October 27th marks National Civics Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the first publication of the Federalist Papers. Civics education has fallen so far in this country that most high school graduates likely do not know what the Federalist Papers are, let alone their importance in our nation’s founding.
The 2022 Nation’s Report Card revealed that only 22% of America’s eighth graders are proficient in civics. While that may not get the same attention as the terrible reading and math scores, the future of our country depends on having a population that understands how our government works and why it was created that way.
Right now, college campuses are demonstrating the consequences of abandoning civics education. No one who had a sound grasp of civics, history, or ethics would ever sympathize with terrorists or justify their actions, and yet, students are showing up in droves at pro-Hamas rallies. It is disheartening, frightening, and a symptom of a culture that has neglected to instill in young people a respect for human dignity and religious liberty.
The failure to teach civics is on full display in the Buckley Institute’s National College Student Survey, which shows that the rising generation of college students has no clue how this country is supposed to function.
Nearly half said the Supreme Court is “partisan” and “outdated.” Students said they preferred living under socialism than capitalism by a six-point margin (37% said they preferred the former; 31%, the latter). This demonstrates that they do not understand American institutions or basic economics.
These are not people who understand or appreciate freedom of speech: Nearly half said it was acceptable to use physical violence to prevent someone else from engaging in hate speech. Nearly half said a fellow student with opposing views should be reported to college administrators. These students have no interest in disagreeing civilly, and they don’t want to try.
The survey also demonstrates that progressive indoctrination in K-12 has worked marvelously. Most students support requiring students and faculty to state their preferred pronouns when they introduce themselves. Over 60% say “professors should be required to make statements in support of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a condition of employment.” These ideas did not arise out of nowhere; they are the direct result of gender ideology and identity politics making their way into schools.
What we see on college campuses today will only worsen if civics education is not taken seriously. Some K-12 schools are doing better than others. In 2014 and 2010, the most recent years for which data is available, private school eighth graders achieved proficiency rates more than 15 points higher than those of their public school peers. Catholic schools in particular have excelled at civics education.
Why the huge discrepancy in civics success? Teaching students about democratic values runs directly contrary to so much of what goes on in public schools today. Places that teach progressive orthodoxy and do not tolerate dissent will never imbue their students with an appreciation for the freedom of speech. Places that allow anti-Semitism to run rampant will not convey to the next generation the importance of human rights and religious freedom. And places run by Leftists will never fully convey the suffering that socialism has caused, or that capitalism has led to more prosperity than the world had previously ever known.
People who are never taught about our rights as Americans will never know how to protect them from government overreach. This National Civics Day, every school district should ensure that their kids are brought up to speed on this important subject.