Ignorance or Freedom?

Robert Maranto University of Arkansas

Just the Facts Ma’am (and a Few Stories):

What We Need in Civic Education

More high school seniors identified Germany, Japan or Italy as U.S. allies in World War II than identified the Soviet Union.

· Two-thirds of seniors could not identify the historical significance of a COLORED ENTRANCE sign over a movie theater.

· Just 29% knew what “Reconstruction” refers to.

· One-third recognized the American general at Yorktown.

· Only 41% of teenagers could name the three branches of government (though 59% could identify the Three Stooges by name).

· Only 10% of 15–26 year olds could identify the Speaker of the U.S. House and only 40% knew which party controlled the body.

· In 2004 only one-quarter of 18–24 year olds could identify Dick Cheney as vice president.

· Less than a tenth of American freshman plan to study the highly demanding fields of physics, math, chemistry, and engineering, and American students fare poorly in international comparisons of science and math knowledge.

· Less than one in four 18–24 year olds has visited a museum or gallery in the past year.

· 31% of college seniors never attended an art exhibit, gallery, play, dance, or theater performance.

  • Voters in general, and Republican-leaning voters in particular, tend to overestimate — greatly — the amount of federal spending that goes to foreign aid.
  • Democratic-leaning voters tend to underestimate federal spending for the poor, as well as total government spending on education. In the past 30 years, real per capita education spending has doubled.
  • Conversely, Republican-leaning voters tend to overestimate federal spending in both areas.
  • Libertarian-leaning voters sometimes worry about the NAFTA Superhighway System — which does not even exist.
  • Democratic-leaning voters think that the income-tax system favors the rich over the poor. In fact, the wealthy bear most of the tax burden and pay higher effective rates than other groups.

“Public ignorance makes it near impossible for politicians to either raise taxes to support our public sector commitments, or scale down those commitments in a realistic manner, as politicians from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Barack Obama no doubt lament. Related to this, citizens cannot understand the language used by policy-makers unless they have the basic core knowledge which policy-makers share.”

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About Logan

Logan lives in Arkansas
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