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Only 28% Of High School Students Are Familiar With The Constitution

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Frightening results of Constitution Day survey indicate vast majority of students have little understanding of political system

Steve Watson
Friday, Sept 18, 2009

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
-Thomas Jefferson

A Constitution Day survey commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) has found that the vast majority of high school students do not know that the Constitution represents the supreme law of the United States.

When asked the question What is the supreme law of the land? only 28% of public high school students in Oklahoma answered correctly.

In addition, over 75% were unable to identify the first president of the United States as George Washington, with 10% believing it was either George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

Around 75% were also unable to identify the name of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, with small percentages answer “The New Deal” and “The Ten Commandments”.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Alarmingly, just 14% were able to correctly state that the author of the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson. While 34% said they didn’t know, 7% thought that Barack Obama wrote it and 2% frighteningly believed that it had been drawn up by Michael Jackson.

11% of the students thought that the two major political parties in the U.S. were the Republicans and the Communists.

The questions, posed by national research firm, Strategic Vision, are taken from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services exam, the test that all candidates to become U.S. citizens must take.

As noted by the OCPA in their write up of the survey results, while around 92% of the people who take the citizenship test pass on their first attempt, only 2.8% of the students surveyed would have passed the citizenship test.

The results of the survey are displayed below, for further breakdown see the write up:

Question Answer % of Students
Who Answered Correctly
What is the supreme law of the land? The Constitution 28
What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? The Bill of Rights 26
What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? The House and the Senate 27
How many justices are there on the Supreme Court? Nine 10
Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? Thomas Jefferson 14
What ocean is on the east coast of the United States? Atlantic 61
What are the two major political parities in the United States? Democratic and Republican 43
We elect a U.S. senator for how many years? Six 11
Who was the first President of the United States? George Washington 23
Who is in charge of the executive branch? The President 29

Out of 1000 students surveyed, only 6 of them got more than 7 questions correct, and only 108 got more than half of the questions correct.

“In short, Oklahoma’s public high-school students have displayed a profound level of ignorance regarding American history, government, and geography.” the OCPA concludes.

The OCPA also notes that when the same survey was done recently in Arizona, a similar figure, only 3.5%, of Arizona’s high-school students passed the citizenship test.

This article was posted: Friday, September 18, 2009 at 9:31 am

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