Wel­come to the age of ig­no­rance

The Citizens' Voice - - EDITORIAL -

Amer­ica’s body politic al­ways has been in­fected with an un­healthy amount of civics ig­no­rance. The alarm­ing thing about a new sur­vey by the An­nen­berg Pub­lic Pol­icy Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia is that the in­fec­tion is spread­ing.

In a sur­vey of more than 1,000 adults about the Con­sti­tu­tion, as its 230th an­niver­sary ap­proaches, An­nen­berg found that:

n 37 per­cent could not iden­tify a sin­gle right pro­tected by the First Amend­ment (free­dom of speech, re­li­gion, press, assem­bly and to pe­ti­tion the gov­ern­ment).

n Only 26 per­cent could name all three branches of the gov­ern­ment. In 2011, 38 per­cent could name all three branches.

n One in three, 33 per­cent, could not name any branch of gov­ern­ment.

n 53 per­cent said the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides no rights to un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, even though the 14th Amend­ment man­dates due le­gal process with­out re­gard to ci­ti­zen­ship or le­gal stand­ing, as de­cided by the Supreme Court more than 100 years ago.

On those ques­tions and oth­ers, the per­cent­age of re­sponses re­flect­ing civics ig­no­rance all grew in the wrong di­rec­tion from sur­vey re­sults in pre­vi­ous years.

The re­sults of the poll are not lost on politicians, who in­creas­ingly pan­der to the civi­cally ig­no­rant through fear. In mul­ti­ple races for state leg­isla­tive seats around the coun­try last year, for ex­am­ple, can­di­dates vowed to op­pose the im­po­si­tion of Sharia Law, a Mus­lim re­li­gious code, which is pro­scribed by the First Amend­ment.

These re­sults demon­strate that the na­tion needs a new com­mit­ment to civics ed­u­ca­tion.

“Pro­tect­ing the rights guar­an­teed by the Con­sti­tu­tion pre­sup­poses that we know what they are,” An­nen­berg Di­rec­tor Kath­leen Hall Jamieson said.

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