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WASHINGTON — Only 41 percent of American teens can name the three branches of government, but 59 percent can name the Three Stooges.
And 74 percent can name the city where cartoon character Bart Simpson lives (Springfield), but only 12 percent know where Abraham Lincoln lived (Springfield, Ill.), the National Constitution Center reported last week. The group is building a museum in Philadelphia designed to make Americans more familiar with the Constitution.
There is some good news: Nearly 74 percent of the 600 13- to 17-year-olds polled know that Al Gore is vice president. But that's well below the 90 percent who know that Leonardo DiCaprio was the male star of the move "Titanic."
Too few Americans have even a basic working knowledge of their government, especially the Constitution, Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell told a Senate Appropriations Committee panel.
"I believe that building this museum and reversing this tide of ignorance is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy," said Mr. Rendell, who is chairman of the center. "The Constitution doesn't work by itself. It depends on active, informed citizens."
Groundbreaking for the "experiential" museum is scheduled for Sept. 17, 2000 - Constitution Day. Rendell is asking Congress to approve a $20 million contribution toward the museum this year, and the center hopes the government eventually will contribute half the $130 million cost.
The study precedes Constitution Week, Sept. 17 to 23, which will mark the 211th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.