Turns out there may be a truly useful — if not urgent — purpose to having members of Congress take turns reading the U.S. Constitution. And party affiliation has nothing to do with it. According to the latest survey from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, elected officials in the United States actually understand less about the U.S. Constitution than average Americans — who don’t exactly qualify as Constitutional scholars to begin with. (Test yourself: Take the Mindflash Constitution course.)
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No joke. Every year, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute conducts a nationwide survey that tests Americans’ knowledge of government, civic education. The latest survey canvassed more than 30,000 Americans, and included a group of people who identified themselves as someone who had been “successfully elected to government office at least once in their life.” All were asked 10 basic questions about the Constitution — you know, the thing elected officials are sworn to “uphold and protect.” And, as Richard Brake,co-chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s National Civic Literacy Board points out, “the results are not pretty.”
Want a few highlights? Brace yourself.
- 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.
- Only 57 percent 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.”)
With those humbling statistics in mind, Mindflash set out to help everyone — elected or not — get up to speed on Constitution 101. We created a quick Mindflash training course and the accompanying infographic that should, at a minimum, get you through an episode of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Think you’re a better Constitutional scholar than your local representatives in Washington?
Take the Mindflash Constitution Course.
The 10-Minute Guide to the U.S. Constitution (click link to access course)
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