Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our Fading American Heritage

In recent days, I have speculated that the election results might be directly related to the last few generations of publicly educated Americans. I was publicly educated. But in those days, public education was mostly administered by local authorities and all of it at the state level or usually below. Today, much of the content and funding is mandated or bequeathed from “higher” (yes, it’s a bit of an oxymoron) domains, at the state level or above. Before the election we saw discussion with people who intended to vote for Obama who could not explain much of anything that he specifically proposed to do. He would bring “change” and “hope.” I think it very likely that many will “hope” they can find another job and “change” will define much disposable income. I heard other interviews where Obama supporters lauded elements that were attributed to Obama that were actually descriptive of McCain’s campaign.

Since the election, we’ve seen the results of a 12 question survey commissioned by John Ziegler and administered by the Zogby polling apparatus . That poll showed that a tiny minority (around 2%) of Obama voters obtained perfect or near-perfect scores on this test which “gauged their knowledge of statements and scandals associated with the presidential tickets during the campaign.” For the most part, they knew little about the Obama-Biden events and proposals, but most could identify the statements circulated about McCain and Palin, irrespective of their factuality.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has a web site entitled, “Our Fading American Heritage.”

They have put together a quiz of basic American civics. This is not extraordinarily difficult stuff. I have not intensely studied American History (In studying the history of Western thought, I actually got a clearer sense of World History. I’m guessing I fared relatively well because A) I’ve been inclined to pay attention to such things as much or more than amusing myself with television or computer games, and B) such basics were more essential to a basic education in my school days in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s which now are fading into a relatively distant and increasingly irrelevant past.

But anyway, I was uncertain on one question about FDR’s response to a Supreme Court ruling of the unconstitutionality of some of his “New Deal” proposals. I couldn’t rule out all four multiple choice answers. But, most of the questions were much easier. Anyway, non-American civics or history student that I am, I scored a high “A.”

However, the average score of over 2500 people who were administered the quiz nationwide, was 49%: that’s failing and emphatically so. 71+% failed with a score below 59%. Less than 1% scored and “A.” Less than 31/2% scored an “A” or “B.” Less than 11% scored “C” or above. Over 89% scored a “D” or “F.” Many are musing on how the valuing of certain values can be recovered. Information like this makes that a considerably more vexing question.

Here is the quiz itself .

Here are major findings by demographic breakdown

Here is the report card from the site.

Pass the Bromo-Seltzer…

13 comments:

Borghesius said...

Rant:
Eisenhower warned of a Military-Industrial Complex. We now have a Democrat Political-Educational-Media Complex designed to be mutually supporting and to funnel money from all of society into educational facilities while protecting them from accountability or competition. In Ohio and nationwide the increase in college tuition has been over twice the rate of inflation, while the students have been dis-educated to absorb propaganda and vote without logic, and regurgitate thing that everybody knows but just aren't true and believe themselves are intellegent in their groupthink. We have seen that schools will absorb every ounce of funding offered to them grants, loans, tuition, foundations, everything! and still whine about being undervalued and beg like scwalling baby birds. We are personally engaged with this at levels from pre-school to university, and it is the main reason I fear for the future of this country. Personal example: my wife's young cousin was falling behind grade level, 2nd grade. They placed her in special education, where they expect people to not learn. My wife was in english education and recognized
the teaching methods as experimental methods from when she went to school, they were results of "publish or perish" which favors the new over the effective, which had been proven to NOT work, but were the latest thing (The math education was completely incoherent and came from the University of Chicago where William Ayers holds court). The educator (not a pyschologist) gave diagnosis with ADD and was going to recommend pyschoactive drugs. We pulled her out, are educating at home, and she has gone from 2-yrs down to grade level, math is now her favorite after bearly being able to add and subtract single digits before. It turns out that her inability to learn was entirely because they didn't know how to or didn't try to teach. Either the entire educational establishment is idiotic, don't care, or they are dis-educating the next generation on purpose to raise a race of robot slaves.
Hm, normally at the end of a rant I feel better, but now I feel worse.

Larry said...

Borghesius:

Your comment immediately brought to mind a couple of things that I have often quoted. Dennis Prager often says that some ideas are so stupid that you have to have a graduate degree to believe them. This is essentially a restatement of George Orwell's line that some ideas are so absurd that only an intellectual (as most of Prager's graduate degreed people doubtless fancy themselves to be) could believe them.

Some years ago I told someone that the great triumph of education often seems to be the conquest of common-sense. In any case, Prager's observations might reflect the accelerating absurdity and ubiquity of "higher" (if we take these observations to be true, the adjective "higher" is at least an irony) education. I've wondered if public grammar school education over recent decades enabled the consequence of thelast election in America, as it seems to me that not long ago Obama's extremely liberal record and rhetoric would have been summarily kicked to the curb. George McGovern suffered one of the greatest landslides of my lifetime, and frankly, next to Obama, he's a definite moderate. Now, a lot of liberals (and Obama's words included) want to extend the educational universality to college, and no doubt much money and control would follow, as if they weren't generally liberal enough, already.

The other line I often quote is Will Rogers' "It ain't so much ignorance that's the problem, it's the things everybody knows that ain't so." Just so.

Actually, Obama and Ayers live in The Hyde Park neighborhood near University of Chicago, but Ayers teaches at The University of Illinois at Chicago and I'm not sure how nearly that is located. But, that doesn't detract from your point that The University of Chicago is one of the country's most florid beds of liberalism.

And I definitely sympathize with your experience with public education. I'm pretty certain that it isn't intentional on the part of te4achers or schools. But administrators and teachers are not usually social philosophers. They just execute the material that is handed to them by a misguided communications and higher education establishment.

However, it seems to me that the only potential to do anything about it involves very dramatic and disruptive activity on the part of a large number of conservatives, so decisive that I am not yet prepared to discuss it, to avoid troubling people unnecessarily.

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