Thursday, January 08, 2009


Flunking At Being American

For the Americans out there ... the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has a Civics Literacy Test to see how well you know America's founding principles, political history, international relations, and market economy. As with most such tests, the results are depressing:

~ Less than half can name all three branches of the government.
~ Only 21% know where the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" comes from.
~ Although we have engaged in two wars in the last eight years, only 53% know who has the power to declare war under our system.
~ Only 55% know who has authority over U.S. foreign policy.
~ Only 27% know the source of the prohibition against establishing an official religion for the United States.
~ Less than one in five know the source of the phrase "a wall of separation" between church and state.

It's not that the questions should be that hard:

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.

Civic illiteracy cuts across political lines, being basically the same among liberals, conservatives and moderates. But people who state that they have held elected political positions score worse than the already dismal averages. And we wonder why our rights seem to be continuously eroding.

My score? "You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %."

The question I missed was:

11) What impact did the Anti-Federalists have on the United States Constitution?

Actually, I had the correct answer but managed to click the wrong button. (You don't think I'd be reporting on this if I did badly, do you?)

While I said this was for Americans, I would be interested to know how non-US citizens score on the test. I have the sinking feeling that many would outscore our own citizens.

Larry has joined in eliciting test takers as well.

90.91% for this Canadian (missed 8, 27 and 29). I mostly credit a decade of kibbitzing by way of t.o, Ed Brayton, you, etc.
31. I knew I did not understand what there were asking about international trade. Oh well.
90.91% - I messed up two economic questions (that wouldn't surprise my husband a bit) and one other historical one.
I guess for a Canadian who has never taken an American history course my score of 93.94% is okay. I misunderstood a taxation question and I haven't memorized the Gettysburg address.
84.85% for this Brit. I'll need to brush up my knowledge a bit before taking the naturalization exam.
Gottem all. I wasn't sure about a couple. And Eamon is right, my score was hlped by reading the great blogs by Ed Brayton, P Z, and the t.o. site. And "catshark" as well.

Bob Carroll
Dave S. said...

90.91% for this Canadian as well. Missed a few of the economics questions.
Alright ... you Canadians are just going to have to be assimilated into the USA collective and raise our aggregate IQ by several points.
I missed three questions as well.
28/33 (85%) for this Brit. Not bad considering...
Got them all, but the fiscal/economic questions seemed to come right out of the Republican handbook. I only got them right because I knew what answer they were looking for, not which answer was right.
69,7 % for a German and two Islanders with 15% ahead. What a shame for our educational system....:-)
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