Phi Beta Cons

College Degrees and Active Civic Engagement

“How will reading The Federalist Papers help me get a job?”

That question floats through the minds of many students when they are assigned something that they think is inapplicable to their daily lives. One of the consequences of the credentialization of higher education is the decreasing civic knowledge and historical perspectives of college students — I’ve unfortunately met some who think Mao Tse-Tung is a 7’6” center for the Houston Rockets.

Consequently, on the heels of Academically Adrift, there is now empirical evidence to support this troublesome phenomenon. 

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute just released Enlightened Citizenship: How Civic Knowledge Trumps a College Degree in Promoting Active Civic Engagement, which shows that college has zero positive influence in encouraging graduates to become politically engaged — although many universities promote that in mission statements.

The main findings from the report include:

  • College fails to promote high levels of civic knowledge, with holding a bachelor’s degree exerting zero influence on graduates’ “active” civic engagement.

  • Gaining greater civic knowledge trumps college as the leading factor in encouraging active civic engagement (i.e. more than simply voting).

  • Civic self-education and frequent religious attendance increase active citizenship while video-game playing detracts from it.

The full findings of the report are available at You may want to bring a stress ball with you.

Most Popular

White House

The Trivialization of Impeachment

We have a serious governance problem. Our system is based on separation of powers, because liberty depends on preventing any component of the state from accumulating too much authority -- that’s how tyrants are born. For the system to work, the components have to be able to check each other: The federal and ... Read More

‘Texodus’ Bodes Badly for Republicans

‘I am a classically trained engineer," says Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, "and I firmly believe in regression to the mean." Applying a concept from statistics to the randomness of today's politics is problematic. In any case, Hurd, 42, is not waiting for the regression of our politics from the ... Read More

In Defense of Tulsi

Some years ago, a liberal-minded friend of mine complained during lunch that Fox News was “stealing” his elderly parents. “They should be enjoying retirement,” he said, noting that they live in a modest but comfortable style with attentive children and grandchildren to enjoy. “But instead,” he sighed, ... Read More

Not Less Religion, Just Different Religion

The Pew Poll tells us that society is secularizing -- particularly among the young -- and who can deny it? That is one reason that the free expression of religion is under such intense pressure in the West. But it seems to me that we aren't really becoming less religious. Rather, many are merely changing that ... Read More