Skip to comments.Graduates Know Even Less About History (Take The Quiz!)
Posted on 09/19/2007 5:48:59 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin-Madison did relatively well in a 50-college test of how much students learned about history and economics during four years of college, but students in Wisconsin and nationally knew little when they came in and not much more when they left. No college did better than a D-plus on the Civic Literacy Test released Tuesday by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a nonpartisan conservative educational organization that stresses the values of a free society.
The national average was F.
The test of 14,000 randomly selected students revealed that some of the most expensive Ivy League universities, with the highest-paid presidents and largest government subsidies, were the worst-performing, the institute found.
Overall, the nation's freshmen and seniors scored slightly more than 50 percent on the 60-question exam. The institute said that a kindergartner would have scored about 20 percent correct just by guessing.
The study tested freshmen and seniors at the colleges and universities, in order to determine how much history they learned there. The researchers did not test the same students in freshmen and senior years, but those who were freshmen and seniors in the same year.
Eastern Connecticut State University ranked first, by adding 9.65 percentage points to the score from freshman to senior year. Marian College, a private school in Fond du Lac, was second, with a 9.44 percentage point gain, while the University of Wisconsin-Madison ranked 15th, gaining 6.3 percentage points.
UW-Madison and Marian College were the only Wisconsin schools tested.
Living in the present
Asked about the exercise, David McDonald, chairman of the History Department at UW-Madison, termed the test interesting but questioned the institute's conclusions.
Students generally learn basic history in high school, he said, adding that they often study historical details in order to pass college entry exams, but then go on to pursue other knowledge at the college level.
"Colleges reflect general attitudes and patterns in society. This is not a historically oriented society. We look at quarterly reports instead of long trends. There is a lot of emphasis on living in the present, and not a great deal of understanding of larger historical patterns," said McDonald, who grew up in Canada but got just three wrong on the American history exam.
"There is a mythical past in which everyone knew this material. If you are from a well-to-do household with well-educated parents, you will do well on this and other academic areas. Students should probably know the sequence of events in the Civil War. But is it more important for Americans to know that John Locke was a major influence on the Declaration of Independence or that they have a strong understanding of their rights and be willing to act on them?"
Students at several expensive universities, including Yale, Cornell, Princeton and Duke, actually lost ground during four years of college education.
But the median score of students at those prestigious universities was higher than most colleges where students gained more knowledge during their college career.
For instance, freshman at Yale got 68.94 percent of the answers right and those at Cornell got 61.9 percent correct, though seniors did worse in both cases.
UW-Madison freshmen scored 51.57 percent correct and seniors got 57.87 percent. At Marian College, freshmen scored just 33.66 percent and seniors 43.10 percent.
The test consisted of 60 multiple-choice questions about America's history, government, international relations and economics. The test, the answers and the results at the various colleges can be found online at http://www.americancivicliteracy.org
Typical questions included: "The Constitution of the United States established what form of government?" and "Which wall was President Reagan referring to when he said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall'?" The test also included some questions on the U.S. economy and political philosophy.
"The evidence from our ongoing research shows that colleges, especially the most expensive and elite schools, are failing to advance students' knowledge of America's history, government and free market economics and consequently not preparing their students to be informed and engaged citizens," said Josiah Bunting III, chairman of ISI's National Civic Literacy Board.
"The time has come for higher education's key decision-makers -- state legislators, trustees, donors, alumni, faculty, students' parents -- to hold the nation's colleges and their presidents accountable for teaching their students America's history and institutions."
McDonald said nationwide, students who took the test did well on questions regarding Abraham Lincoln, the New Deal and Brown vs. Board of Education, and did worst on the Revolutionary War, Plato and the requirement for a just war, a question that he said was strangely phrased.
Students who study history in college learn that events are the results of several levels of cause, and that people are products of their times, McDonald said.
"They learn that evidence must be scrutinized and viewed with skepticism," he said. "Our job is to produce people who can do critical thinking, who are aware that they hold certain views and understand why."
51 stated results
Average 85% (51.1)
Std Dev. 8% (4.9)
Not too shabby for a bunch of on-line nerds
Two of the four I missed were due to simple carelessness on my part the other two I just plain blew!
Heck, I’ve been out of high school since ‘73
Guess I’m just an old fart
That was my 17 year old's score..... mine was 1 lower, 54 out of 60. Seems I am weakest in modern economics and she was weakest in governmental matters, but as she said "give me a break, I'm in government now!"
Hard questions, especially at the end!
I guess I should not have used my economic text book as a sleep aid.
Don’t brag, just because you took the eighth grade three times!
Econ 101 I think.
Wrong on 19,36,43,58
Love history, voracious reader of history, have MBA
Ironically, was not a very good undergrad but superlative grad student....I grew up!
German sociologist, economist, author of “The Protestant Ethic.”
I was 53/60.
80%...not too bad for sitting in meetings all day! I was in college long enough ago to have forgotten the rule that you go with your first instinct when in doubt. I missed all five that I changed.
You got me by 9. Old fart. :^)
I’ve been out of school for many years, but that is no excuse. I scored 60%
|You Passed 8th Grade US History|
” done much better if taken 4 years out of college—”
I am 85 and never went to college-—got 7 of 8-—not bad for senility
|You Passed 8th Grade US History|
Now at 61 replys
Average 86% (51.4)
Std Dev. 8% (5.1)
Strong statistical relevance that Freepers know their history relative to college students
Same score, doing the same thing. You’d better stay out of my head tonight.....
Congrats sir! You are an inspiration. :^)
answered 58 out of 60 correctly 96.67 %