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article image10 percent of college grads say Judge Judy in SCOTUS, or do they?

By Megan Hamilton     Jan 21, 2016 in Odd News
College graduates have a severe lack of knowledge about American history, according to a recent survey, which shows that nearly 10 percent think that "Judge Judy" Sheindlin is a member of the Supreme Court.
Some, however voice skepticism about how the media has covered this.
Sheindlin is better known as the star of the show "Judge Judy," reports.
The graduates were off the mark on other questions as well.
Only 28 percent of college graduates correctly identified James Madison as the "Father of the Constitution." 54 percent correctly identified Vice President Joe Biden as president of the U.S. Senate.
The poll also shows that almost 40 percent of college graduates don't know that Congress can declare war, while nearly 60 percent couldn't identify the requirements necessary for ratifying a constitutional amendment, CNN reports. Not only that, less than 50 percent of college graduates surveyed were aware that presidential impeachments are tried in front of the U.S. Senate.
The survey of 1,000 college graduates was conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)in August 2015 and released in January 2016. It concluded that college graduates "are alarmingly ignorant of America's history and heritage."
"There is a crisis in American civic education," ACTA noted according to U.S. News and World Report. "Recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America's history and heritage."
The findings indicate evidence of a lack of civic knowledge, and the report states that this prohibits young people from becoming effective citizens.
Content-based coursework — the study of history and government, are the cornerstones of civic engagement, ACTA contends, but this has been replaced with community-service activities.
Such findings are evidence of a concerning lack of civic knowledge, which the report claims restricts young people from being effective American citizens.
"These programs may be wholesome, but they give students little insight into how our system of government works and what roles they must fill as citizens of a democratic republic," the organization notes, per U.S. News and World Report.
At least one person is skeptical of how the media has portrayed the survey.
Some caution should be exercised when considering the survey questions, especially the one concerning Sheindlin, notes John Sides, an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, in his column, Monkey Cage.
That's because the question was phrased like this:
Which of the following people serves on the U.S. Supreme Court?
a. Elena Kagan
b. Lawrence Warren Pierce
c. John Kerry
d. Judith Sheindlin
The question doesn't say "Judge Judy," he notes. It mentions Judith Sheindlin. Sides posits that the majority of Americans don't know who Judith Sheindlin is, even though they may be familiar with Judge Judy.
How many college graduates actually knew the correct answer or guessed it? 66 percent. Which means a fair-sized majority knew the right answer. But that didn't hit the news media.
He notes:
"And as for those who said Sheindlin, I think the interpretation is quite different than what's been implied by media coverage. It is not that 10 percent of college graduates 'think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.' It is that a small minority of survey respondents did not know which of the four was on the Supreme Court, and so happened to guess that it was a person named 'Judith Sheindlin.'"
Further, Sides says he's not suggesting that the state of civic education in the U.S. is in stellar shape, or that it wouldn't be beneficial for Americans to know more about U.S. history and government than they do. But the media should have taken a harder look at the actual survey question and the responses. Had that occurred, a different interpretation would have prevailed.
ACTA is a non-profit organization, and it commissioned the research firm GfK to conduct the poll. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points, reports.
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