Seniors scored only 1.5 percent higher, on average, than freshmen, and at 16 schools, seniors scored lower than freshmen. I guess that means they learned little or nothing about the United States in four years of college. If the multiple-choice test had been administered as an exam in a college course, seniors would have failed with an average score of 53.2 percent. That's called getting an F.
Seniors at 22 of the 50 colleges scored on average below 50 percent. More than half the seniors could not identify the correct century when the first American colony was established at Jamestown, or recognize Yorktown as the battle that ended the American Revolution.
Fewer than half of college seniors recognized that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" is from the Declaration of Independence.
Another finding of this unique investigation was that prestige doesn't pay off when it comes to learning about the United States. Colleges that boast high rankings in the famous U.S. News & World Report list of top colleges ranked particularly low when it comes to U.S. history.
At many prestigious colleges, including Yale, Brown, and Georgetown, seniors know less than freshmen about U.S. history. Maybe the Yalies spent so much time singing with the Whiffenpoofs down at Mory's that they forgot what they learned at the high-priced prep schools they may have attended in order to qualify for admission to an Ivy League college.
It seems to boil down to the obvious fact that students don't learn what colleges don't teach. If learning U.S. history is the measure, a student can just as well attend a low-budget college.
Many left-wing professors are eagerly encouraging students to participate in political action. But it won't be a happy participation if the students rush into political action without a good grounding in U.S. history, the U.S. Constitution, and civics.
The ISI report takes its cue from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ... it expects what never was and never will be." In other words, retaining our freedom depends on an informed citizenry. You are invited to take the courses American History 101 and American Government 101 at www.EagleForumU.org
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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