Trustees | General Education

Flunking civics: Know your rights

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW   |  September 27, 2016 by Editorial Board

Civics class, and principles of democracy class (or “problems” of democracy, depending on who you ask) are supposed to give young people a solid basis for understanding how our government functions.

Recent survey data indicate many weren’t paying very much attention.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s “A Crisis in Civic Education” report outlines some depressing findings about civic knowledge. In a survey of college graduates, both new and old:

• 60 percent did not know the process for amending the Constitution.

• Nearly 50 percent did not know the term limits for federal lawmakers.

• Nearly 10 percent think that Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known as “Judge Judy” — wait for it — is a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Older college grads fared better in their responses. But the data overall seem to indicate that civics education today is a joke.

Far too many Americans are likely to believe that the First Amendment guarantees they can say anything they want without repercussions, when in fact they are only protected from retaliation by the government. And the ACTA report showed that it’s not just young people but also their parents, whose civic knowledge isn’t up to snuff.

Want to show you love your country? Learn about how it works and pass that knowledge on to your kids. James Madison — who nearly

80 percent of respondents couldn’t identify as “the Father of the Constitution” — will thank you.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More