WEST LAFAYETTE – Faculty members assembled in the Purdue Memorial Union’s North Ballroom for two hours Friday morning seemed willing to concede that Purdue President Mitch Daniels probably has a point about civics and Americans’ apparent lack of knowledge on the subject.
And it might be time, as Daniels pleaded with faculty leaders in January, to do … well, something about it. And do it by the fall 2019 semester.
But do what? And was this an actual crisis on campus that warranted a make-or-break test to walk the Elliott Hall of Music stage at commencement?
Those questions were still wide open to interpretation Friday, nearly two months after Daniels made his request of faculty leaders to help him come up with a graduation requirement that could prove that a Purdue diploma came with a guarantee of at least a minimum level of civics competence.
The only firm conclusion was that by mid-April, the faculty-driven University Senate could deliver Daniels the outline of a civics-oriented graduation requirement. Short of that, faculty promised to let the president ask for a straight up-or-down vote on his baseline assumption that students should at least be able to pass the same test given to newly naturalized citizens.
Daniels wasn’t there Friday for a town hall-style discussion, organized by Natalie Carroll, University Senate chairwoman. But he circled back on the subject a day earlier, in his monthly email to the Purdue community.
In it, Daniels reiterated his mounting concerns, built on assorted reports that paint a portrait of Americans who don’t have a basic understanding of American history, politics and current events. (One example he offered: “Just this year, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation found that a majority of people in every state except Vermont would fail the U.S. citizenship test, with the percentage earning an ‘A’ grade in the single digits for all 50 states.”)