Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A few choice passages

A few choice passages from the 2004 work by Mark Bauerlein: A Very Long Disengagement

Civics. In 1999 the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported that more than two-thirds of ninth graders study the Constitution, Congress, or the presidency. Unfortunately, their course work hasn't sunk in. In a 2003 survey on the First Amendment commissioned by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, only one in 50 college students named the first right guaranteed in the amendment, and one out of four did not know any freedom protected by it.

… Barely half of those surveyed said that "paying attention to government and politics" is important to good citizenship. While 64 percent knew the name of the latest "American Idol," only 10 percent could identify the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Geography. In 2002 the National Geographic Society issued the results of the Global Geographic Literacy Survey. Thirty-nine percent of American 18-to-24-year-olds surveyed failed the test, and in international comparisons Americans came in second to last out of nine nations tested. Only 13 percent of our country's participants could pinpoint Iraq, only 12 percent could identify Afghanistan. The rate rose to just 51 percent for those who could locate New York State. Moreover, the young American adults surveyed could identify an average of only 2.5 countries in Europe. Around 30 percent believed that this nation has one billion to two billion residents (young people in other countries scored higher in estimating U.S. population), and only 19 percent could name four nations that acknowledge having nuclear weapons. Remarkably, 29 percent could not identify the Pacific Ocean.

… The geography survey found that, despite the high Internet usage among young adults, only 11 percent of the respondents said they use the Internet to follow the news. Eighty-two percent stated that they keep up with events by watching television, but a growing proportion tune in to programs of dubious informational value. A January 2004 study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that comedy shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart "are now mentioned almost as frequently as newspapers and evening network news programs as regular sources for election news." A story on the report in The Hollywood Reporter began, "To a young generation of Americans, Jon Stewart may as well be Walter Cronkite."

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