America’s top colleges and universities are doing a terrible job of preparing tomorrow’s leaders in the basics of history, government and the market economy, according to a study conducted by the University of Connecticut and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
The eye-opening survey of 14,000 students at 50 large and small colleges and universities revealed that many of our country’s most prestigious schools including Duke, Johns Hopkins and Yale finished at the very bottom of the list. The reason, says various academics, is that our colleges and universities are focusing more and more on theory and less and less on basic, core requirements.
So, while they may be graduating the next Voltaire or Galileo, our schools aren’t equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the basic tools they’ll need to govern (note: that said, how much worse they could do at governing than our current crop?). To underscore the horrific lack of basic knowledge of history and current events, consider this: half of the students couldn’t correctly identify the century when the first American colony at Jamestown was established (17th). Nor could the majority identify the main source of Saddam Hussein’s political support in Iraq prior to the war (the Baath Party).
These findings don’t surprise me. With a rare exceptions, it seems like even our best and brightest college students have little appreciation for, or understanding of, history. In fact, to most of them, it almost seems as if the world simply didn’t exist before MTV or the Internet. An out-of-touch and unaware next generation will not only further tarnish our country’s lousy image and reputation around the world, it will damage our ability to remain competitive. The UConn survey provided a real wake-up call and should be taken very seriously by leaders in academic, political and business circles.
The findings remind me of the old television commercial for, I believe the United Negro College Fund that carried the memorable tagline: "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." By not teaching our kids about history, government and current events, we’re wasting an entire generation of minds, and putting our country’s future at risk.