What’s Your Litmus Test?

August 20, 2007

Have you ever heard or seen one of those “man on the street” segments where they ask people questions like, “Who was the 16th president of the U.S.? Who won the Civil War? What country borders the U.S. to the north?”

There’s always some teacher or education major who says Korea won the Civil War or JFK was the 16th president. And we’re all appalled at their ignorance and the obvious failure of public schools.

I got to wondering what my litmus test of a good education would be. What two or three questions might I ask a recent graduate to determine if I think he or she got the education he should have?

My questions would not be so easily answered, I think. The first I would ask is “Explain your understanding of natural rights.” Maybe I would make it easier by asking, “Where do we get the right to freedom from?” (Or, if I was feeling schoolish, “From whence comes our right to freedom?”)

My second inquiry… “Please explain why some of our founders objected to a bill of rights being attached to the Constitution.”

And my third… “How did America become such a longed-for place by the oppressed so many years before compulsory state schooling?”

A fourth maybe… “Who is your favorite person from American history — and why?”

How about you? What would your litmus questions be?