Each election year, you’ll find a candidate who says we desperately need to pour more money into our public schools. Ignoring the property tax burdens on senior citizens, the candidate will say that taxpayers need to be prepared to spend more on education — even if it entails incredible sacrifice.
There is little doubt that education can be a sound investment. But I have to wonder what schools are using all that tax money for, given the results of a new study by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum.
The survey showed many things, but here is the most startling fact of them all: Americans know more about the TV cartoon known as "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment. I suppose that, in an age where trivia is king, this should not be all that surprising. However, it should provoke some serious soul-searching among public officials, teachers, and parents.
According to the study, only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. For those of you hazy on this point, the five freedoms are freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition for redress of grievances. Yet, more than half of those surveyed could name at least two members of the Simpson family.
And it gets worse. About one in five Americans can name all five members of the cartoon family, but only one in a thousand can name all the First Amendment freedoms. But this isn’t only about the Simpsons. There’s also the situation involving "American Idol." More people know the three idol judges — Randy, Paula, and Simon — than know at least three First Amendment rights. In addition, Americans are more likely to remember popular advertising slogans than anything about the First Amendment.
Oh, but there is this gem: one in five people surveyed thought the right to own a pet was protected under the First Amendment. But the question we need to ask ourselves as Americans is not who’s minding the dog — but who’s looking out for our own basic rights as citizens.
But, let’s be clear here. There’s plenty of blame to go around. While it’s true that maybe we should have all paid more attention at school, how much of the school calendar was devoted to the First Amendment — one of the most precious rights the Founding Fathers could have given us?
Here’s why this is so important: there are numerous instances today of individuals trying to take away our freedoms. For instance, our freedom of speech is threatened by those who say that the only allowable speech on our college campuses should be politically correct speech. Our freedom of religion is routinely targeted by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, who want to ban God from our schools, courthouses, and civic buildings. Freedom of assembly is challenged by those who believe the only legitimate protests are the left-wing kind.
Of course, the news media routinely trumpet freedom of the press — but it is only one segment of the press many of them are interested in. For instance, conservative columnist Ann Coulter is vilified for expressing her anti-left, anti-establishment views. Fox News is accused of pandering to the right — even though its mission is to provide fair and balanced coverage.
In an Associated Press article, Joe Madeira, director of exhibitions at the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, said he was actually surprised by the results of his survey.
Madeira told the AP, "Part of the survey really shows there are misconceptions, and part of our mission is to clear up these misconceptions. It means we have our job cut out for us."
It obvious money isn’t the solution to our education woes. We must return to teaching the basics.