ABA Journal Cover Story on Kids Flunking Civics

May 9th, 2011

The ABA Journal has a cover story feature on the sad state of civic education in America’s youth.

Only one state deserved a rating of A when it came to teaching its students American history, according to a recent study. Most states fall in the category of “mediocre to awful.”

The study ranked history standards in 49 states and the District of Columbia (Rhode Island has no mandatory history standards, only suggested guidelines) for “content and rigor” and “clarity and specificity” on a scale of A to F. Only South Carolina got straight A’s.

This lack of knowledge translates to a failure of today’s generation to participate in our Republic.

According to the report, students also are less interested in public or political issues than were previous generations, and they exhibit gaps in their knowledge of fundamental democratic principles and processes.

“As a result,” the report said, “many young Americans are not prepared to participate fully in our democracy now and when they become adults.”

Indeed, this problem is not limited to students (namely because today’s adults were yesterday’s kids).

A 2005 survey by the ABA, for example, found that nearly half of all Americans were unable to correctly identify the three branches of government. A FindLaw survey that same year found that only 57 percent of Americans could name any Supreme Court justice.

These numbers show how important our work at the Harlan Institute is. We take great pride in finding new and innovative ways to teach students about our most fundamental laws.