Well, I guess that makes the reading of the Constitution on the floor of the House a little more than a gimmick, heh?
Each year the Intercollegiate Studies Institute conducts a survey on civics to determine how well and how much our students are learning about how our Republic operates. It’s a great measuring stick, I think, but this year’s reveals so much more than how our kids are doing. In a stunning outcome … those who identified themselves as at some point being elected officials, knew less about government and the constitution than the general public.
But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question. Examples:
- Only 49 percent of elected officials could name all three branches of government, compared with 50 percent of the general public.
- Only 46 percent knew that Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war — 54 percent of the general public knows that.
- Just 15 percent answered correctly that the phrase “wall of separation” appears in Thomas Jefferson’s letters — not in the U.S. Constitution — compared with 19 percent of the general public.
- And only 57 percent of those who’ve held elective office know what the Electoral College does, while 66 percent of the public got that answer right. (Of elected officials, 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for “training those aspiring for higher political office.”)
Unbelievable … or is it? I thought most questions simple but then if you don’t believe there’s anything in that “really old” document applies to you, why would you know what’s in it? Click here and take the test yourself. I scored 90% as did the Sound Off Son who pointed this out. My friend Tom, and co blogger, scored 80%. How bout you? Leave a comment.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey wonders if the sample is too small but … thinks the results are depressing still.
In one sense, this demonstrates that elections don’t always promote our best and brightest — but then again, most of us already knew that much. But it does call into question how we can expect elected representatives to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States” when many of them appear not to comprehend it — and when many of us don’t comprehend it, either. The biggest lesson here is that we need to do a much better job of teaching the Constitution in primary education … and that maybe a reading of the Constitution at the beginning of the session of Congress ought to be a regular event, with mandatory attendance.