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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bad News on Citizenship

Knowledge of American history and government is essential to effective citizenship. The AEI Program on American Citizenship has issued a new report on the topic by Andrew P. Kelly, Daniel K. Lautzenheiser, and Cheryl Miller. At The Enterprise Blog, Miller and Lautzenheiser write:

More Americans can name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government. Only 38 percent of U.S. citizens can pass the naturalization test.

And now, with this week’s release of the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) U.S. History Report Card, we have still more statistics detailing Americans’ appalling civic ignorance. According to the exam results, just 9 percent of fourth-graders can identify Abraham Lincoln while only 2 percent of 12th graders can name the “social problem” Brown v. Board of Education was meant to address.

Given such dismal numbers, it’s not surprising that Americans are deeply pessimistic about schools’ efforts to teach citizenship. In a new report “Contested Curriculum: How Teachers and Citizens View Civics Education,” the AEI Program on American Citizenship asked 1,000 Americans what priorities schools should have around teaching citizenship and how confident they were that students were learning. We then compared the results to an earlier survey of high school teachers, “High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do.” [Note: see our earlier blog post on this survey.]

What did we find? Not only are Americans not at all confident that students are learning, they have markedly different priorities from teachers for civic education. While teachers were more apt to prioritize the social lessons of tolerance and community service, the public wants schools to focus on teaching facts and instilling good work habits.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports:

The number of Americans who are renouncing their citizenship has been climbing in recent quarters.

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of Andrew Mitchel, an international tax attorney who has been manually tallying the lists of expatriates published in the Federal Register. The chart is taken from his blog:

DESCRIPTIONSource: Andrew Mitchel; Treasury Department

A total of 499 Americans renounced their citizenship during the first quarter of this year. The number of people expatriating during the first quarter in each of the previous seven years averaged 115.

Now I’m sure a few readers are going to blame “ObamaCare” for this burst of expatriation. Mr. Mitchel, however, suggests that two technical tax-related changes inspired more people to give up their citizenship.