Lack of knowledge about civics & American students

This shows up on national tests – though not, disappointingly, any of the tests our government uses to gauge school performance. On the last nationwide civics assessment, administered in 2006, two-thirds of students scored below proficiency. Not even a third of eighth-graders surveyed could identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Less than a fifth of high school seniors could explain how citizen participation benefits democracy. Equally troubling, we face a widening civic achievement gap. Hispanic and African-American students are twice as likely as their white counterparts to lack civic knowledge and skills, while low-income students score significantly lower than middle- and upper-income students. In other words, our schools' failure when it comes to civic education is especially stark in communities most in need of civic engagement.

Source: Sandra Day O'Connor and Lee H. Hamilton, "A democracy without civics? When asked, a third of eighth-graders didn't know the significance of the Declaration of Independence" Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/2008. Access article at Link and article found on