Americans Agree: Colleges Should Teach America’s Heritage
Americans have been so deeply divided over some issues of public policy in recent years that we now live in what are popularly known as “red states” and “blue states.”
|A National Consensus on Civic Literacy|
|While Americans have sharply disagreed on many significant issues of public policy in recent years, they maintain a broad national consensus on the importance of civic literacy. Large majorities in all regions of the country and in diverse demographic groups agree that colleges should prepare citizen leaders by teaching students about America’s history, key texts, and institutions.|
|Colleges should prepare citizen leaders by teaching America’s history, key texts, and institutions|
On at least one significant question, however, we have forged a deep consensus. In all regions and strata of the country, large majorities agree that colleges should prepare citizen leaders by teaching America’s history, key texts, and institutions.
We believe this whether we are young or old, rich or poor, liberal or conservative. We believe this whether we are male or female; black, white, or Hispanic. We believe this whether we have served in the military or not, and whether we attend church regularly or seldom.
|Consensus by Education Level|
|< High School||High School||College Grad.||Grad. Degree|
|Consensus by Age|
|18 to 24||25 to 34||35 to 44||45 to 64||65+|
|Consensus by Race/Ethnicity|
|Consensus by Gender|
|Consensus by Political Ideology|
The belief that colleges should prepare citizen leaders by teaching our nation’s history and institutions is embraced both by those who never attended college and by those with advanced degrees.
Virtually the same percentage of Americans who failed the civic literacy test believe it is important for colleges to instill civic knowledge. Of the 2,508 people surveyed, 72% agree that colleges should prepare citizen leaders by teaching students about America. Eighteen percent are neutral on the question. Only 9% disagree.
This consensus is embraced by every neighborhood in our national community.
- Americans in all geographical regions agree that colleges should prepare citizen leaders by teaching students America’s history, key texts, and institutions. This includes 73% in the West, 69% in the Midwest, 74% in the Northeast, and 74% in the South.
- Seventy-four percent of conservatives agree and 71% of liberals.
- Seventy-two percent of women agree and 71% of men.
- Seventy percent of Hispanics agree, as do 67% of blacks and 72% of whites.
- Seventy-three percent between ages 25 and 34 agree, as do 76% age 65 or older.
- Seventy percent earning less than $30,000 per year agree, as do 71% earning more than $100,000.
- Seventy-five percent of those who have served in the military agree, as do 72% of those who have not served in the military.
- Seventy-two percent of Americans who go to church more than once a week agree, as do 71% who seldom go to church.
- Seventy-two percent with only a high school diploma agree as do 74% of those holding graduate degrees.
The survey gives some indication of why Americans have formed this consensus. Seventy-three percent say a person’s evaluation of a nation improves with his or her understanding of it, while 61% affirm that our founding documents remain vital to the civic life of our nation.
We have seen that this modern consensus is in accord with the thinking of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It is also in accord with that of Benjamin Franklin. When Franklin first proposed founding a college in Philadelphia, he noted that all nations must establish “such Seminaries of Learning as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves and to their Country.”
Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and seven out of ten Americans today agree: colleges should prepare citizen leaders.