GOP Viewpoint: Civics ignorance

The blogosphere is an interesting component of the Internet and it’s amazing what you find in it, or as usually the case, what finds you in your daily emails. So the following excerpts from a recent article presents a sad, but true commentary:

“During a year in which national politics has dominated the 24-hour news cycle, one might think Americans are more in touch with the Constitution than ever before. But the reality is just the opposite. As we reached the 230th anniversary of the ratification of our Constitution, we should consider mourning the document’s demise as much as celebrating its relevance after so many years.”

Brace yourselves: The numbers aren’t pretty.

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), “Only 26% of respondents can name the three branches of government; the same result as last year. People who identified themselves as conservatives were significantly more likely to name all three branches correctly than liberals and moderates. The 26% total was down significantly from APPC’s first survey on this question in 2011, when 38% could name all three. In the current survey, 33% could not name any of the three branches, the same as in 2011.”

You might say it’s not a big problem if citizens aren’t able to identify the three branches of government as long as they’re aware of their basic rights. After all, we’ve witnessed plenty of protests across the country in recent years made up of disgruntled youth demanding their rights, so they must know what’s in the Constitution, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the rights enshrined in the Constitution, the numbers are even worse. As the APPC poll reveals, “Nearly half of those surveyed (48%) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, another 37% could not name any First Amendment rights. And, far fewer people could name some First Amendment rights: 15% of respondents say freedom of religion; 14% say freedom of the press; 10% say the right of assembly; and only 3% say the right to petition the government.”

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Nearly 40% of all Americans surveyed couldn’t name a single right in the First Amendment. ....

.... We’d like to think that our middle schools, high schools, and even colleges and universities are providing students with at least a basic understanding of our government and Constitution. Educating young citizens is perhaps the most critical part of ensuring that future generations will be ready to protect and defend our nation’s ideals and principles.

The problem is that many schools either don’t teach civics, or teach it the wrong way, or teach it in a politicized manner. Compounding this, universities today are more interested in turning students into political activists than knowledgeable citizens who value the ideals upon which our country was founded. As a result, Americans have a lot to say about ‘rights’ that their teachers and professors have conjured up, but they know nothing about actual rights in the Constitution.

While the recent downward trend in knowledge about our Constitution is troubling, we cannot surrender our solemn obligation to support and defend this document and framework of our republic’s system of government and our precious natural rights.

Alex Karsanidi is the chairman of the Ridgefield Republican Town Committee, which meets monthly on the third Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall. Go to for more information.