle — six years for senators, two years for representatives. Turning to the general population, the report finds that over half (54%) of those surveyed cannot identify the Bill of Rights accurately, and over 1 in 10 (11%) of those ages 25–34 believe that the Constitution must be reauthorized every four years.
The survey coincides with the upcoming commemoration of Constitution Day, September 17. Nearly a decade ago, Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) spearheaded the designation of the day, mandating that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming to improve knowledge of the Constitution. Just this year, higher education leaders called on Congress to eliminate the Constitution Day educational requirement as undue interference in a university’s autonomy.
However, the survey, coupled with ACTA’s 2015–2016 What Will They Learn? study (http://whatwilltheylearn.com/), finds that Senator Byrd’s concerns about civic illiteracy were well founded: Only 18% of America’s colleges and universities require students to take a course in American history or government.
“The findings are deeply troubling and underscore how our educational institutions are utterly failing to prepare our next leaders for citizenship,” observed ACTA president Anne Neal. “In a republic which depends on an educated citizenry, it’s crucial that all Americans — especially college graduates — are fully familiar with the rights and responsibilities set out in the Constitution.” The survey was conducted by GfK from August 28–30.
To view the Constitution Day survey questions and results, click here.
ACTA is an independent, nonprofit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities.
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