Pete Du Pont calls attention to this report showing an astonishingly low level of civic literacy among American college students. I haven’t been able to download the whole report yet, but Du Pont summarizes the results:
As for the 50 colleges that participated in the program, the best-scoring students were not from the institutions one might expect. Rhodes College, Colorado State University and Calvin College were the top three, with senior students averaging between 9.5 and 11.6 percentage points higher than freshmen.
At the other end of the scale were 16 schools that showed "negative learning"--that is, seniors scored lower than freshmen. Cornell, UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins were the worst three, their seniors scoring between 3.3 and 7.3 percentage points worse than their freshmen. And on the negative list were some other very prestigious universities: Williams, Georgetown, Yale, Duke and Brown.
How did these educational failures come to pass? ISI concludes that "students don’t learn what colleges don’t teach." In other words, in colleges where students must take more courses in American history they do better on the test, outperforming schools where fewer courses were completed. Seniors at the top test-scoring colleges "took an average of 4.2 history and political science courses, while seniors at the two lowest-ranked colleges . . . took an average of 2.9 history and political science courses." Similarly, higher ranked colleges spent more time on homework, 20 hours a week at fourth-ranked Grove City College and 14 or 15 at low-ranked Georgetown and Berkeley.
Here are the full rankings, for those of you who care about such things. Kudos to our friends at Rhodes, whose students registered the greatest increase over their college careers. There are other interesting tables here, which enable you, among other things, to see the absolute scores of the students at various institutions, and to take a look at which questions students seemed to do best adn worst on.
I can’t wait to see whether and how defenders of the status quo in higher education try to spin these results, which seem quite striking. Inside Higher Ed shows the way, offering this banal truth:
The report also found that some of the most prestigious colleges in the United State had lower rankings on the survey questions than did less prestigious institutions.
That seems right, but they’re squandering an opportunity to do so much more with such promising prospects, who know a lot coming in, and often less coming out.
Update: Heres the one story I could find about the press conference describing the study.