A Very Long Disengagement

By January 6, 2006

Civics. In 1999 the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported that more than two-thirds of ninth graders study the Constitution, Congress, or the presidency. Unfortunately, their course work hasn’t sunk in. In a 2003 survey on the First Amendment commissioned by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, only one in 50 college students named the first right guaranteed in the amendment, and one out of four did not know any freedom protected by it.

In 2003 a project led by the National Conference of State Legislatures examined the civic awareness of young people age 15 to 26 compared with older Americans. Barely half of those surveyed said that "paying attention to government and politics" is important to good citizenship. While 64 percent knew the name of the latest "American Idol," only 10 percent could identify the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The researchers concluded "that young people do not understand the ideals of citizenship, they are disengaged from the political process, [and] they lack the knowledge necessary for effective self-government." …