Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious with that title, but it seems there's an unfortunate and large measure of truth in it anyway. When it comes to measuring civic literacy and engagement, this new study
from ISI suggests that there is absolutely no correlation between having a college degree and demonstrating a very basic civic literacy. Over at NRO's blog, Phi Beta Cons, Jason Fertig
takes note of the study and argues that it is more proof positive that today's colleges and universities--with all their focus on professional specialization--are failing to produce graduates with even a basic idea of what constitutes a well-rounded education. Despite claims to the contrary in their mission statements, most colleges today do next to nothing to encourage active citizen engagement--and this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of "education." Job training, maybe. But "education"? Hardly.
There are exceptions, of course. I'd be willing to take the easy bet that Ashbrook Scholars upon completing just one year (though, certainly, after four) would pass this test
at the "Philosopher King" level. And with respect to this test of civic engagement
, a quick sampling of Ashbrook alumni rolls will prove Ashbrook graduates well within the "Founding Fathers" ranks.
Cheering as this exception is (and perhaps a few others that we could add to a pretty small list), it's time for engaged citizens to stop diddling and scolding when these appalling statistics come out and really begin demanding serious answers to these questions: Is this any way to run a country? How are we supposed to preserve our liberty when so many of our citizens have no concept of what constitutes the substance of it? Can a person honestly call himself "educated" when he has not acquired even a basic understanding of the nation in which he deems himself a citizen? Is a college education that does not equip its graduates to grapple with a quiz this basic, worthy of the name? Am I going to be a sucker and pay for something like that when my kid wants to go to college?
I say it's time to starve the beast. If you have children contemplating college in the next few years and the colleges you examine seem to do nothing to advance civic literacy, ask yourself whether the sacrifices you're going to make to pay for this thing called an "education" are really worth it? I submit to you that if a school can't get this much right, it probably isn't getting much else right, either.