Monday, November 24, 2008

Civics Quiz

I'm not surprised by the results of this quiz--the average score is 49%. On a personal note, the good news for me is that my score of 87% beat the college educators' average score of 55%. That bodes well for my homeschooled kids, don't you think? I know my shit...pardon my French--I mean, pardon my freedom language.

I also scored better than all of these people:

Americans Fail the Test of Civic Literacy

If there is any presidential speech that has captured a place in popular culture, it is the Gettysburg Address, seemingly recited by school children for decades. The truth is, however, Lincoln’s most memorable words are now remembered by very few.

Of the 2,508 Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test, 71% fail. Nationwide, the average score on the test is only 49%. The vast majority cannot recognize the language of Lincoln’s famous speech.

The test contains 33 questions designed to measure knowledge of America’s founding principles, political history, international relations, and market economy.

While the questions vary in difficulty, most test basic knowledge. Six are borrowed from U.S. government naturalization exams that test knowledge expected of all new American citizens. Nine are taken from the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that the U.S. Department of Education uses to assess high school seniors. Three are drawn from an “American History 101” exam posted online by Two were developed especially for this survey and the rest were drawn from ISI’s previous civic literacy tests.

The results reveal that Americans are alarmingly uninformed about our Constitution, the basic functions of our government, the key texts of our national history, and economic principles.

  • Less than half can name all three branches of the government.
  • Only 21% know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
  • Although Congress has voted twice in the last eight years to approve foreign wars, only 53% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly believe it belongs to the president.
  • Only 55% know that Congress shares authority over U.S. foreign policy with the president. Almost a quarter incorrectly believe Congress shares this power with the United Nations.
  • Only 27% know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.
  • Less than one in five know that the phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson. Almost half incorrectly believe it can be found in the Constitution.

Americans from all age groups, income brackets, and political ideologies fail the test of civic literacy.

  • Americans age 25 to 34 score an average of 46% on the exam; Americans age 65 and over score 46%.
  • Americans earning an annual income between $30,000 and $50,000 score an average of 46%; Americans earning over $100,000 score 55%.
  • Liberals score an average of 49%; conservatives score 48%.
  • Americans who go to church once a week score an average of 48%; Americans who never go to church score 50%.
The Average Nationwide Grade on the Civic Literacy Test is an “F”
Americans nationwide fail the civic literacy test, scoring an average of 49%, or an “F.” This table shows the average score achieved by various groups.
Overall average
Mean score for all surveyed 49%
Score by age
18 to 24 47
25 to 34 46
35 to 44 49
45 to 64 52
65+ 46
Score by Gender
Male 52
Female 45
Score by Race/Ethnicity
White 51
Black 40
Hispanic 38
Asian 42
Multiracial 49
Other 42
Score by Marital Status
Married 51
Single 48
Divorced or separated 47
Almost 40% of Americans falsely believe the president has the power to declare war.
Score by Parental Status
Has one child or more 48%
Has no children 50
Score by Income
Less then $30,000 40
$30,000 to $50,000 46
$50,000 to $75,000 51
$75,000 to $100,000 55
$100,000+ 55
Score by Party Identification
Democrat 45
Republican 52
Independent 52
Other 46
Score by Political ideology
Liberal 49
Moderate 51
Conservative 48
Score by Military Service
Active or reserve 51
Never served 48
Score by Church Attendance
More than once a week 48
Once a week 48
Once or twice a month 49
Seldom 51
Never 50

Widespread ignorance of our nation’s history and institutions is a worrisome sign for our nation’s future. As we shall see, today’s Americans share the conviction of the Founding Fathers that civic education is important—and they are right in this conviction. Respondents who score in the top third in civic literacy, the survey shows, are more likely than those who score poorly on the test to participate in the civic life of their communities and country.

I missed four problems.

Do you know some basic facts about America's government and our history? Test your knowledge and take the Civics Quiz.


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Laura said...

I'm gonna leave this post above, even though it's a spam ad, because this is exactly the kind of thing I've been railing about for almost a year.

On a blog dedicated to the idea of decreasing consumption, and finding what's really important in all of our lives, being a bit more grounded and connected to one another rather than things; and on a particular post where I'm showing the appalling lack of knowledge that many Americans possess about how we will be governed; it is the height of absurdity to have an ad from a "MoneyBonanza"...

Thank God I appreciate absurdities and I especially like irony.

DoulaMomma said...

pretty funny, Laura!

Shez said...

thanks for blogging this. I also got 4 wrong. Scary that I, an immigrant, scored better than most Americans.

Laura said...

Shez, the converted always score better!

grace said...

I was so scared to take this. I just knew I was going to embarrass myself.

But I only missed 2. :)

Mama bee said...

Embarrassed to say that I missed seven, most of which apply to economics. I'm not surprised, though, as I was telling my DP yesterday that I know *nothing* about economics. I wish I knew more, but right now I don't have the time or energy to learn it. I'll try to later.

Oh, and I do think it bodes quite well for your homeschooled kids that you did so well on that test. If only more kids had such knowledgeable educators. :-)

Laura said...

Hey Mama Bee. The four I missed were all of the economics ones too. Which, really, are not necessarily a part of civics.

Money stuff has always made my eyeballs, and those of my husband, roll up into our heads. Can't understand it; am bored to tears by it.

It's a good thing we aren't driven to get more and more of it. Enough is plenty for us...

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