For five years now, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting a national survey to gauge the quality of civic education in the country. We've surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, most of them college students, but also a random sample of adults from all educational and demographic backgrounds.Maybe its time we begin standardized testing of elected office-holders.
Included in the adult sample was a small subset of Americans (165 in all) who, when asked, identified themselves as having been "successfully elected to government office at least once in their life" -- which can include federal, state or local offices. . . . Elected officials at many levels of government, not just the federal government, swear an oath to "uphold and protect" the U.S. Constitution. . . .
But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question. Examples:
- Only 49 percent of elected officials could name all three branches of government, compared with 50 percent of the general public.
- Only 46 percent knew that Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war -- 54 percent of the general public knows that.
- Just 15 percent answered correctly that the phrase "wall of separation" appears in Thomas Jefferson's letters -- not in the U.S. Constitution -- compared with 19 percent of the general public.
- And only 57 percent of those who've held elective office know what the Electoral College does, while 66 percent of the public got that answer right. (Of elected officials, 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for "training those aspiring for higher political office.")
Maybe the simplest explanation for why so many Americans are willing to tolerate a government that has no respect for its constitutional limitations and little interest in the maintenance of fundamental liberties, is because they are woefully ignorant of the Constitution. And our elected leaders are apparently even more ignorant than their constituents. From AOL News: