"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson
Do we live in a nation that is too ignorant for the responsibilities of freedom? Consider these staggering facts:
- Seventy-one percent of Americans failed a 33-question multiple choice civic-literacy survey conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Among 2,508 respondents ISI randomly selected, 1,791 failed this test of U.S. historical, political, and economic basics. The average score was 49%, a solid "F".
- Fewer than half of all Americans could name all three branches of government.
- Forty percent of college graduates did no not know that corporate profits equal revenues minus expenses.
- Only 24% of college grads knew that the First Amendment forbids the establishment of an official U.S. religion.
- Officeholders have less civic knowledge than the general public. On average, they scored 44%, five percentage points lower than non-officeholders.
- Thirty percent of elected officials did not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
- Only 21% of respondents correctly identified Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as the source of the words “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But 56% properly named Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol.
- Republicans scored 52%; Democrats scored 45%.
A post-election Zogby Poll showed that Obama voters were especially ill-informed. Just 2% of voters who supported Barack Obama on Election Day obtained perfect or near-perfect scores on a post election test which gauged their knowledge of statements and scandals associated with the presidential tickets during the campaign.
- 57% of Obama voters were unable to correctly answer that Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.
- Nearly half (47%) did not know that Joe Biden was the one who predicted Obama would be tested by a generated international crisis during his first six months as President.
- Most (56%) were also not able to correctly answer that Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground.
- 86% correctly identified Palin as the candidate associated with a $150,000 wardrobe purchased by her political party
- 81% correctly chose McCain as the candidate who was unable to identify the number of houses he owned.
Why is America so poorly educated and so poorly informed? The public education system bears most of the blame. Public schools "educate" most of the children in this country and set the bar for private schools. "The reality of private school education in America is that, with some outstanding exceptions, most seek to stay just one notch or two ahead of public schools. Too many private schools follow the lead of the public schools in low achievement expectations, unproven teaching methodologies and curricula, and social engineering, such as sex ed, counseling, and mandatory community service."
What can we do to improve education in America almost immediately? Implement a voucher system to give parents school choice. When parents have the the power to choose, schools are forced to compete and improve. Unfortunately, this simple solution is one that will be very difficult to implement. Neal Boortz describes the problem very well:
"[Public school] teachers go to sleep at night worrying about vouchers... You do understand why these teachers fear vouchers as they do, don't you? These teachers are unionized. Their jobs are all but guaranteed. It's terribly difficult to fire them. Generally speaking, there is no requirement that they do their job! They have a monopoly! The government provides them with a place to work, pays their salaries, and works hard to prevent competition!"
Destroy the education monopoly with school choice, and job security for poorly performing teachers and administrators will evaporate. Therefore, unless Americans force the issue, the extremely powerful teachers unions aren't going to allow school choice to become reality.
To better appreciate the absurdity of our public education system and why our education resources are misused, consider Boortz's grocery store analogy:
"...Let's say that about 100 years ago someone came up with the brilliant idea of establishing a system of government-run grocery stores. To make sure that every American got enough to eat, local governments created a nutrition tax. All property owners had to pay a nutrition tax every year amounting to thousands of dollars. Under this great government plan you are assigned to a grocery store when you move into a neighborhood. Every year the local government creates a credit for you at this grocery store; an account in your name. When you want to buy groceries you have to go to this store and no other.
"Would your assigned grocery store feel any pressure to make sure that you get the best quality foods? Would this grocery store work hard to determine what its customers want? Would you be assured of the latest technology and products? The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no! Competition? There IS no competition! The citizen's money is taken away from him by force and put into an account at one particular grocery store, and no other store. If you want to go to a private, non-government-operated grocery store you are going to have to dig into your own pockets and spend even more money! You're trapped, and the grocery store managers and employees know it."
This is the joke that is the public education system in the U.S.
Voters need basic knowledge in order to choose their leaders wisely. Leaders need basic knowledge in order to perform their jobs. Because of widespread ignorance, the United States is a nation at risk. To introduce competition that will save money, provide better education, and prepare our children for the responsibilities freedom, support school choice.
"Promote then as an object of primary importance, Institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened." George Washington
Government Education and Government Grocery Stores
A Nation Held Back By (Lack of) Education
Zogby Poll: Almost No Obama Voters Ace Election Test
Low IQ alert! Interviews with Obama Voters
The voters are not symetrically ignorant.
Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen? The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%. Can you do better?