Clearly, the public schools are fostering civic ignorance. For example, a recent study of 1000 Oklahoma high school students found that only 3% would be able to pass the U.S. Immigration Services’ citizenship exam, while incredibly 93% of those from foreign countries who took the same test passed. Only 28% of Oklahoma students could name the “supreme law of the land” (the Constitution), while even less could identify Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence. Barely one out of every four students knew that George Washington was the nation’s first president. None of the students correctly answered 8 or more of the 10 questions, and 97% scored 50% or less.
This problem is not limited simply to Oklahoma students. It’s a national problem. For example, a similar study in Arizona found that only 3.5% of public high school students would be able to pass the citizenship test, a figure not significantly exceeded by the passing rates of charter and private school students, at 7 and 14%, respectively.
A survey of American adults by the American Civic Literacy Program resulted in some equally disheartening findings. Seventy-one percent failed the test. Moreover, having a college education does very little to increase civic knowledge, as demonstrated by the abysmal 32% pass rate of people holding not just a bachelor’s degree but some sort of graduate-level degree.