Well, we have a new president. Slight correction…we have reelected our current president to a new term in office.
Many people showed up to their polling places last Tuesday to exercise their right to vote; which, incidentally, is not explicitly mentioned in the US Constitution. But do the people who voted on Tuesday know that, or anything else, about the way this country was founded and our legacy as a country?
Moreover, do American citizens know about the country their living in; the issues, the parties, how our government works?
In this election, the participation rate of young people was higher than in 2008; at 19% of all voters.
In 2012, according to exit polls, nationwide voters 18-29 years old comprised 19 percent of the electorate while voters over 65 years comprised 16 percent of the electorate. Most importantly, the voting patterns of the young and the old were mirror images of each other on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as well as on key Senatorial candidates and ballot measures. Massive age gaps emerged in exits polls in all four states with two-thirds of voters 18-29 voting in favor of marriage equality and only one-third of voters over 65 doing so.
Researchers are predicting that young people (18-29) will comprise 38% of the vote.
So, that all being said, what do young people know about the United States?
Well, I turned to people who do this kind of research for a living and here is what I found:
People younger than 30 are much less likely than older Americans to be able to correctly associate several political leaders with their parties. Fewer than half of those younger than 30 correctly identify Nancy Pelosi and Franklin Roosevelt as Democrats (43% each). By contrast, three quarters of those 65 and older know that Pelosi and Roosevelt are Democrats. The gap between young and old is nearly as large on the item about John F. Kennedy’s party (28 points).
Here are some statistics that may shock you. Please don’t gloss over this; these students are our future:
More than a fifth of the survey respondents [high school students] didn’t know which country we declared our independence from; including 14 percent who thought it was France, not Britain.
The survey reported that 15 percent of U.S. teens didn’t know the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. Nine percent thought we ratified the Constitution that day. (That didn’t happen for another 13 years.)
It found other gaps in their knowledge, as well: 19 percent couldn’t name the third branch of government, after the executive and judicial.
A significant percentage of teens weren’t sure who was doing the declaring, either — 17 percent didn’t know there were 13 original colonies
As the researcher states, this means over 5 million high school teens do not understand the true meaning of Independence Day.
The next statements are truly shocking. All of the following statements come from an article written by Naomi Wolf, a woman whose ideology I do not necessarily subscribe to, but in this situation, I can’t help but agree:
According to a recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 47 percent of high school seniors have mastered a minimum level of U.S. history and civics, while only 14 percent performed at or above the “proficient” level. Middle schoolers in many states are no longer required to take classes in civics or government. Only 29 states require high school students to take a government or civics course, leaving millions of young Americans in the dark about why democracy matters.
A survey released by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in September found that U.S. high school students missed almost half the questions on a civic literacy test. Only 45.9 percent of those surveyed knew that the sentence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” is in the Declaration of Independence.
What does this mean for the future of our country? Put very simply, history is already destined to repeat itself, and it would seem to be sped up when an uninformed population is growing. This leaves these empty minds to be filled with any propaganda someone wants to tell them.
Here’s a great example:
When New Left activists of the 1960s started the antiwar and free speech student movements, they didn’t get their intellectual framework from Montesquieu or Thomas Paine: They looked to Marx, Lenin and Mao. It became fashionable to employ Marxist ways of thinking about social change: not “reform” but “dialectic”; not “citizen engagement” but “ideological correctness”; not working for change but “fighting the man.”
Few young Americans understand that the Second Amendment keeps their homes safe from the kind of government intrusion that other citizens suffer around the world; few realize that “due process” means that they can’t be locked up in a dungeon by the state and left to languish indefinitely.
This dangerous ignorance is confirmed by the Knight Foundation, which has found an alarming decline in student support for the First Amendment. In a 2004 survey, more than a third of the student respondents thought that the First Amendment went too far in guaranteeing freedom of speech and of the press. By 2006, the number who held that view had swelled to half.
The whole article is extremely sobering and worth the read.
So now, to focus on what this all means for the United States today, and the headline is all that needs to be said:
Socialism: 49% Positive / 43% Negative
And Capitalism: 46% Positive / 47% Negative
How easy is it for a population whose idea of news is the Colbert Report and the Daily Show to not comprehend what effect Socialism has on a society? What or who will help them understand that the Tea Party is not just another euphemism for Tea Bagging?
The “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” have the youngest audiences of any outlet included in the survey. Large majorities of those who say they regularly watch the “Colbert Report” (80%) and the “Daily Show” (74%) are younger than 50; 55% of public is 18 to 49.
That’s enough information for one day. Tomorrow I want to show you what the effects of this lack of knowledge are having on our country and what we can do to stop the ravages on our society. This may sound like hyperbole, but in fact the opposite is true. A society must know its history to know where it needs to go. Hopefully when I show you the stories I’ve been reading you will see the seriousness of this situation we find ourselves in these days.
Here’s a video of young people standing in line to vote in Boston. It will confirm what all of these studies have found:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4