Constitution Day and Civic Education

BY DIANA OWEN

Constitution Day is an occasion to celebrate the teachers who instill in generations of citizens the basic values, ideals, and principles that underpin our nation. The findings of a new study of the public’s knowledge of and attitudes toward the U.S. Constitution and other foundational documents released by the Center for Civic Education highlight the importance of this mission. The results strengthen the call for robust civics instruction in our schools.

The good news is that Americans overwhelmingly support many of the core ideals contained in the foundational documents. They believe it is the responsibility of government to ensure political equality, to promote the general welfare, and to protect fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of belief and expression. They also feel that government should support the establishment of justice and protect due process of law.

At the same time, few people claim to know very much about the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Only 14% of Americans say that they know a lot about the foundational documents, while one quarter of the public knows very little or nothing at all. In sum, 86% of the public has modest or no knowledge of the Constitution. Importantly, the more people know about the founding documents, the more likely they are to support the basic concepts contained therein.

Charles Quigley, executive director of the Center, stated, “It is encouraging to note that the survey revealed that the greater respondents’ knowledge of the Constitution, the greater the acceptance of its basic ideas. This clearly points to the need to implement effective programs in schools and universities as well as programs for adults that educate people about the principles and values embedded in our founding documents.”

To read more about this study, read the full report here: Constitution Day Survey: How United Are We the People?