Constitutional Knowledge 

How well do American Adults know the Constitution? 

For most Americans, adulthood begins near graduation from high school. This means that as adults, our ability to participate in the civic life of our country is largely defined by the learning and development that we receive in the 13 years of our public schooling. Unlike K-12 students, adults have no obligation to further study the Constitution, U.S. government, and the details of American civic life.

·      Have you personally ever read the entire Constitution, either in school or on your own? (2019)

·      How much would you say YOU know about the Constitution and the rights and freedoms it spells out?

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What Will They Learn?


A.P. Exams

State Civics Requirements


A Telling Contradiction

Data taken from this the largest segment of the American population provides insight to a contradictory and concerning dynamic.

The first is a question asked by (*) in 2019, asked of U.S. adults: Have you ever read the entire Constitution, either in school or on your own


This graph indicates that X% of American adults have never read the U.S. constitution.

The second telling bit of data comes from (X) source. The question they asked participants "how much would you say YOU know about the Constitution and the rights and freedoms it spells out?"


This is depressing

Form and Recency of Exposure

·      In high school, did you ever take a class in civics or a course that focused on the US Constitution or the judicial system, or do you not remember?

·      While you were in college, did you ever take a course that focused on understanding the U.S. system of government and the Constitution?

·      When was the last time, if ever, that you read the Constitution or a portion of it?

·      2019-2020 Percent of Institutions w govt/history requirements
General Knowledge

·      Which document established the division of powers between the states and the federal government? (2012)

·      What is Separation of Powers?

·      What is a responsibility that is only for U.S. citizens?

·      What is a right that is only for United States citizens?

·      Can you name any of the three branches of the federal government?

Knowledge of Specific Provisions

·      What branch of government has the power to declare war? (2019)

·      According to the U.S. Constitution, which of the following is true? (Power to Raise Taxes)

·      How long are terms for members of Congress? (2012)

·      How long are terms for members of Congress? (2019)

·      What does the Constitution say shall be the supreme law of the land?

·      Why do some states have more Representatives in Congress than other states?

·      In the U.S. presidential election, the Electoral College ultimately selects the president. How are the votes in the Electoral College allocated among the 50 states and D.C.?

Public schools and public opinion
Most Americans assume that the public education system is not doing a good job

Why do young Americans compare so poorly with other generations in terms of civic knowledge, engagement, and attitudes? For the last 100 years, greater numbers of U.S. high school students are taking civics and government courses. Yet, students are graduating with less civic preparedness and motivation to take part in civic life than any prior generation. Below is a graph representing American perception about the public school system in general. As the graph shows, a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the public education system than are satisfied. 

Outcomes – Knowledge, not habits or civic mindset 

"About 3 in 10 Americans say they can recall their middle or high school making a very serious effort, and another 3 in 10  say a somewhat serious effort to teach the Constitution. That amounts to 60% of the nation, confirming the data from multiple sources which conclude that the amount of civics instruction in America isn’t the issue. Unfortunately, the scholarship has not yet ventured a cogent hypothesis of what is the issue."​ (NCC KBH)

Hole in the data

While it is a straightforward exercise in Googling to find out which states have requirements for civic education, it is a more significant undertaking to find out what is being taught in all these new and improved programs. This undertaking could be a significant contribution to the literature if we could examine the content of curricula, especially those created or modified in response to recent legislation.