Author archives: Brittany Smith

Think You’re Smarter Than a College Kid?

by Brittany Smith

November 20, 2008

Today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) released a new study that found most Americans to be civically illiterate.

The study was conducted by giving a random sampling of more than 2500 people a 33 question test on civic literacy. Questions ranged from knowledge about the Declaration of Independence to the economy. The result of the test was that more than 1,700 people failed. The average score overall was 49 percent, which equals an “F” on the ISI scale.

Another disturbing finding of the study was that twice as many people know that Paula Abdul was a judge on American idol than they know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from the Gettysburg Address.

Many of the people polled by ISI believe that colleges should be in charge of teaching America’s heritage and history. This includes 73 percent of people in the West, 69 percent in the Midwest, 74 percent in the Northeast and 74 percent in the South. Yet even with this high expectation from the general public many of these institutions are failing to do so. The results show that the average score for college graduates who took this civic literacy exam was 57 percent. Once again, an F on the ISI scale.

Chairman of ISI’s National Civic Literacy Board, Josiah Bunting, III, said of these results; “There is an epidemic of economic, political, and historical ignorance in our country.”

So what do we do with these results? ISI is calling on elected officials, trustees, taxpayers, parents and college administrations to start reevaluating college curricula and looking at new standard of accountability. They are asking, “Do colleges require courses in American history, politics, economics and other core areas?”

David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times and a speaker for the event, said that a knowledge of American history is beginning to be left behind by liberals and conservatives alike. He went on the say that “human beings want stories and history provides that.”

For more on the study and an opportunity to test your own historical knowledge go to or visit ISI’s website at

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