According to a recent study, 75% of Oklahoma public High School students cannot identify the first President of the United States. Happily though, 80% of homeschooled students were able to identify that the first President was Jesus. And 95% of private school students were able to identify which of the Presidents were held in high regard at their country club.
But, seriously folks... What should be done? These studies come out every year and they just keep getting worse. I'm assuming we'll eventually see something like, "Study reveals that 95% of American students are unaware that they are students; also not clear on the differences between their own butts and a hole in the ground." Out of curiosity, I asked Claire, who was educated in Canada, and she was indeed taught that George Washington was the first President.
But, the other questions weren't much harder. The questions, and the percentage of Oklahoma High School students who got them right:
* What is the supreme law of the land? 28%
* What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? 26%
* What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? 27%
* How many justices are there on the Supreme Court? 10%
* Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? 14%
* What ocean is on the east coast of the United States? 61%
* What are the two major political parities in the United States? 43%
* We elect a U.S. senator for how many years? 11%
* Who was the first President of the United States? 23%
* Who is in charge of the executive branch? 29%
Also, 75% of them didn't know who Kanye West is. No, just kidding! Of course they know that!
Honestly, I don't know what the problem is here. I do understand that public schools aren't the best environment for learning. Some adult had the weird idea decades ago to stick children in what amounts to an office building for 13 years and hope they'll get inspired to do busy work. I see the kids that just graduated when they're university freshmen and they remind me of the guy at the office who mentally checked out a while ago. It's obviously a stultifying environment.
Also, of course, the teachers shoulder much of the blame here. If this was a movie, Robin Williams would arrive and inspire the teenagers to learn by performing a rap song about the Bill of Rights. Ideed, for me, half of these questions triggered memories of School House Rock songs! But, even if the teachers are all uniformly boring, how hard is it to review the Bill of Rights and then just flunk the kids who fail to learn them?
Actually, I think I probably could have answered these questions by the time I was through elementary school. And, trying to look back and figure out just how I learned this stuff, I don't really remember the teachers making much difference at all. Some were definitely better than others. But, as I remember it, the real reason I learned these things was that my parents would have been mortified if I didn't learn them. They never really did angry or yell much; but my parents could definitely do mortified.
My grandparents were the same. I can see my grandfather now, if I was in High School and had failed to identify the supreme law of the land on an exam. Gramps: "Hey! You'd better crack open that book, buddy! This isn't a joke! You'd better know this stuff, or you'll be in trouble later." (He never specified what the trouble was.) It was not hard to bring shame on my family, but man, was it hard to know that you had embarassed them. That was worse than any punishment. So, when I read stories like this, a big part of me thinks, "God, their parents must be humiliated!" But, I sort of doubt that they are.
Really, I don't know what the deal is with Oklahoma students. And I certainly wonder what the teachers have been doing all day, just like everyone else does. But, there's a part of me that suspects that American kids don't know very much simply because they really don't care to and the people around them don't really care if they do.