"I do hope by the time their education is finished, that students will have looked at a lot of national issues very seriously and understand there are many complexities."
Many LDS students come to the school with no understanding that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allows abortion — after deep personal prayer and consultation with church leaders — but only in cases of rape, incest, severe deformity or concern for the life of the mother, she said.
"Evangelicals and Catholics don't allow it for any reason, but the LDS Church does allow it, and they are beat up for that. … That's what many protesters at LDS General Conference are there for."
Englehardt referenced the current production of "Twelve Angry Men," at Pioneer Memorial Theater as a laudable example of "how critical thinking can change absolutism," when the actors who are initially ready to convict a man quickly end up acquitting him based on a lengthy discussion from different perspectives.
She said that kind of broad discussion is healthy in a democratic society and is encouraged at UVU. "I'm proud of these students. Those who are very conservative are given every bit as much respect as students in the middle and students who are liberal in their thinking. I think they feel very safe expressing their views in classroom discussions."
Mero agreed a variety of perspectives are healthy in a free society, but the "ignorance of government functions" among young people in particular is troubling. "I'm not sure they're learning or even care about it. … Younger folks seem to have a harder time understanding how this works in a free society. They're more selfish and they don't think about the hard work a free society takes."
Because many students don't have an understanding of American history or democratic principles, "when we're dealing with citizens one-on-one (in regular civics seminars) it's a different experience than junior citizens sitting in college class, isolated and subjected to the ideological whims of the professor and held captive through grading systems as to what they're supposed to believe or not," he said.
From his reading, the report examines "who is really literate: college professors and college kids, or those who make education a lifelong learning experience and who are actually participating civically in their own communities."
The report can be found online at www.americancivicliteracy.org.