Saturday, 22 November 2008

What do the results of the American civic knowledge test say about society?

It says something about the power of the United States' impact on Western culture that an Australian blogger sitting thousands of miles away can take the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's American civic knowledge test and score 90.9% (30/33) against the average score of 77.5%.

Things like the Scopes Trial and Roe v Wade are probably well known to everybody that has had the good fortune to avoid a modern education.

Most people would know that the president is also Commander In Chief of the United States military.

However, it seems that there is a lack of knowledge of key areas of American history among those who really should possess that knowledge to help inform their decision making.
US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

"How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.

The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.

Among the questions asked of some 2,500 people who were randomly selected to take the test, including "self-identified elected officials," was one which asked respondents to "name two countries that were our enemies during World War II."

Sixty-nine percent of respondents correctly identified Germany and Japan. Among the incorrect answers were Britain, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Spain.

Forty percent of respondents, meanwhile, incorrectly believed that the US president has the power to declare war, while 54 percent correctly answered that that power rests with Congress.

Asked about the electoral college, 20 percent of elected officials incorrectly said it was established to "supervise the first televised presidential debates."

In fact, the system of choosing the US president via an indirect electoral college vote dates back some 220 years, to the US Constitution.

The question that received the fewest correct responses, just 16 percent, tested respondents' basic understanding of economic principles, asking why "free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government's centralized planning?"

Activities that dull Americans' civic knowledge include talking on the phone and watching movies or television -- even news shows and documentaries, ISI said.

Meanwhile, civic knowledge is enhanced by discussing public affairs, taking part in civic activities and reading about current events and history, the group said.
One wonders what the breakdown of knowledge is by demographic.

Younger people (less than 30), it seems certain, would score poorly on this test.

Would there be a difference between Democratic and Republican voters?

I suspect there would.

Anyway, take
the test for yourself and see how you go.

Oh, what three questions did I get wrong?

4-What was the main issue in the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858?

I knew it was about slavery but picked the wrong answer.

7-What was the source of the following phrase: “Government of the people, for the people, by the people”?

How I got this one wrong is beyond me...

8-In 1935 and 1936 the Supreme Court declared that important parts of the New Deal were unconstitutional. President Roosevelt responded by threatening to:

It was quite unfortunate that Roosevelt managed to overcome the Supreme Court's ruling, which continued America's poor economic recovery post the depression. I picked the wrong option.

Would the same result be reflected in Australia, Canada or the United Kingdom?

Probably.

There is a debate happening in Australia at present regarding the citizenship test that immigrants must pass in order to become Australians.

I'd make it as hard as this civic knowledge test, myself, but with the cultural equalitists now running the show that seems an unlikely outcome.

(Nothing Follows)

8 comments:

Blue said...

You suspect a difference in score between Democrats and Republicans? Who do you think did better? You sound like a pretty serious conservative. In the United States, conservatives are usually Republicans-and most Republicans celebrate ignorance and revile knowledge and intellectualism.

Jack Lacton said...

Blue,

I think that you would need to justify your last sentence.

Conservatives may well rail against intellectualism (as an '-ism') being more important than values and standards but there's no argument about the importance of science, research and knowledge from we on the right.

By way of refutation you may point to the anti-evolution lunatics at places like the Discovery Institute. While the majority vote Republican (and remember that this group helped elect Jimmy Carter) they do not represent the vast majority of clear thinking conservatives in the same way that those on the extreme left (your typical DailyKos, HuffPo commenter) represent the normal Democrat.

neko said...

"...most Republicans celebrate ignorance and revile knowledge and intellectualism."

No, Blue. No, we don't. We just don't like condescending hypocrits who stand on a soapbox to tell us how much better than us they are, how much smarter than us they are, and that because of this, they are much better qualified to run our lives than we are.

Blue said...

Well, Neko,

We don't exactly appreciate condescension from you people telling us how much better you "red" people are because you think you have a monopoly on patriotism and values, or because you live in a small town. As if democrats don't love their countries or their families. If we deign to disagree with you it is suggested we are unamerican. MOST of you are shameful. The ones that aren't-Will, Parker, Brooks, etc. all basically came out against the Republican ticket this year. These intellectuals are a small minority in your party and are shouted down when they dare to disagree.

Blue said...

Jack,

For evidence, I submit to you every interview Sarah Palin has ever done. I submit the debate in which she said she might not answer the questions asked-and the overwhelming support from republicans when she gave this answer.

No argument about the importance of science, research, and knowledge from the right? Maybe in Australia, but not in the States. We have governors and federally-appointed administrators chronically advocating policy decisions that are contrary to the recommendations of their subordinates (i. e. the scientists and wonks with the advanced degrees). Look at Sarah Palin mocking valuable fruit fly research.

The largest segment of the republican party is evangelical Christians. That is the party. That's why Sarah Palin was so popular with them. They are the typical republican, they are anti-science, they are hateful, and generally they are nutjobs. The "republicans" who voted for Carter were independents and conservative democrats.

I would love to have legitimate political discussions/disagreements with republicans, but you generally
cannot, because they will quickly demonize you. The republicans were heartily rejected this fall, but so far, it appears they intend upon being unrepentant and confrontational. There are not yet resigned to being the permanent minority party that they are.

neko said...

Blue,

"We don't exactly appreciate condescension ... or because you live in a small town."

Condescension because they live in a small town? I live in the city. I regularly deal with numerous people from small towns. I have never had one of them look down on me because I live in a city. (They may think that the city is scary, but they don't look down on it.)


"As if democrats don't love their countries or their families."

I don't know of anyone who has ever accused a Democrat of not loving their family.


"If we deign to disagree with you it is suggested we are unamerican."

deign (\ˈdān\): to condescend with a strong sense of the affront to one's superiority

Maybe it's the way you are disagreeing with them.


"These intellectuals are a small minority in your party and are shouted down when they dare to disagree."

Like the way the Democrats treated Leiberman when he gave his support to McCain?

(I also can't help but notice that Democrats only seem to apply the term "intellectual" to people who agree with Democrats. Why is that?)


"I submit the debate in which she said she might not answer the questions asked..."

Actually, she said that she might not answer all the questions in the order they asked, not that she wouldn't answer them.


"The largest segment of the republican party is evangelical Christians."

I know that the majority of Evangelical Christians are Republicans, but that doesn't mean that the majority of Republicans are Evangelical Christians.


"I would love to have legitimate political discussions/disagreements with republicans, but you generally cannot, because they will quickly demonize you."

As opposed rational, open-minded way you have described Republicans in your comments? (Maybe it's the way deign when you disagree with them.)


"The republicans were heartily rejected this fall,"

52% of the voters chose Obama. I am sorry, but a little more than half choosing the other candidate is not a hearty rejection.


"There are not yet resigned to being the permanent minority party that they are."

2) We lost one election. Big deal. The Republicans need to lose once in awhile. They will be a stronger party for it.

We shall see how long the Democrats stay in power when people realise that "The Chosen One" can't walk on water nor turn water into welfare. When people don't get their free ride and his socialistic policies turn a recession into a depression, people will realise that the Hope is all hype and that the Change is a lie.

CBDenver said...

Kerplunk said "It was quite unfortunate that Roosevelt managed to overcome the Supreme Court's ruling, which continued America's poor economic recovery post the depression. I picked the wrong option."

Actually, FDR's plan to pack the court failed. The SCOTUS continues to have only nine justices to this day.

Just another Republican for historical accuracy. BTW, I scored 93.33% on the test.

sarah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Sarah

http://www.thetreadmillguide.com