Survey Finds a High Level of Historical Illiteracy Among Blacks and Other Minority College Students

A new study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute of Wilmington, Delaware, finds that minority students are learning very little about American history and government while in college. The institute surveyed 14,000 college freshmen and seniors on 50 different campuses. The survey included 60 multiple-choice questions on American history and American institutions. Here is one question that appeared on the test:

Abraham Lincoln was elected president during which period?

A. 1800-1825
B. 1826-1850
C. 1851-1875
D. 1876-1900
E. 1901-1925

Only 61 percent of all college students taking the test knew the correct answer.

The average correct score on the multiple-choice test for minority group seniors was 48.2 percent. This was just eight tenths of a point higher than the average score earned by minority freshmen. Therefore, it appears that minority students are not increasing their knowledge of American history during their college years.

White students didn’t do much better. The average correct score for all senior students on the test was 54.2 percent. This is a failing grade. For students of all races, the average senior score was less than four percentage points higher than the average score for freshmen.

At none of the 50 colleges surveyed — including those in the Ivy League — was the average score better than a letter grade of C.