Study: Elected Reps Fail Constitutional Knowledge

A new article on AOL News says that after surveying the public and elected officials for five years, they have found a disturbing lack of civic and constitutional knowledge.

But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question. Examples:

  • Only 49 percent of elected officials could name all three branches of government, compared with 50 percent of the general public.
  • Only 46 percent knew that Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war — 54 percent of the general public knows that.
  • Just 15 percent answered correctly that the phrase “wall of separation” appears in Thomas Jefferson’s letters — not in the U.S. Constitution — compared with 19 percent of the general public.
  • And only 57 percent of those who’ve held elective office know what the Electoral College does, while 66 percent of the public got that answer right. (Of elected officials, 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for “training those aspiring for higher political office.”)

None of this should come as any surprise, since CNS News asked many senators and congressmen last year where the authority came from to create a government health care system, and virtually none of them–including the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) and House Majority Leader (Steny Hoyer) could provide the answer (there is no constitutional authority for a government health care system).  Indeed, several made clumsy stabs at an answer which did more to reveal their dangerous ignorance than even some of the more belligerent answers like Pelosi’s.

Of course some, like Rep. Phil Hare, simply admitted outright: “I don’t worry about the Constitution.”  He should have been stripped of his office for this admission of contempt for his oath of office, but that is a matter for another article.

While I did find a report on the ISI website, I couldn’t find what I could be sure was this specific report, so I couldn’t determine if it has any new information since I wrote about it in 2008.

I would be particularly interested to know if the incoming freshman class had been surveyed, and if their results were substantively different from previous congresses.  I would expect that, since most of this class was supported by the Tea Party movement, and Tea Party folks are usually much better educated about the U.S. Constitution and American history,  those representatives they supported would also be more knowledgeable about the Constitution.  Indeed, from the statements I have heard them make, I am virtually certain they would raise the overall score of congress’ results.

A nation of people who are this ignorant of its own heritage, its own way of life, its own highest law, cannot indefinitely survive as a free people.  Thomas Jefferson was so right when he said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

We the people must DEMAND that our public schools do much better to teach our children, not a bunch of anti-American propaganda and how to put a condom on a cucumber, but about their nation and their heritage.

We as parents and people must also ensure our children are taught at home; we cannot simply trust that it will get done at school.

And we the people must help educate our fellow Americans who have succumbed to ignorance and Leftist propaganda. We can do so through our everyday conversations, through calls to talk shows, letters to the editors of our newspapers, and through programs like the “Constitution Challenge” being developed by my Tea Party group, the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance.

Our heritage of freedom is too important to forfeit through inaction.

4 Responses to “Study: Elected Reps Fail Constitutional Knowledge”

  1. “20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for “training those aspiring for higher political office.” Isn’t that special!

    An oath to something one knows little about is simply gratuitous. Perhaps a thorough and careful reading of the Constitution should be done with each new Congress and before anyone takes an oath; no “interpretations” or opinions from “constitutional scholars,” just a straight reading.

  2. I hear the Electoral College is supposed to have a fairly decent basketball team this year

  3. They’ve done pretty well for a small school of only 538.

  4. I think most of our turds in the House would flunk out of the Electoral College. Too much partying.