Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Why Don't Our Young People Know This?

Yesterday evening, over on CNN, Kitty Pilgrim was sitting in for Lou Dobbs. (Dobbs is a 'Wonks Hero.) Pilgrim facilitated a series of show segments, about a variety of topics and guests. We found one segment to be particularly interesting. The segment featured two guests.

One guest was named Ed Berger. Mr. Berger teaches a course about the United States Constitution at Pima Community College, in Tucson, Arizona. The other guest was Hodding Carter III. (a relative of the Ex-President) Hodding Carter is director of a Washington think-tank, the Knight Foundation.

Besides Katie Pilgrim, there was one other correspondent that participated in the discussion. The correspondent's name was Casey Wian. The talk centered on the knowledge that our Nation's young adults have of the United States Constitution.

Let's take a peek at an excerpt from the
show's complete transcript.

ED BERGER, BEMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE: This is the branch of the president. Here is the Justice Department.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ed Berger teaches a U.S. Constitution course at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. Two-thirds of his students plan to become teachers themselves. When they began his class, Berger says only 10 of the 35 had even a basic understanding of the Constitution.

BERGER: When we talk about three branches of our government, when we talk about early on the Bill of Rights and the first 10 amendments, it is unfortunately pretty shallow. Students come to a college without any real background of our government.

WIAN: Or our history. A recent Education Department study found only 11 percent of 12th-grade students were proficient in history. Fifty-seven percent of them had less than a basic knowledge.

When it comes to understanding the foundation of our democracy, the First Amendment, most high school students don't care. Nearly three-fourths of 100,000 students surveyed by the University of Connecticut say they don't know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take its guarantees of freedom of expression, religion and assembly for granted.

Hodding Carter is the president of The Knight Foundation, which funded the study.

HODDING CARTER III, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE KNIGHT FOUNDATION: What it indicated was that they were either ignorant or unconcerned about both the First Amendment generally and its implications for press freedom specifically.

WIAN: In fact, only about half believe newspapers should be allowed (!) to publish without government approval of stories. Educators blame the lack of interest or knowledge of civics on several things, including grade inflation, overemphasis of test scores, and failure to teach the relevance of the Constitution.

The presence of a well-educated citizenry is critical to the preservation of an authentic representative democracy. We here at The Education Wonks firmly believe that no student should be awarded a diploma from any accredited high school without being able to demonstrate at least a basic understanding of the United States Constitution.

We also think that a more in-depth course in the Constitution should be required in the basic educational requirements for a two-year or four-year degree program from all accredited universities.

We believe that the ability to acquire this knowledge is well within the capabilities of our young people.

An educated citizenry is a vigilant citizenry.

Invitation: Please consider contributing to the Carnival Of Education #2. We should receive all contributions by 10:00 PM (Pacific) at this email address: owlshome [at] earthlink.net Get all the details by clicking here. To view the First Edition of The Carnival Of Education, please click here.

Any help that can be given by our fellow writers in the 'Sphere publicizing this invitation would be deeply appreciated.