How well can you do on this civics quiz?

Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism wrote an entry about a recent poll by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute that caught my eye:

A recent poll by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute found, as many previous surveys have found, that Americans’ knowledge of political and historical facts about our country is abysmal. But this one added a twist – it surveyed elected officials as well as ordinary citizens, and found that their knowledge of the same facts was, if anything, even worse. (You can take the quiz yourself.)

This results of the poll don’t surprise me at all. One need only pay attention to some of the drive-by comments on SEB to see the truth of those results. Still I was curious how my civics knowledge ranked so I took the quiz to find out. Turns out I’m not bad:

You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

Average score for this quiz during December: 74.9%
Average score: 74.9%

Compare that with some of our elected officials:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – 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.

How indeed. I was surprised that none of the four questions I missed had anything to do with economics, which is a subject I admit I don’t have a lot of background in. I missed questions #4, 7, 14, and 18 and in three of those cases I had initially picked the right answer, but went back and changed it before submitting due to self-doubt. Still, my score was just shy of double the elected official’s score so I can’t be too upset about it.

Ebonmuse goes on to talk about how this is an effect of the continuing assault on intellectualism and “anti-elitism” that the Republicans have been engaged in over the years. Here’s my favorite bits:

Anti-intellectualism is nothing new, of course. There’s always been a strong undercurrent of it in American society, one that dates back at least to the Scopes trial, and it’s not a surprise that belligerently anti-science regions of the country elect representatives who act in kind. That’s not new, but what is new is that our society – stretching the limits of what Earth’s resources will support – is increasingly dependent on science and technology, and increasingly beset with problems, such as global climate change, that only scientific understanding will give us a hope to comprehend or solve. As the stakes get higher, we can less and less afford to have irrationalism poisoning the public debate and swaying our policy choices. The risk is too great that it will lead us astray at a critical moment.

The problem of anti-intellectualism has no easy solution, particularly when so many people take pride in their ignorance rather than viewing it as something to be ashamed of. Improving public schools is necessary, but at best it treats a symptom rather than a cause. What we need more is a return to the attitude that being intelligent and educated is a good thing which people should aspire to.

It’s a good entry and you should go read it all. I’ve been saying something similar for years. Too many people wear their ignorance as as a badge of honor and think themselves clever for doing so. An uninformed populace is what got us eight years of President Dumbass because too many folks thought that a President they could “have a beer with” was capable of running the country and two wars in an effective manner. The recent election gives me hope that at least a small majority of folks out there can recognize when they’ve been burned by the hot stove and decide not to touch it again, but there are still too many people on the far right who are so caught up in their delusions and ignorance that they can’t even recognize what a shitty president Bush has been. He does, after all, still have 28% of the population that thinks he’s the best President ever.

Thomas Jefferson once said “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” And James Madison once said “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to Farce, or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” When the public decides ignorance is bliss we end up with things like the Bush Administration and the current economic crisis.

Smarten up, folks. Use that brain you believe God gave you for more than holding the roof of your head up.

27 thoughts on “How well can you do on this civics quiz?

  1. You answered 28 out of 33 correctly — 84.85 %

    Average score for this quiz during December: 74.9%
    Average score: 74.9%

    Not Bad for a Canadian Eh!?

  2. You answered 31 out of 33 correctly — 93.94 %

    Average score for this quiz during December: 74.9%
    Average score: 74.9%

    You can take the quiz as often as you like, however, your score will only count once toward the monthly average.

    Answers to Your Missed Questions:

    Question #25
    Question #31

  3. You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

    Average score for this quiz during December: 74.9%
    Average score: 74.9%

    Ha! I did double the US elected officials’ average.

    BTW, I find it amusing that ordinary citizens averaged 5% higher than the elected people. Something wrong with that picture.

  4. I’m crappy compared to you guys. 79.4%
    I feel ashamed…
    I’m not out of college yet though, is that an excuse?

  5. Well, I’m from Great Britain and I scored 23 out of 33, that’s 69.3%, still higher than the US average.

  6. You answered 27 out of 33 correctly — 81.82 %

    I am ashamed! I usually do much better on this sort of thing! Hmmm…must go share this with my readers…Bwah-hah-hah-hah!

  7. You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

    I must have misunderstood the question regarding Japan and Germany.  I am not aware of Plato’s teachings.

  8. You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %

    I was going to do the Superior Dance, until I saw NeonCat’s results. (Bah, stupid FDR/Supreme Court question.)

    Still, I deserve a nummy treat!

  9. I got 30 out of 33.  I SHOULD have got 31, but i went stoopid on one question.

    We need to be the folks in office as opposed to the current gaggle of goons.

  10. I got 31 out of 33. Not to shabby for an Alabama redneck with just a high school ejamakushun. Maybe I should run for congress. My representative, Robert Aderholt, is a dick that doesn’t believe in separation of church and state. I would like to see how he would do on this quiz.

  11. You answered 27 out of 33 correctly — 81.82 %

    Average score for this quiz during December: 74.8%
    Average score: 74.8%

  12. You answered 20 out of 33 correctly — 60.61 %

    I might be the lowest here but I’m still above the national average. Woohoo!! How in the hell you guys score so high? No cheating right???? Just kidding.

  13. You answered 31 out of 33 correctly — 93.94 %

    Average score for this quiz during December: 74.8%
    Average score: 74.8%

    Answers to Your Missed Questions:
    Question #7 – D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #10 – C. Religion

    Not too bad for 4 hours sleep!

    Gratz on 80!

  14. I might be the lowest here but I’m still above the national average. Woohoo!! How in the hell you guys score so high? No cheating right???? Just kidding.

    Xav, it’s called being a bored geek in school and reading random bits of Encyclopedias when the teachers finally gave up trying to prove they knew more than I did (math, grammer and spelling excepted). =P

  15. Well, in the vein of “it would be good if our officials knew what they were doing”, read the below from a yahoo article and feel a bit better:

    Chu (Obama’s future energy secretary) was one of three scientists who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997 for work in cooling and trapping atoms with laser light. He’s a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.

    It is the oldest of the Energy Department’s national laboratories, doing only unclassified work, and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies.

    Jackson, who will be the first black person to lead the EPA, is a former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner who worked at the federal agency for 16 years, including under Browner when she was Clinton’s EPA chief. Jackson is a co-chairman of Obama’s EPA transition team, and currently serves as chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

    A New Orleans native, she grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area stricken by Hurricane Katrina. She holds chemical engineering degrees from Tulane University and Princeton University.

    What the fuck? An energy secretary who has position-relevant experience in management AND science? Who actually is interested in alternative fuels beyond just using them as cheap campaign talk?

    An EPA leader who can actually tell you the difference between an ion and a molecule?

    Flabbergasting after 8 years of Bush, I know.

  16. I got 26 out of 33 correct… 78.79 %

    Looking at the ones I missed there were a few of those that I almost answered correctly and then hedged on. Oh well… better than the average I guess.

  17. You answered 27 out of 33 correctly — 81.82 %

    Average score for this quiz during December: 74.8%
    Average score: 74.8%

    For a non American (Jock .. Scottish) I thought that was not too bad.

  18. I scored 96.97% missing #33 by misreading the answers.  Still, some of these questions seemed kinda subjective.  Overall, not bad for a high school graduate from Tennessee making less than $24999 per year.

  19. Wow!  I’m impressed with the scores from you guys.  Personally, I also absconded with a 100%.  What did the other guy say?  Woo-hoo!  smile

  20. I got them all correct.  Should i run for office?

    Initial reaction would be yes, but considering (some of) the company you would have to keep once elected then probably no!

  21. Hey Les, I call shenanigans.  I emailed you about this article back on the Nov 21st.  But no hard feelings.

    I think when I took the quiz I got over 30 correct, guess I’ll need to retake it.

  22. My apologies Chief. Checking my email I see you did indeed drop me a note about it and I managed to somehow be completely oblivious to that fact. All I can say is that I get a lot of email and I’m ADD. Not good excuses, but hopefully that won’t stop you from sending along links like this in the future.

  23. No worries Les, I’d figure you get tons of email daily so I figured that’s what was up.  Keep up the excellent work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.