Statistics have the power to make us act, make us angry, or make us sad. This poll conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni will certainly provoke the latter two feelings. Conducted in 2015, the researchers found that America’s college graduates are depressingly ignorant of American history, politics, and law. The most damning of the data collected? Ten percent of them think Judge Judy, the lawyer who plays a small-claims court “judge” on daytime TV, is a member of the Supreme Court. Who says our education system is failing us?
Some more depressing figures from the study, titled “A Crisis in Civic Education,” as cited by CNN:
- 59% of college students believe the father of the Constitution was Thomas Jefferson, who was actually the principal writer for the Declaration of Independence. James Madison was largely responsible for the document.
- 60% of college graduates couldn’t correctly identify a requirement for ratifying a constitutional amendment.
- 40% of college graduates didn’t know that Congress has the power to declare war.
- Less than 50% of college graduates surveyed know that presidential impeachments are tried before the U.S. Senate.
In their defense, the U.S. legal system is quite complex and students outside of that field of study may have difficulty remembering the specifics. Still, as the authors of the study point out, this information paints a rather poor picture of the state of higher education in America.
The problem lays less with the students themselves and more with the course requirements to graduate. The authors of the study state:
“Studies show that our colleges and universities are doing little or nothing to address the knowledge gap. A recent survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) of over 1,100 liberal arts colleges and universities found that only a handful—18%—require students to take even one survey course in American history or government before they graduate.”
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