According to a recent study, college seniors know less about American history and government than they did as freshman:
In the fall of 2005, ISI surveyed more than 14,000 college freshmen and seniors, administering a 60-question multiple-choice test at college campuses across the nation, including the UW.
Several universities, such as Yale University, Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University (which ranked the lowest), exhibited a phenomenon that ISI calls “negative learning,” whereby seniors scored lower than freshmen.
Stephanie Camp, an associate professor of history at the UW, was skeptical of what the study actually measures.
“It seems suspicious,” she said. “What do they mean by civic literacy? They’re making pretty big assumptions on what we do and what education is really about.
Camp said that college is about learning to think critically about larger thematic aspects, not necessarily about learning facts.
“I consider myself an active citizen. My ability to think critically and learn how to formulate questions are all things I learned in college,” she said. “I don’t see how [some of the questions on a sample quiz online] is essential stuff you need to know. … I don’t mean that it’s not important, but they’re making a big assumption on what you need to know. A part of American history is so much more fluid and diverse than what this test asks for.”