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Report: Nearly 10% of College Grads Think Judge Judy Serves on SCOTUS

Report: Nearly 10% of College Grads Think Judge Judy Serves on SCOTUS

Do we need more civics requirements?

We covered this a few days ago at College Insurrection but the story has gone national.

This all springs from a report by the Council of Trustees and Alumni called A Crisis in Civic Education.

Among many troubling findings, the report revealed:

There is a crisis in American civic education. Survey after survey shows that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage. They cannot identify the term lengths of members of Congress, the substance of the First Amendment, or the origin of the separation of powers. They do not know the Father of the Constitution, and nearly 10% say that Judith Sheindlin—“Judge Judy”—is on the Supreme Court.

CNN covered the story yesterday. As you’ll see below, some found the pertinent multiple choice question confusing because the name given was Judith Sheindlin, not “Judge Judy” but still…

Here are some other stats from the report:

Civic Knowledge of College Graduates Today

In late summer of 2015, ACTA commissioned the research firm GfK to survey recent American college graduates and the public at large about their understanding of our free institutions of government. Our questions were drawn from standard high school civics curricula. They emphasized the content of the U.S. Constitution and the basic workings of our government. A smaller number of questions also asked about prominent figures currently serving in the federal government.

The results were abysmal. For example:

• Only 20.6% of respondents could identify James Madison as the Father of the Constitution. More than 60% thought the answer was Thomas Jefferson—despite the fact that Jefferson, as U.S. ambassador to France, was not present during the Constitutional Convention.

• College graduates performed little better: Only 28.4% named Madison, and 59.2% chose Jefferson.

• How do Americans amend the Constitution? More than half of college graduates didn’t know. Almost 60% of college graduates failed to identify correctly a requirement for ratifying a constitutional amendment.

• We live in a dangerous world—but almost 40% of college graduates didn’t know that Congress has the power to declare war.

• College graduates were even confused about the term lengths of members of Congress. Almost half could not recognize that senators are elected to six year terms and representatives are elected to two-year terms.

• Less than half of college graduates knew that presidential impeachments are tried before the U.S. Senate.

Twitchy has compiled some reactions on Twitter:

An excellent point.

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They don’t have to be smart.

Their phones are.


Just another fine example of the success of our wonderful educational system. ( are we sure it is only 10% ??? )

Proper civic education would be an antidote to the indoctrination they have been getting.

Further, a real civics curriculum could easily be incorporated or reflected in our other subjects: history, english, and math, for example.

    Valerie in reply to Valerie. | January 20, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Do you know who I would like to see involved in this project?

    George H. W. Bush. That man has a grasp of the various roles in our government so deep he can describe it simply.

I could think a few Justices that Judge Judy would be an improvement over…

theduchessofkitty | January 20, 2016 at 9:31 am

Yet another proof college isn’t for everybody.

Ever wonder how Chairman O won two elections? I test my case.

American civic education is a national security issue.

Who’s going to defend something they don’t understand?

ugottabekiddinme | January 20, 2016 at 11:14 am

Personal experiences bear this out. My own daughter graduated from a so-called “award-winning” high school in 2001, and in regular classes had learned none of this material. (Thankfully, in her case, she was in Jr. ROTC leadership classes, where actual factual US history is taught.)

More recently, I have been an adjunct business law prof at local colleges, where students’ ignorance, through no fault if their own, requires that I begin each term with remedial civics. Only then can we get to how laws originate, what the branches of government are designed to do, their limits, etc. These are bright kids from “good” schools, but their elders have wholly failed to pass on our history, values, and the facts of civil society to them. They have been done an immeasurable disservice.

For those of you with children, I highly recommend, an organization spearheaded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The website has educational materials, full curricula, and games targeted to school-aged children.

Can the other 90% name one justice who is on the court? There may be lots more ill-informed college students out there than 10%.

Need i point out that she seems to be much better qualified than the wise latina.

This is crap. A perennial form of faux news, a close relative of the old “can’t even find X on a map” story. It’s usually saved for slow news weeks, along with “Tenth planet predicted” and “Judge Crater Still Missing.”

Actually put “Judge Judy” on the question, rather than something cryptic like “Judith Sheindlin”, and watch the correct score magically increase.

And what’s this “Father of the Constitution” rubbish? Who calls Madison that, really? It is certainly true that Jefferson had nothing to do with the Constitution; in fact, when Madison sent him a copy, Jefferson wrote back expressing severe reservations. He didn’t change his mind until the Bill of Rights was tacked on. As for Madison, he is assumed nowadays to be the major … what, author? Inspiration? Guiding light? … behind the Constitution. But that conclusion is based on the fact that the most extensive—by far—records of the debates and discussions of the Constitutional Convention are Madison’s, and, not too surprisingly, Madison himself appears to have the leading role. And perhaps in reality he did. On the other hand, we have almost no record of the proceedings when he wasn’t present, and of course he’d have little influence on those; so, in short, the documentation available today is far from unbiased. I don’t think I’ll get too overheated if a high school student is unaware of such minutae.

    Ken Abbott in reply to tom swift. | January 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Who calls Madison the “Father of the Constitution”? It’s actually a rather common attribution. Put the phrase in a search engine and see what comes up.

I might expect 3-5% as a joke…10 seems high to discount as extraneous.

This makes me want to laugh and cry all at the same time.

Parents still send their children to government monopoly bureaucratic “public” schools.