Here's a shock: Almost half of Americans cannot name a single right protected by the First Amendment.
The findings come from the Freedom Forum annual State of the First Amendment report, which was based on a survey of more than 1,000 adults.
Here are some of the less-than-encouraging findings:
40 percent could not name a single freedom protected by the First Amendment.
36 percent could name one freedom.
12 percent could name two freedoms.
8 percent could name three freedoms.
3 percent could name four freedoms.
And just one person — out of 1,000 people surveyed! — could name all five rights:
—Freedom of the press
—Freedom of religion
—The right to petition the government to redress grievances
—The right of peaceful assembly
—Freedom of speech
Of those who could name a single freedom, most named "freedom of speech."
But 9 percent incorrectly named the right to bear arms, which is the Second Amendment.
This underscores the need to do a better job of teaching civics and promoting civic education in public schools; it's now required by law in Florida, but not in every state.
Myths and Fake News
Social media has increased the spread of news and information, but it also has turbocharged the spread of conspiracy theories.
Too often, they're more interesting than actual facts.
Connecticut teacher Chris Doyle recently wrote in Education Week that too many students are unable to distinguish truth from fiction.
Doyle noted that some students have asked him whether 9/11 was an inside job; others wondered whether the Newtown school shooting was a hoax.
"Despite my efforts to set the record straight," Doyle wrote, "my students seem primed to believe anything or nothing may be true."
Added Doyle: "A post-truth mentality is the toughest problem I've encountered as a teacher because it portends the end of history, serious thought and democracy."
It should be noted that sober objectivity was not exactly common during the founding of our country: There were plenty of untrue rumors about the Founding Fathers, yet they still supported a free press in America.
The alternative — a press controlled by the government — is the first step down the road to tyranny.
Waste in Government
There probably is no more valuable an asset in government than the various offices of inspector general.
There is a great deal of waste that needs to be exposed and eliminated. A full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal by OpenTheBooks.com revealed some examples of wasteful spending.
$1.2 trillion for mistakes and improper payments by 20 federal agencies.
$22.6 billion for the 43 days off that the average federal employee receives.
$4.3 billion to finance the federal government's public relations work.
Trump and the Likeability Factor
The Wall Street Journal does not endorse presidential candidates, so it's interesting to read its opinion section to size up how it regards President Donald Trump.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board praised Trump's judicial picks, his tax cuts and his foreign policies — but it has blasted his "chaotic" governing style and what it sees as a willingness to fawn over dictators.
"The tragedy of this presidency," the board wrote, "is that his rants and insults — even toward people who work for him — threaten to overwhelm his policy achievements."
It's telling that the board's mixed views about Trump mirror many polling stats on the president.
Broadly speaking, polls have regularly found that about 20 percent of voters like Trump's policies but dislike him personally; that's about five times the rate for former President George W. Bush, who served two terms.
Can a president with such a high "like his polices — but not him personally" percentage win re-election, particularly when his first victory was so close?
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD