All of this matters because the study also found that young adults who understand American history and institutions are more likely to vote, volunteer for community service and join political campaigns. Thus, if we want the young people of today to become the leaders of tomorrow, we’ll need to change our approach to civic education.
ISI’s report suggests some simple ways to do that. Universities, it recommends, should increase the number of history, political science and economics classes students must take. Not surprisingly, students don’t learn what they’re not taught, and at too many schools students slide through without really studying our history and politics.
At the same time, students, parents and alumni need to be more involved. If those who pay the bills demand more and better classes, schools will provide them.
Finally, universities should create departments dedicated to teaching our history and institutions. For years the buzzword on campus has been “multiculturalism.” Schools have emphasized, among other things, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies and African-American studies. With universities failing to teach old-fashioned “American studies,” though, it’s time to insist they build academic centers to do so.
Those who don’t know history, it’s said, are doomed to repeat it. We need to make sure today’s young adults learn about America’s great history, so they can not only avoid its mistakes, but more importantly, continue and emulate its successes -- and make the history to come even better than our past.