A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
April 9th, 2010
By Tom Carter
I just read a depressing report about the appalling lack of knowledge of American history and politics among young people. This isn’t really new information, but every time I read about the problem it gets more discouraging.
Students leaving high school and entering university score at around 50 percent on a test administered during the past five years by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Worse, they finish their university studies and, on average, score only 54 percent. Universities are obviously doing a poor job of training students in these essential subjects.
Some of the best-performing universities are smaller, less-than-elite schools that you may have never heard of, such as Rhodes College, Calvin College, Marian College, and Concordia University. Some of the worst turn out students who know less in these subjects than they did when they entered — universities like Johns Hopkins, Yale, Princeton, Georgetown, and Virginia.
No university’s seniors got above an average score of 69 percent on the test.
You can see the questions on the test and take it yourself at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute website. As you go through the test, remember the numbers cited above.
There are a few questions that are a bit obscure, but overall these are facts that high school students should know, not to mention university graduates. And it doesn’t matter whether students are studying hard sciences or liberal arts — this kind of knowledge is as important as reading, writing, and the ability to do basic math.
Maybe it would be a good idea to use this test, or a similar test, as a qualification for voting. That won’t happen, of course, because Republicans and Democrats alike would be adamantly against it. They’d give various reasons, but the real problem would be that neither party could afford to lose so many votes.
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