Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Tall Order

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Tall Order

Article excerpt

This month's Kappan worries the bone of school-to-work transitions - ways by which schools can better prepare the non-college-bound, our "forgotten half," for productive and profitable work lives. However, as we prepared this issue for the printer, we were abruptly reminded of another compelling need of the young: school-to-life transitions - ways by which schools can better prepare students for active and involved citizenship.

The reminder of this second strong need came by way of the February 5-11 national weekly edition of the Washington Post, which reported findings of a survey of adult Americans that the Post had jointly conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. That survey showed, according to the Post, that, "whether uninterested, uninformed, or simply ignorant, millions of Americans cannot answer even basic questions about American politics."

The details are depressing. For example, two-thirds of those who were interviewed could not name their U.S. representative, and a similar number could not name the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. More than half (54%) could not name either U.S. senator from their state (and another 22% could correctly name only one of them). Nearly half failed to identify the speaker of the House. Four in 10 could not correctly name the vice president. Three out of four did not know the length of a senator's term. Four in 10 weren't aware that the Republicans control both houses of Congress. And nearly six in 10 believed that more tax dollars go to foreign aid (which actually gets 2% of the total) than to Medicare (which actually gets about 13%).

When the surveyed sample was split into a "high knowledge" group, a middle group, and a "low knowledge" group, analysts found that those in the "high knowledge" group were far more likely to have voted in recent national elections than those in the "low knowledge" group. …

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