Last week, Gallup reported on a new nadir in US patriotism. They announced, “For the first time in Gallup’s 18-year history asking U.S. adults how proud they are to be Americans, fewer than a majority say they are ‘extremely proud.'” Only 47% of Americans now describe themselves this way, down from a peak of 70% in 2003.

College graduates show even less patriotism, with just 39% claiming extreme pride, in contrast to 52% of non-college graduates. Notably, the percentages for these subgroups have been (like the general average) in steady decline since at least 2013, so no one should jump to conclusions about a Trump factor.

Why the decline? We have an idea that a parallel occurrence provides the answer.

As college graduates ourselves, we know that “correlation does not imply causation.” However, we also recall that someone once observed that correlation “does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.’

With that in mind, and with respect to common sense, we suspect another trend among college students might be related to this decline in patriotism.

In 2016, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni issued a report titled A Crisis in Civic Education, which notes, “Survey after survey shows that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage.”

To put this in perspective, the ACTA report cites examples of this ignorance among recent grads:

“They cannot identify the term lengths of members of Congress, the substance of the First Amendment, or the origin of the separation of powers. They do not know the Father of the Constitution, and nearly 10% say that Judith Sheindlin—’Judge Judy’—is on the Supreme Court.
Notably, the report states that the deterioration of civic knowledge among graduates has been especially evident over the last 15-20 years.

Why aren’t students learning essential facts about our nation’s history? The ACTA attributes the “civics recession” in part to the stigma in the modern academy of studying military, diplomatic, and constitutional history: “These core topics are dismissed as part of an old-fashioned ‘hegemonic’ view of history, to be replaced by a new focus on race, class, and gender.” As a result, simply put, these subjects are seldom taught.

In response, the ACTA recommends that students and families refer to so they can seek out institutions which still offer this essential instruction.

Undoubtedly, without becoming educated on the extraordinary theory, history, and accomplishments of our American republic, students have little reason to be patriotic or to regard our nation as something special–something worth celebrating and cherishing.

As the ACTA study notes, Thomas Jefferson explained, “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, expects what never was and never will be.”

May we be on guard against such ignorance.