Students – and adults – don’t know history

In 2010, students performed worse on [history] than on any other NAEP test. That year, less than half of eighth-graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and only 1 in 10 could pick a definition of the system of checks and balance on the civics exam.
Some students do learn civics. But many have not. One history teacher reported that his students thought “they probably knew more about the Constitution and our government than most adults.” So he challenged them to question many of the adults they knew. The kids were right – most adults had not learned their civics.
80% of the adults they surveyed couldn’t name all 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights, or what each Amendment did. 50% of that group, didn’t know there were 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights. 92% of the adults surveyed couldn’t name the three branches of government, and didn’t know that the term “Congress” included both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The largest eye-opener… 97% of the adults had know idea what each branch’s duties included. They attributed everything (making the laws, raising taxes, sending in the military, etc. ) to the Executive Branch. My kids got a large boost in self-confidence when they were able to tell the surveyed adults that only the Legislative (Congress) Branch can make laws, raise taxes, or send in the military; and that the Judicial Branch only decided if the laws were Constitutional. They had the most fun telling the adults, that the President’s job was to enforce the laws, or as one student put it “So, really the President is basically just like a spokes model for a company, right? , he just advertises the country to the world.”
In order to pass 8th grade US history, every 8th grader has to pass the US Constitution Test (100 multiple choice and two short answer/essay questions) with a 70% or better on the multiple choice section and 70% on the two short answer/essay questions. The test is given the last month of the school year, and students are allowed to take the test three times. The students thought it would be fun to challenge the principal, and have him also take the test. He accepted the challenge. They were not allowed to use notes, books, computers or any informational source other than their own brain.
80% of the class passed on their first attempt, the remaining 20% passed on their second attempt. The principal, (who admitted to ‘cheating’ by using the internet in his office to look up some answers) didn’t pass. His score was only 62% on the multiple choice and he didn’t answer the short answer/essay questions.
This is sad – and dangerous for our country.
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