The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why aren't Arizona high school students teaching civics?

"Just in time to celebrate Independence Day, the Goldwater Institute will release its new report, "Freedom from Responsibility: A Survey of Civic Knowledge Among Arizona High School Students," which reveals only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students have learned the basic history, government and geography necessary to pass the U.S. Citizenship test."


Note that 92.4% of citizen applicants (i.e. immigrants) passed on the first try.

Read the whole story here at the Goldwater Institute.

(Hat tip to Stephen Hicks.)


Anonymous said...

That, unfortunately, is not surprising.

I always think of DeTocqueville when I hear about a lack of a knowledge of history and civics in the US. For him, it is the nature of the democratic historian to filter the history into simplistic story lines. When you combine an overly simplified story with the nihilist doctrines of public school textbooks I can imagine that history and civics lose all their passion. It makes me sad. There is so much to wonder at in our "Great Experiment."

At any rate, the passage I am referring to is in DeTocqueville's Democracy in America, Book 2, Chapter XX: Characteristics Of Historians In Democratic Ages. He says that "Historians who live in democratic ages, then, not only deny that the few have any power of acting upon the destiny of a people, but they deprive the people themselves of the power of modifying their own condition, and they subject them either to an inflexible Providence, or to some blind necessity. According to them, each nation is indissolubly bound by its position, its origin, its precedents, and its character, to a certain lot which no efforts can ever change. They involve generation in generation, and thus, going back from age to age, and from necessity to necessity, up to the origin of the world, they forge a close and enormous chain, which girds and binds the human race. To their minds it is not enough to show what events have occurred: they would fain show that events could not have occurred otherwise. They take a nation arrived at a certain stage of its history, and they affirm that it could not but follow the track which brought it thither."

Never conceiving and exploring the complex orders that caused the outcome to emerge.

I hope that the curve will shift in coming years. There is very good work being done at a chain of charter schools called the Great Hearts Academies, if you haven't looked into them, they might be a great feeder for your college. Loving thoughts.

Marsha Familaro Enright said...

Is that you Bert? Thanks for your informative comments and link to the Great Heart Academy schools.

There's a movement especially among the conservatives, back to studying the classics. Also, the Association of College Trustees and Alumni ( is working to institute more and more classics programs in colleges. They've commissioned quite a few studies of civic knowledge in colleges, and the results are frightening.

At the top schools, freshmen know more than seniors about civics, politics, American history, and economics.

susan dawn wake said...

That is just stunning & sad, given the paltry knowledge required to pass. I know, as I seriously overstudied for my 10 question joke of a "test" a few years ago. I knew more American civics coming from Canada than most of the home grown Americans I now teach in college here!

Marsha Familaro Enright said...


I guess your an example of one of those highly achieving immigrants!