Appearing on “Fox & Friends” with host Steve Doocy Thursday morning, Daily Wire Editor-at-Large Josh Hammer, who had written an op-ed calling for educating American students as young as second grade on American civics, noted the results of a survey that showed fewer Americans knew all three branches of the federal government than those who knew none of them, quipping, “It seems like Americans are about as confused and struggling with the branches of government as Bernie Sanders might be looking at a supply and demand curve from an economics 101 course.” He also decried the “mini-Robespierres” who come on college campuses to try to shut down free speech.
Doocy began by citing a recent survey showing only 32% of respondents knew all three branches of the federal government, and that even more so, 33%, could not name even one branch. He commented that it was scary that so few Americans knew governmental structure, and noted that Hammer had stated that children as young as second grade should be taught about the Constitution.
I think starting with identifying the scope and the depth of the problem is a pretty great place to start, and as you note, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, does this annual survey every Constitution Day, around September. And what they found just this past year is that 32% of Americans can name all three branches of the federal government, but an even higher percentage, 33%, cannot name a single branch of government.
Hammer lacerated Bernie Sanders:
Personally, Steve, I look at these numbers and it seems like Americans are about as confused and struggling with the branches of government as Bernie Sanders might be looking at a supply and demand curve from an economics 101 course. So, we need to start by identifying the scope of this problem and here is really, from a constitutional structure standpoint, why it’s so important.
He pointed out that those citing the Bill of Rights as the anchor of what made America great were missing what truly was the linchpin of American greatness: The separation of American branches of government, adding, “It is the separation powers of those three branches that secure liberty by diffusing power.” He quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had cogently noted that tinpot dictators have also had their own bill of rights. He stated:
Every Constitution Day I hear all sorts of paeans, people talking about the Bill of Rights and how the Bill of Rights is the anchor of all that we are great. And look, I love the First Amendment; I love freedom of speech, freedom of religion. I love the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. I even love the Third Amendment’s prohibition against quartering of soldiers in the homes, okay?
But what famously makes America great is actually not the Bill of Rights. Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative icon on the court for decades, was fond of saying how every tinpot dictator could have a Bill of Rights. And sure enough, the Stalinist constitution in the Soviet Union in 1936, purported to have a bill of rights. But as Scalia said, it’s actually structure that dictates destiny. And insofar as we’re not even naming the three branches of government, it is the separation powers of those three branches that secure liberty by diffusing power. It is our federalist system of dual spheres of sovereignty between the states and federal government that secure power. So we need to start by identifying this problem, talking about why constitutional structure is so important in contradistinction to the Bill of Rights.
Doocy noted that Hammer’s mother is a fourth grade teacher, and this education should start at the second grade level because by the time they get to high school, it’s too late.
Hammer replied, “It’s way too late. We have these mini-Robespierres who come on college campuses these days, they’re wreaking all sorts of havoc, they’re trying to shut down free speech. My boss at The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, faces this pretty much every time he speaks on a college campus.”
He concluded, “So this really is a problem and needs to start way, way earlier than that. I think second grade is totally appropriate.”
Doocy added, “And, of course, it’s a states’ rights issue; let’s see what the states do.”