College Students Fail Civics Test; Study Finds Lack of Education about American History, Government

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Byline: Chrissie Thompson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Fewer than half of college seniors tested in a study knew that the Declaration of Independence contained the phrase "all men are created equal."

Intercollegiate Studies Institute released results yesterday of a history and institutions test given last year to seniors and freshman, stating both groups failed the exam.

On average, seniors scored 1.5 percent higher than freshmen did on the test, which included questions about American history, government and international relations. The survey, administered by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy, tested 14,000 randomly selected freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities in the United States.

Seniors averaged a score of 53.2 percent, while freshmen averaged 51.7 percent. Seniors at 16 institutions, including Cornell, Brown, Yale and Georgetown, scored lower than freshmen did at their school.

"Students learn almost nothing about civic matters while they are in college," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of ISI's National Civic Literacy Board. "Our students neither enter nor exit their universities with a level of civic literacy that even approaches a satisfactory level."

Eugene W. Hickok, former U.S. deputy secretary of education and a member of ISI's National Civic Literacy Board, says undergraduate education is often an afterthought at research institutions. …