How bad is (your) civic literacy?

Some group that seems a bit dubious, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, has released some dramatic report about how American colleges are failing our students in basic literacy about American history and politics.  Maybe we are, but I'm certainly not convinced based upon students at colleges “failing” their quiz.  Tell you what– it's hard.  It does not strike me as “basic” literacy.  My job is founded upon American politics and political history and I really struggled with a number of questions.  Still, I did get 58 out of 60–let me know if you can beat me.  The problem with this quiz, and so many like it, it that it focuses on factoids and not the big picture.  I don't really care whether my students know what founding document the phrase “All men are created equal” came from.  Rather, I care that they understand the unique and changing role of equality in American political culture.  Likewise, it is not so important that they understand what Supreme Court case created judicial review as that they understand the fundamental role of judicial review in our democracy.  Take the quiz yourself and see what you think.  And, I am pretty proud of my 58, so let me know if you top it.

The slow rate of blogging and parenthood

No, its not that I've been too busy being a dad, rather I spent all last week working on a presentation to give at the UNC Political Science department.  So, since I almost never plug my own research, I thought I'd do a little plugging to explain what I was working on all week.  My friend and colleague, Laurel Elder, are working on a book project tentatively titled, The Politics of Parenthood.  Among our most interesting findings, we show that politicians have dramatically increased their references to parents, families, children, etc., in recent decades to sell policies from tax cuts to business regulation.  Not surprisingly, media usage of these terms in a political context is way up, too.  Here's one of our nice graphs…

So, that's what I've been working on.  Look for the book in a store near you (okay, probably not, but at least Amazon) in 2010.

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