"America cannot afford to be dumbed down any further. We really can't. We don't want to be a nation of dolts. If we continue down this path, we will soon go the way of the EU. That would mean we would become yesterday's news instead of tomorrow's hope."
In September of 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center published an astonishing finding. For those who have been paying attention to the attenuation of education in this country, it was not all surprising. Only 36% of people surveyed knew what three branches of our government. That is about one out of three people who were questioned. It gets worse. A few days ago on the radio, I heard another survey with the same question was recently asked of a cross section of people. The number who knew the right answer had shrunk to the upper 20 percent range. We are going in the wrong direction folks.
In the survey I heard on the radio, other questions were also asked about our government and political system. The Constitution and Bill of Rights really took a beating. For example, the First and Second Amendment, which have always been the most well known of all of them, seemed to be growing dim in the memories of many. For example, less than 5% of young people questioned knew the components of our rights as enumerated in the First Amendment. No wonder so many people get this freedom of religion thing so screwed up. Also, most did not have a clue how many years we have been a country, and who we fought for our independence. The real show stopper however, was who fought who in our Civil War. Many blank stares on that question.
Back to the 2014 Annenberg study for a minute. The people conducting the study were so astonished that our "dumbing down" has degraded this far, a strong fix was recommended. And I love it. A group called the Civics Education Imitative, who was working with Annenberg, used the findings of this 2014 to revive their clarion call for action. We not only need to start teaching civics once again in high school, but then to graduate, all seniors must be able to pass the basic citizen test we give to our immigrants. Brilliant!
I however, like to peel back the onion just a bit more. True, not teaching civics is a huge problem in our education system. But it is not just that. The civics weakness is only a "canary in the coalmine". My feeling from talking to many a young folk these days is we just don't teach enough anymore. And the kids sure don't learn nearly enough either.
With our nation's Department of Education getting a whopping $70B in funding and employing over 4,000 people, what are we getting in return? Other than a growing nation of dolts, we don't get spit. At the state level, Minnesota spends about $12,000 per student every year. In New York and Alaska, it is over $20,000. However, in Utah it is less than $7,000. The funding and results are all over the map. No correlation between funding and learning. No matter which state you look at, we are wasting billions of dollars by "investing" in an education system which does not work.
By the way - I am not letting our young people off the hook on this one. Twice as many young folks know who the judges were on American Idol than knew who our Chief Justice was on the Supreme Court. But this is what really galls me. To find the three branches of our government is a 2.5 second Google search. There you will find a seemingly bottomless pit of information about how our government works. But these days, who has 2.5 seconds to spare, right? WRONG!
One more thing on this rant. I am also not letting the parents off easy either. Talk to your kids, quiz your kids, find out what they know and don't know. If your kids are becoming dolts, TAKE ACTION! If your school is not teaching the right stuff, contact your school board. If they don't want to listen, get your kid out of that school system! This is their future!
America cannot afford to be dumbed down any further. We really can't. We don't want to be a nation of dolts. If we continue down this path, we will soon go the way of the EU. That would mean we would become yesterday's news instead of tomorrow's hope.