Nation's Students Flunk Civics, New Test Results Show

Thursday, 05 May 2011 11:32 AM

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Add a D and a P to the 3 R's U.S. students should know but often struggle to master. The alphabetic additions stand for democracy and politics, which fall under C, for civics, which rhymes with T — and that means trouble. And the trouble in River City is nothing compared with that in the nation's education system, new test results show.

test scores, report card, democracy, politics, civicsThe national test scores released Wednesday reveal that 3 out of 4 students have a dismal understanding of democracy and politics, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores also show that fewer than half of the nation's eighth-graders can identify the basic purpose of the Bill of Rights, as that grade level requires.

Most high school seniors couldn't identify any of the powers the Constitution delegates to Congress or define the term "melting pot." What's more, not many fourth-graders understand the concept of majority rule.


The national test is given every four years to thousands of the nation's fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders. Senior scores dropped from 27 percent proficiency to 24 percent, but on the brighter side, eighth-graders held at a stead 22 percent, and fourth-graders snagged their highest civics scores since 1998, rising 3 points to 27 percent.


That's the silver lining only if one considers a batting average of .250 a slugging percentage — and we all know that happens only in baseball, where it shags multimillion-dollar contracts.


Some of the country's notables aren't impressed, the Chronicle reports, quoting former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as saying the tallies reflect decades of neglect to civics education.


"These students will inherit our democracy, and we must empower them to preserve it and continue to perfect our union," O'Connor told the Chronicle. "Knowledge of our system of government is not handed down through the gene pool."


Indeed, the students' parents don't fare much better, the Chronicle report notes, citing national surveys showing that fewer than half of U.S. adults can name the three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial.


The Chronicle also quotes Charles Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education, as labeling the problem a "civics recession," with public education increasingly focused on creating workers rather than citizens.

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