|Back to May Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 256||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||May 2007|
|The Coming Crisis in American Citizenship: Higher Education’s Failure To Teach America’s History and Institutions — Executive Summary|
Today's college students, our nation's future leaders, must understand their nation's history and founding principles if they are to be informed and engaged citizens. They need to understand not only the fundamental institutions and ideals that defined the American founding, but also the more than two centuries of debate and struggle through which Americans have worked out their unique identity as a people. In addition, in this post-9/11 era, it is increasingly necessary that students understand America's relationship to the rest of the world.
The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions presents scientific evidence that, for the very first time, reveals how much American colleges and universities - including some of our most elite schools - add to, or subtract from, their graduates' understanding of America's history and fundamental institutions. Commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), the present study represents the culmination of a multiyear research process involving a team of professors experienced in the classroom, ISI's National Civic Literacy Board, and the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy.
In the fall of 2005, the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy (UConnDPP) was contracted by ISI to undertake the largest statistically valid survey ever conducted to determine what colleges and universities are teaching their students about America's history and institutions. UConnDPP asked more than 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities across the country 60 multiple-choice questions in order to measure their knowledge in four subject areas: (1) American history; (2) government; (3) America and the world; and (4) the market economy. Taken together, students' answers to these questions provide a high-resolution image of the state of learning about America's history and institutions on campuses throughout the nation. The results are far from encouraging. In fact, they constitute nothing less than a coming crisis in American citizenship.
This report presents four key findings:
FINDING 1: America's colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America's history and institutions.
FINDING 2: Prestige doesn't pay off.
FINDING 3: Students don't learn what colleges don't teach.
FINDING 4: Greater civic learning goes hand-in-hand with more active citizenship.
The report concludes with five recommendations aimed at improving undergraduate learning about America's history and institutions:
ISI offers this report with the hope that it will stimulate corrective action and accountability among those immediately responsible for higher education - trustees, donors, alumni, parents, public officials, administrators, faculty, and students. It is still possible to improve the teaching at our colleges and universities of America's history and institutions, and thereby to forestall the coming crisis in citizenship.