This is America’s poorest performance on the basic civics and history test since the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.
Newsweek conducted a citizenship test recently, and their results show that 38 percent of those asked didn’t know the name of the vice president (some days I’d rather forget it too), what happened at the Constitutional Convention or who is third in line to the presidency (until last November I tried like hell to forget that one too). I’ll bet if Newsweek would have thrown in the old “who’s buried at Grant’s Tomb” question they’d have found a similar fail rate.
What’s to blame for this miserable lack of rudimentary civics knowledge? Bring on the experts, because this is partly the fault of capitalism, state’s rights and too little investment in public broadcasting:
It doesnâ€™t help that the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world, with the top 400 households raking in more money than the bottom 60 percent combined. As Dalton Conley, an NYU sociologist, explains, â€œitâ€™s like comparing apples and oranges. Unlike Denmark, we have a lot of very poor people without access to good education, and a huge immigrant population that doesnâ€™t even speak English.â€ When surveys focus on well-off, native-born respondents, the U.S. actually holds its own against Europe.
Other factors exacerbate the situation. A big one, [Yale political scientist Jacob] Hacker argues, is the decentralized U.S. education system, which is run mostly by individual states: â€œWhen you have more centrally managed curricula, you have more common knowledge and a stronger civic culture.â€ Another hitch is our reliance on market-driven programming rather than public broadcasting, which, according to the EJC study, â€œdevotes more attention to public affairs and international news, and fosters greater knowledge in these areas.â€
So if Republicans carry through with their vendetta against Elmo and NPR people will get even dumber? That should actually come as pretty good news for certain politicians heading into the 2012 elections.
Somehow if Roger Ailes loses everything he has, people will magically know what happened at the Constitutional Convention. The science is settled.
As for getting rid of states’ rights, give ’em time — they’re working on it.