11/26/2008

Dumb voters?

Kathleen Parker has this story at the Washington Post:

Out of 2,500 American quiz-takers, including college students, elected officials and other randomly selected citizens, nearly 1,800 flunked a 33-question test on basic civics. In fact, elected officials scored slightly lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent compared to 49 percent.

Only 0.8 percent of all test-takers scored an "A."

America's report card may come as little surprise to fans of Jay Leno's man-on-the-street interviews, which reveal that most people don't know diddly about doohickey. Still, it's disheartening in the wake of a populist-driven election celebrating joes-of-all-trades to be reminded that the voting public is dumber than ever.

The multiple-choice ISI quiz wouldn't deepen the creases in most brains, but the questions do require a basic knowledge of how the U.S.

government works. Think fast: In what document do the words "government of the people, by the people, for the people" appear? More than twice as many people (56 percent) knew that Paula Abdul was a judge on "American Idol"

than knew that those words come from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (21 percent).

In good news, more than 80 percent of college graduates gave correct answers about Susan B. Anthony, the identity of the commander in chief of the U.S. military, and the content of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

But don't pop the cork yet. Only 17 percent of college grads understood the difference between free markets and centralized planning.

Then again, we can't blame the children for what they haven't been taught. Civics courses, once a staple of junior and high school education, are no longer considered important in our quantitative, leave-no-child-behind world. And college adds little civic knowledge, the ISI study found. The average grade for those holding a bachelor's degree was just 57 percent -- only 13 points higher than the average score of those with only a high school diploma.

Most bracing: Only 27 percent of elected officeholders in the survey could identify a right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Forty-three percent didn't know what the Electoral College does. And 46 percent didn't know that the Constitution gives Congress power to declare war. . . .

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9 Comments:

Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

I myself took that test, and I scored 90.91% Not bad, but I too blew the question about "government of the people, by the people, for the people".

44% average score for elected officials, eh? Why am I not suprised by this...

Just in case anyone here wishes to attempt the test, here's the web site address;http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx


Good Luck!

11/26/2008 12:39 PM  
Blogger David said...

Here is a link to the quiz http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx.

It has a good mix of questions and I think is reasonably unbiased. I don't like the wording of some of the questions. Their definition of a public good is a little quirky for example.

11/26/2008 1:48 PM  
Blogger The Right Guy said...

I got a B+ and feel bad about that. Still, I probably did better than Chuck Grassley or Tom Harkin.

11/26/2008 10:09 PM  
Blogger LonĂ¡n said...

woo hoo! 94%, and the two I got wrong were history questions, not civics!

See, this is why our founding fathers originally set it up such that property owners were the sole voting population: they were the most likely to be sufficiently educated to vote intelligently.

11/27/2008 2:23 AM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

I must wonder why most folks do so poorly on this test. Could it be that our education system simply ignores the historical truth?

Everything that I know about civics, I pretty much found myself, and I can assure all here that what I learned in school, was not what I learned on my own.

Public Education did not show me much in the way of Civics. Especially in the way of the The Emancipation Proclamation to use that document as an example.

A wartime neccesity, and that is ignored by schools. A means by which to keep Europe out of the war. Why isn't that taught?

Many truths are ignored.

Why?

11/27/2008 10:13 AM  
Blogger The Right Guy said...

Martin:
Education is more concerned with self-esteem and feeling good such that they do not wish to confront facts. It's as if rationalism has been removed from the curriculum. On top of this, kids today have more distractions and never seem to develop a curiosity beyond what is popular or celebrity. If they do they are labeled nerd and shunned socially. May be I am cynical, but that is my quick and dirty observation. May be John has some insight.

11/27/2008 2:34 PM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

This is gonna sound crazy Right Guy, but I feel as if though the 'Baby Boomers' have something to do with this.

I may be wrong, but in my opinion, high birth rates usually translate into social upheaval, and radicalism. Hence our American Liberal problems in many an area. Education being one of those.

Perhaps Dr. Lott can weigh in on this, as you noted.

11/27/2008 7:37 PM  
Blogger William said...

As a junior attending a private liberal arts college, I can completly agree with the statements made in this article. High school is still very fresh in my mind and I have a younger brother still in hs. What truly amazed me is that my high school completely dropped all civics classes the year after I went through (graduated in 2006). Freshmen now start immediatly with what used to be the sophomore level American history class, then World history, followed by a Government and Economics class that roughly covers local, state, and national governemnt but completly ingnores much of the original foundation work of the US governemnt. So essentially students only have 1 semester of government studies in my high school, instead of the 3 that I had. Comforting to say the least...

12/02/2008 1:09 PM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

Could it be that the lack of knowledge in the area of American Civics contributes to abuses of the Constitution by our elected officials?

BHO says that the Constitution is a 'living breathing document', and is subject to modern interpretation.

Let us suppose for a moment that BHO is correct. We must do background checks on folks, obtain their fingerprints/DNA, or whatever we need to identify them. Folks must complete a costly, and lengthy training session that is approved by the Government, and pass a test afterwards before they can obtain a license to enjoy their right. We must also recertify these folks every two years to ensure that they are law abiding citizens so that we may protect society at large. After all, voting is a very dangerous right if it is not controlled and regulated heavily by the Government!

12/03/2008 10:47 AM  

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