05 March 2010

Education or Indoctrination?

"Conventional wisdom holds that there is a strong connection between how much people know and how much college education they receive—the more college, the more knowledge. ISI’s research, however, demonstrates that on most campuses, this seemingly obvious correlation is quite marginal where knowledge of America’s history and institutions is concerned."
Intercollegiate Studies Institute:

  • While College Fails to Adequately Transmit Civic Knowledge, It Influences Opinion on Polarizing Social Issues
  • Compared to College, Civic Knowledge Exerts a Broader and More Diverse Influence on the American Mind
  • Civic Knowledge Increases a Person’s Regard for America’s Ideals and Free Institutions
Does regard for these "ideals and free institutions" mean embracing American Exceptionalism? I believe so. So why would one be opposed to teaching it as an affirming principle? Does failing to teach regard for these ideals promote a more easily duped and governed populace? Does failing to teach and embrace American Exceptionalism also fail in teaching students to . . . "believe in the relevance of our nation’s Founding principles and to maintain a self-governing society where freedom and opportunity flourish."

Again, I believe the answer is yes. The serious question is this: Is that an intentional outcome or just an unintended consequence resulting from ill-informed, misguided educators? The answer to that is more nuanced.

 Read the interesting study here and come to your own conclusions.


Anonymous said...

What if I have a lot of liberal education AND believe in American exceptionalism? BTW, I scored 91% on the ISI exam.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I'd say you had an excellent foundation, you're not easily fooled by statists and revisionists, and you are wiser than your educators.

Congratulations on the exam. I believe that's a B. You're on track for the honor roll!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

(I assume you meant liberal in the modern political sense, not the classical sense.)

Chaps said...


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Chaps - advance to the head of the class sir!

Brooks D. Simpson said...

As a member of the advisory board that drew up these examinations (as you may guess, my field was American history), I think the ISI's findings are important and disturbing ... and they should be disturbing to everyone, regardless of their political inclinations. One can't have an informed historical discussion if one doesn't know the basics, and I'm astonished that anyone would think otherwise. Is "knowing the facts" in itself evidence of knowledge and understanding? No. But if you don't know the basics, you have no foundation upon which to build a meaningful understanding of American history. You can't base understanding upon ignorance and misinformation.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Brooks: I agree with you, but I'm not sure I'm grasping your whole point. Maybe I'm trying to look too deep. My fault probably, but could you elaborate a little?

Brooks D. Simpson said...

Richard: My point is simply that students are not taught basic facts, and without knowing those basic facts, it's hard to offer a meaningful interpretation of anything. So when someone says that you need more than rote memorization of "facts" to understand history, I agree, but you can't offer a meaningful understanding of history without a grasp of those basic facts. It would be as if someone was holding forth on chemistry without knowing the periodic table.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

And I would agree with you Professor.