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Not teaching our nation's roots.

Want an answer to why America's best-educated sons and daughters aren't demanding an end to deficit spending, undeclared wars, mushrooming federal programs, and attacks on the Bill of Rights? A little-known organization based in Wilmington, Delaware, provides one, and it turns out to be a stinging indictment of the most expensive and most highly rated colleges and universities.


Founded in 1953, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute works to "nurture in the rising generation an appreciation of our nation's founding principles," described by ISI as "limited government, individual liberty, private property, a tree market economy, personal responsibility, and ethical standards." Claiming volunteer representatives at more than 900 colleges, the nonprofit ISI conducts educational programs, distributes ISI books, and even offers graduate fellowships to aspiring college teachers.

Starting in 2005, the ISI has conducted an annual survey of college students to determine their knowledge of America's history and institutions. The results of that initial survey were a wake-up call. Results from the newer 2006 survey, released in September 2007, show again that "the nation's college freshmen and seniors again scored just over 50 percent, or an E" Over 14,000 randomly selected collegians at 50 colleges and universities took the test. Participants were asked 60 multiple-choice questions dealing with America's history, government, America and the world, and the market economy. Assistance in the project came from the University of Connecticut's nationally and internationally recognized Department of Public Policy.

At the ISI's September press conference held at Washington's National Press Club, the group's leaders issued a 40-page report entitled Failing Our Students, Failing America: Holding Colleges Accountable for Teaching America's History and Institutions. The report's major findings include:

* "College seniors failed a basic test on America's history and institutions."

* "Colleges stall student learning about America."

* "America's most prestigious universities performed the worst."

* "Inadequate college curriculum contributes to failure."

* "Greater learning about America goes hand-in-hand with more active citizenship."

Retired General Josiah Bunting III serves as the chairman of ISFs National Civic Literacy Board. The former superintendent at Virginia Military Institute, Bunting admitted being "the bearer of bad news." He pointed out that "higher education is a $325 billion business where, at many prestigious universities, presidents earn half-a-million dollars a year or more." But, he noted, many of the most elite institutions, such as Cornell, Yale, Princeton, Duke, and Pennsylvania, "are simply not doing enough to help preserve our traditions of freedom and representative government."

Here are three sample questions in the survey (along with the correct answer and the percentage of seniors who answered correctly):

The Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits: (d; 48 percent)

a) prayer in public school.

b) discrimination based on race, sex, or religion.

c) ownership of guns by private citizens.

d) establishing an official religion for the United States.

e) the President from vetoing a line item in a spending bill.

The warning to the American people to avoid entangling alliances and involvement in Europe's wars is found in: (b; 36 percent)

a) President Eisenhower's Farewell Address.

b) President Washington's Farewell Address.

c) Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.

d) The League of Nations Covenant.

e) The Treaty of Versailles of 1919.

What is federalism?: (d; 44 percent)

a) A political party at the time of the Founding.

b) A set of essays defending the Constitution.

c) A political system where the national government has ultimate power.

d) A political system where state and national governments share power.

e) A belief that America should be unified with a transcontinental railroad.

General Bunting agreed that answers to most of the questions in the survey should have been learned in high school but obviously weren't. He pointed out that freshmen at most of the surveyed colleges did better than seniors, meaning that essential knowledge was lost during four years of "higher" education.

ISI wants to "hold colleges accountable" for the poor job they are doing. The organization bluntly questions whether parents and students are "getting their money's worth." Even more, ISI wants to know whether "taxpayers and legislators ... alumni and philanthropists ... college trustees ... and others" are getting what they pay for when they shovel money into these institutions.
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Title Annotation:THE LAST WORD
Author:McManus, John F.
Publication:The New American
Date:Nov 12, 2007
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