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Threats to the Future of Our Democracy

How well do your students know and understand the U.S. Constitution?

A new survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows Americans don’t have a good grasp of the Constitution or its powers, highlighting the need for better civic education.

“These failings threaten the future of our democracy,” wrote retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “If we don’t know what makes this country special and worth saving, how will we know how to safeguard its promise of freedom and opportunity.”

Some of the findings from the  survey:

  • Just 38% of the poll’s respondents can name all three branches of the U.S. government (executive, legislative and judicial) One-third are unable to correctly name any of the branches.
  • 15% correctly say John Roberts is chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but almost twice as many respondents (27%) correctly named Randy Jackson as a judge on TV’s American Idol.
  • A majority of people (55%) incorrectly believe the Constitution was signed in 1776. That’s the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. The Constitution was signed Sept. 17, 1787.

As a former history teacher, I am appalled at the results of this survey.  But there is a price to be paid by the country by deemphasizing the importance of history.  As the report indicates, we need to have all stakeholders (politicians, businesspeople, parents and educators) stressing the importance of history.

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