Just in time for the nation’s recognition of Independence Day, a Washington based nonprofit group that favors the study of liberal arts in college tossed a stink bomb into the celebration. In a sobering but welcome report, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni released the results of an American history test taken by 556 randomly selected seniors at 55 of the nation’s elite universities, including Harvard, Duke, Michigan and Princeton. A majority of the 34 multiple-choice questions represented material the students should have learned in elementary school, and no question went beyond the high-school level.
In a word, the results were appalling, representing yet another indictment on the elementary and secondary public education system. Altogether, 65 percent of the college seniors failed a test that was based on the most basic American historical facts, most of which the students should have learned in the fifth grade. The average score was a mere 53 percent, and if it were not for two gimme questions asking students to identify Beavis and Butthead and Snoop Doggy Dog, which 99 percent and 98 percent, respectively, were able to do, the students on average would have answered incorrectly more than half the questions.