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."
I am 30 years out of college, but never read history there anyway.
Now I read a lot of scholarly history, long and detailed.
I only got 52 out of 60 right, although I disagree with some of the “right” answers I missed.
80%. Blew Econ, my weak point.
I scored 57 also. Might have gotten the three questions correct if I slowed down. I certainly understood why those answers were correct. Oh - 55 y/o with MS degree.
Are you sure you passed 8th grade? ;-)
Predominant socialists do not favor the knowledge of U.S. history in the minds of our young people since they fully intend to destroy America as a Constitutional Republic. They generally refuse to teach the REASONS why America happened in the first place, and cannot bear to show that Americans stood up and REBELLED against a repressive, oppressive government.
The very idea of individual freedom, freedom from government domination -— is just plain ANTI-SOCIALIST.
56 out of 60 here. 2 wrong answers were just because I rushed through it and I’m tired. 19 and 58 I just didn’t know, but admittedly I should have known them. Oh well.
I need to buy those federalist books. I had my chance and didn’t do it. I’ll clear that up.
85% but some of the questions were bogus.
Got 58. Probably a little more economics in there than I’d have put, and my guess is that the authors were of the Austrian School... ;-)
You answered 55 out of 60 correctly 91.67 %
Average score for this quiz during September: 75.0%
Average score since September 18, 2007: 75.0%
>>>Took it this afternoon on the earlier thread. Scored 57.
"You answered 51 out of 60 correctly 85.00 % Average score for this quiz during September: 75.0%"
Well, I made an 80. Who the heck is Max Weber?
I got a 75%....average.
That was actually a pretty hard test. I need to brush up on my Burke and my macroeconomic theory, apparently.
For my high score, I must be very honest: the quiz is directed at law, economics and politics.
I have degrees in economics and law, and a minor focus in political science.
For me, 57/60 is embarrassing.
It has long been my contention that the reason the country has fallen so far to the left is that unrevised American History has not been taught for decades in the public school system.
Social studies with political overtones has taken it’s place to the point where America is taught to be the villain in the world today in all too many cases.
Does the allegiance to the flag still open the new school day across the country? Is the National Anthem played at the beginning of each football game? Or have they been deliberately stamped out to defeat the unity of patriots?
If a people doesn’t know from whence it came, can a people have guidelines on where to go? I think that bad decisions are made on a more emotional basis than an intellectual one, based on a knowledge of historical events .
Unrevised American history is full of real heroes. All young people need heroes to admire. They all need inspiration to aspire to greatness in their own lives.
Public education as well as higher education has robbed two generations of Americans so far. Will our cherished way of life be extinct before another can be raised?
Parents, take charge of your schools. If they do not respond, home school your children. You can do it! You will benefit by watching your children enthuse as they learn, and you just might learn a thing or two as well.