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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 2, 2006 / 9 Tishrei 5767

Dumbing down democracy

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | " THE "FOR DUMMIES" series of self-improvement books, which began with "DOS for Dummies" in 1991, comprises more than 1,000 titles. You name it, John Wiley & Sons publishes it — "Mutual Funds for Dummies," "Breastfeeding for Dummies," "Formula One Racing for Dummies," "John Paul II for Dummies," even "Parrots for Dummies." And more are always on the way. The publisher "cranks out 200 new Dummies titles a year," reports The New York Times Book Review. "At that rate there may soon be more Dummies books out there than dummies to read them."


If only. Unfortunately, the national stockpile of dummies appears to be in no danger of running dry.


The latest evidence of the dummification of American life comes from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a venerable organization that promotes classical values in higher education. As part of a program to strengthen the understanding of America's history and political institutions — what it calls "civic literacy" — ISI commissioned a survey of more than 14,000 randomly selected freshmen and seniors at 50 four-year colleges and universities nationwide. The students were given 60 multiple-choice questions, testing their knowledge of US history, government, foreign affairs, and economics. The results were atrocious.


The average freshman flunked the test, correctly answering only 52 percent of the questions. The average score among seniors was equally pathetic: 53 percent. On a traditional grading scale, scores like those would get an F. Even at the colleges whose students scored highest, the average senior score was below 70 percent — a D+ at best.


This wasn't a test of historical arcana or abstruse political theory. It focused on what should be a core of common American knowledge. One question asked for the source of the phrase "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." There were five choices — the Federalist, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Communist Manifesto, the Declaration of Independence, or the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. More than half the college seniors didn't know the correct answer: the Declaration of Independence.


Another question: "Which of the following was an alliance to resist Soviet expansion — United Nations, League of Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Warsaw Pact, or Asian Tigers?" The answer, of course, is NATO. More than half got that one wrong, too.


Incredibly, 51 percent of seniors didn't know that the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits the establishment of a national religion. An even higher proportion, 55 percent, didn't know that the battle that ended the American Revolution was fought at Yorktown (28 percent picked Gettysburg). Eight out of 10 couldn't identify Social Security as the federal government's largest expense. Even with an ongoing war in Iraq, fewer than half recognized the Ba'ath Party as the mainstay of Saddam Hussein's political support.


"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free," Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816, "it expects what never was and never will be." If he was right, American freedom is headed for a cliff. ISI was startled to find that at almost one-third of the schools surveyed, seniors actually scored lower than freshmen. Either the seniors forgot what they had known when they entered as freshmen, the report concludes, "or — more ominously — were mistaught by their professors." And where was this civic dumbing-down concentrated? Overwhelmingly at the most selective universities among the 50 surveyed, including Yale, Duke, Georgetown, Brown, and Berkeley.


For as much as $40,000 a year, students at such schools can count on full exposure to every reigning value of political correctness, from diversity to secularism to gay rights to global warming. But they may leave at the end of four years knowing even less about America's history and civic institutions than they did when they arrived.


As Jefferson observed, the survival of democratic liberty requires an educated public. Have we still got one? "We . . . take as axiomatic," the American Political Science Association's Task Force on Civic Education warned in 1998, "that current levels of political knowledge, political engagement, and political enthusiasm are so low as to threaten the vitality and stability of democratic politics in the United States." Civic apathy, especially among the young, is now the norm. Most college students don't vote, don't involve themselves in political campaigns, and don't follow public affairs.


As American blood and treasure are sacrificed to nurture freedom and democracy abroad, the civic skills on which our own freedom and democracy depend are slowly withering away. Perhaps John Wiley & Sons should add one more title to their extensive list: "Democratic Survival for Dummies."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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