Over the past few decades, the gradual lack of knowledge in regards to U.S. civics has developed into a national epidemic.
The slow decay of civic education first began in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. Under his direction, the Department of Education saw its budget cut severely. Ever since, the Republican party and Republican administrations like George H.W Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump have led efforts to decentralize education, giving the states more power to choose what students learn in the classroom.
“Civics was a part of our core curriculum; it was a core requirement in middle and high school. For a healthy democracy to function, we need an engaged and informed citizenry,” said Robert Watson, professor. “With budget cuts, schools were forced to make tough decisions and one [was] to cut civics.”
Further representing this lack of information on basic U.S. government facts, a recent survey across campus has shown that many students have suffered from the aforementioned budget cuts.
The report covered various aspects of U.S. history, from senatorial positions to key moments in the country’s path to independence. For instance, just about one-quarter of those surveyed knew that the U.S. Senate has 100 elected members, while no respondents had knowledge of the 435 elected members in the House of Representatives.
In addition, no respondents knew the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, 11 years after the ever-famous Declaration of Independence. Of those surveyed, 21 percent were aware that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created Social Security as part of The New Deal in 1935, while less than 5 percent of students knew that President Lyndon Johnson implemented Medicare and Medicaid during his time in office.
Just one-quarter of Lynn students knew the basis of Roe v. Wade, while no respondents had knowledge that Obergefell v. Hodges was the case that legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of students interviewed knew who the Senators from their home states were. Less than forty percent of respondents could say who Benjamin Franklin was and less than ten percent knew of Alexander Hamilton.
“Students are becoming ahistorical and apolitical,” said Watson. “[We must] bring civics back into schools for students to learn at a young age and bring it into the schools every year in some form.”
While the report’s queries did not entirely stump students, the overwhelming majority of responses showcases how the lack of civics across the U.S. has affected the lives of today’s young adults. To correct this, though, there appears to be a need for reintroducing civics education in the classroom. Young adults are not at fault for this lack of knowledge; the blame falls on the shoulders of the government and school boards for not staying consistent.