Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Simpsons v The Bill of Rights

Civics teachers nationwide are letting out a collective, “Doh!”

A new survey(McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum) was released that makes social studies teachers everywhere weep.  The survey showed that only an incredible one in four Americans (28 percent) are able to name more than one of the five fundamental freedoms granted to them by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet when it comes to knowledge of popular culture, Americans are considerably more tuned in. For example, almost twice as many Americans (52 percent) can name at least two members of “The Simpsons” cartoon family.

And while more than one in five (22 percent) Americans can name all five of the fictional Simpsons family members – Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – just one in 1,000 people surveyed (that's .1 percent) were able to name all five freedoms granted under the First Amendment.

“These survey results clearly demonstrate that many Americans don’t have an understanding of the freedoms they regularly enjoy.,” said Dave Anderson, executive director of the  McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum.

Similar results were seen when comparing Americans’ knowledge of the First Amendment to that of the long-lasting Fox Television show “American Idol.” More than four in 10 Americans (41 percent) could name two of the three “American Idol” judges and one in four could name all three. Unfortunately, just 8 percent of Americans could name at least three of their First Amendment freedoms.

As if that isn't bad enough! What many would consider worse is the number of Americans who misidentify various other rights as coming from the First Amendment.  For instance, a majority of Americans (55 percent) believe the right to a jury trial was guaranteed by the First Amendment (it was the 7th).  What is even more dumbfounding is that 38 percent of Americans believe that the right against self incrimination at trial -commonly called "taking the 5th" - is also a right granted by the First Amendment (Guess what, it actually comes from the 5th).

Other statistics in the study show that not only are we ignorant about our rights but we're ignorant about our history also.  36 percent of people polled somehow believe that the First Amendment guarantees women the right to vote, that right wasn't granted until 1920 (the 19th Amendment).

But wait, do you want the statistics that will break your heart and give up all hope in humanity? How about this? According to the study about one in five Americans (21 percent) believe that the First Amendment grants them the right to own a pet! Seriously?  Yes, our Founding Fathers were concerned with taxation without representation, a lack of due process in the courts....and Fido!

The icing on the cake:  one in five also believe that the right to drive a car is guaranteed by the First Amendment, even though the automobile was not invented for another 100 years.

Below is a list of other freedoms, and the percentage of Americans who were able to name them when asked to list the freedoms of the First Amendment, are:
  •  Freedom of Speech (69 percent)
  •  Freedom of Religion (24 percent)
  •  Freedom of the Press (11 percent)
  •  Freedom of Assembly (10 percent)
  •  Freedom to Petition (1 percent)

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