Suffolk Community College political science professor Nicholas Giordano tests his students’ knowledge about basic issues related to U.S. government when class begins, and the tests have served to demonstrate a shocking dearth of knowledge among the students.
In a piece posted on Campus Reform, Giordano explained that one of the tests he gives students includes questions such as, “Who is the Speaker of the House?” and “How many Supreme Court Justices are there?” The educator noted that after a dozen years of giving students the quiz, just 348 out of 2,176 have passed. He described those results as a “shameful indictment of our K-12 education system.” This semester, just 11 people passed in a pool of about 175 individuals.
Giordano said that he also supplies students with an altered version of part of the Russian Constitution, where he swaps out the terms “Russian Federation” for “United States” and “Duma” for “Congress” — he then instructs the students to write a paragraph discussing what they think about it.
“Realistically, their response should be one sentence: this is not the United States Constitution,” Giordano noted. “Instead, many will write how they never actually read the U.S. Constitution, which is horrifying given the number of years they have attended school prior to taking my course. Others will reference Article 7 where it explains ‘…guaranteed minimum wages and salaries shall be established, state support ensured to the family, maternity, paternity and childhood, to disabled persons and the elderly, the system of social services developed, state pensions, allowances and other social security guarantees shall be established,’ and praise the foresight of the founding fathers.”
“Needless to say, when I reveal the results and my deception, the look on the students’ faces is priceless. The shock, embarrassment, and shame can be seen in their expressions. These exercises, however, have proven to be an invaluable tool to make my classes more successful, and they dramatically improve student engagement,” Giordano wrote.
“After ‘The Great Shaming,’ they are eager to learn,” he noted.