In his letter to Edward Carrington, 1787, Thomas Jefferson warned: “If once they [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.”
In other words, self-government is and can be only as good as the people. If the people choose to be uninformed and, worse still, ignorant of the founding principles and highest law of their country — the Constitution — then democracy is in jeopardy.
That is exactly what Newsweek found: as much as 70% of Americans do not know what the Constitution is; 6% don’t even know when Independence Day falls.
As reported by Racehl Quigley of the UK’s Daily Mail, “How ignorant are Americans? An alarming number of U.S. citizens don’t know basic facts about their own country,” March 21, 2011:
Newsweek recently gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship test and found that their knowledge of the history and running of their own country was seriously lacking.
In the U.S. citizenship test, only 38 per cent of Americans passed and some didn’t know answers to basic questions like who is the vice president? Although the majority passed, more than a third – 38 per cent – failed, and some of the basic questions surrounding citizenship were answered incorrectly.
The U.S. citizenship test is administered to all immigrants applying for citizenship. It is comprised of 100 questions across five categories – American government, systems of government, rights and responsibilities, American history and integrated civics.
Newsweek found that there were huge discrepancies in the kinds of civic knowledge Americans collectively possess.
A mark of 60 per cent was needed to pass.
The questions that Americans could not answer went from the more challenging – how many justices are in the Supreme Court? (63 per cent did not know) To the most basic – who is the Vice President of America? (29 per cent did not know)
SAMPLE QUESTIONSQ. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
A. The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.
Q. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
A. Japan, Germany and Italy.
Q. What did Martin Luther King Jnr do?
A. Fought for civil rights and equality for all Americans.
Q. Circle Independence Day on the map.
A. July 4.
An alarming number of Americans did not know basic information about the Constitution, namely that it was the supreme law of the land, that it was set up at the Constitutional Convention and that the first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.
Newsweek reported that civil ignorance is nothing new. Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators for as long as they have existed.
And their ignorance is only highlighted by the knowledge of their European peers. In March 2009, the European Journal of Communication asked citizens of Britain, Denmark, Finland and the U.S. to answer questions on international affairs.
Europe came out on top. Around three quarters of British, Finnish and Danish people could, for example, identify the Taliban but just over a half of Americans could, despite the fact they led the charge in Afghanistan.
Many blame it on the complexity of the U.S. political system. Michael Schudson, author of The Good Citizen, said: ‘Nobody is competent to understand it all, which you realize every time you vote. You know you’re going to come up short, and that discourages you from learning more.’
Others blame it on economic inequality in the U.S. as the top 400 households have more money than the bottom 60 per cent combined. NYU socioloist Dalton Conley told Newsweek: ‘It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Unlike Denmark, we have a lot of very poor people without access to good education, and a huge immigrant population that doesn’t even speak English.’
So sociologist Conley blames American people’s know-nothingness on “a lot of very poor people without access to good education, and a huge immigrant population.” Whose fault is that?
Every child in America, rich or poor, native-born or alien, has access to a free education. Why aren’t schools held accountable for graduating students who can’t read and write? Why are our schools teaching students about “Mary has two mothers, and Johnnie has two dads,” instead of the Constitution of the United States? Why do incompetent teachers have lifetime tenure? Which political party is supported by teachers’ union dues? The Democrats!
Who are those who have consistently and persistently ignored the opinions and wishes of the American people by persistently and consistently refusing to do something about the millions of illegal “immigrants” who strain our socioeconomic infrastructure? The bipartisan Political Ruling Class!