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."
Took it this afternoon on the earlier thread. Scored 57.
Can I google the answers first so I get 100%?
|You Failed 8th Grade US History|
Wow. That’s excellent. I looked at the first five questions and got scared! I’m not sure how to retain information I learned 20+ years ago. The ability to remember this stuff is - in and of itself - a commendable skill, IMHO.
I don’t necessarily believe you because my score was 76.8 but you got me to admit it. I thought I would do better.
My score was 57 out of 60, btw. I hope my previous post was not confusing.
7 of 8. Should have got ‘em all.
I scored 85%.
In the previous thread, one FReeper reported a score of 59.
Yeah, like anyone here would think you had scored a 60%.
C’mon now! :O)
|You Passed 8th Grade US History|
Nyah, nyah, ni-niyah!
Yeah, like anyone here would think you had scored a
Can't even get that right!
I saw it and was very impressed after seeing the stength of the questions. I would have done much better (I believe) if asked within 4 years of college.
I got 58 out of 60. Most of them are ridiculously easy, particularly the history ones.
I’m not sure I agree with the answers to the two I missed.
Misread two questions. 56
Stength is not to be confused with series. BTW
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