Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, November 24, 2008

Are You Smarter Than Your Congressman?

Ready to test yourself? Go ahead and answer these True-False questions:

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by George Washington during the Revolutionary War;

The Electoral College is part of the Ivy League;

Asia is west of Africa and three other countries.

If you answered “True” to all of the above questions and now you’re all worried that you’re too dimwitted to get a job anywhere — cheer up. You can always run for public office.

When it comes to ignorance of American history, government and economics, our elected officials are even worse off than the rest of us.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has compiled 33 questions for their exam. The average score was a dismal 49% correct. Elected officials averaged an even more pathetic 44%. Anybody in charge here?

Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI, said: “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. How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?”

About 2,500 people were randomly selected to take this test. One of the questions was: “name two countries that were our enemies during World War II.” 69% correctly identified Germany and Japan. Incorrect answers included Canada, Mexico and England.

20% thought the Electoral College was established to “supervise the first televised presidential debates.”

Activities that improve civic knowledge include discussing issues, taking part in civic activities and reading about history and current events.

Civic knowledge is dulled by talking on the phone, and by watching TV shows and movies — even if you’re watching a news program or documentary.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

Labels: ,


Anonymous Kvatch said...

Took that test a couple of days ago after seeing it mentioned on another blog: 30 of 33, 91%.

Guess that means I'm qualified to run for Congress. Though I have it on good authority from many of my friends that, should I ever be elected to public office, they will immediately emigrate.

November 24, 2008 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Great score. I'd be afraid to take that test. I might turn out to be one of those dunces I was making fun of.

November 24, 2008 at 9:25 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Kvatch, you have to tell them what sort of "bacon" you plan to bring home to the district — and make it worth sticking around for. Ahem.

If you have the link, I'd be interested in taking that test.

November 24, 2008 at 11:13 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

I've long marveled at the seemingly basic things people either never learned or have forgotten. Public quizzes regarding the Bill of Rights and the Constitution never cease to amaze and scare the hell out of me.

If you want to have some fun when gathering with friends or family, pass out half sheets of paper and challenge everyone to write down the names of as many states as they can. You might be surprised how few make it to 50.

If your friends and kin are sharper than average, you can raise the bar by printing some outline maps of the U.S. showing state boundaries. Pass those out and ask the folks to label the states. Extra points for adding state capital names.

If the folks are Mensa material, do the same thing with a Western Hemisphere map, or map of Europe and Scandinavia.

Then, there's the ever challenging presidents quiz, as in how many can you name — and how close can you come to getting them in order?

November 24, 2008 at 11:34 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Putting on my Andy Rooney persona here: Mr. Bunting stepped on my pet-peeve switch by referring to "general public."

Whenever I see or hear that, I have to ask, "As distinguished from what, a private public? Maybe a limited public?" Either way, it's a wordy contradiction of terms. Why can't people just say "public," without the illogical qualifier?

November 24, 2008 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: Geography is one thing I've always been really good at, for whatever reason. Like the saying goes, that and $4 will get me a cappuccino at Starbucks.

It's those other piddly subjects that sink me every time.

November 25, 2008 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Well I know where Asia is and I know who were the enemies of the US, can't believe people still consider Canada as an enemy! haha
as for the Pledge of Allegiance it wasn't written by G Washington, some oter Church guy as I remember when my mom was studying for the citizenship exam

November 25, 2008 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Ali: During the 1988 presidential campaign, candidate George Bush (Sr.) tried to make a campaign issue out of the Pledge of Allegiance by saying "our founding fathers would be turning in their graves if..."

It had to do with his opponent, Michael Dukakis, having vetoed a law requiring the Pledge of Allegiance when he was governor of Massachusetts. Somebody had to tell Bush that the Pledge of Allegiance wasn't written until the early 1900s, and didn't become required until a long time after that.

Just one of many examples of how ignorant so many Americans are (including their leaders) of their own history.

November 25, 2008 at 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Kvatch said...

All... Here's the link to the ISI Civics Quiz.

November 25, 2008 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Uh oh, er, I mean Thanks. I'll probably end up taking it. If I get a shitty score, it'll mean I have a bright future in politics.

November 25, 2008 at 1:02 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Kvatch, thanks for the link.

November 25, 2008 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

I got 28 out of 33, 84.85%. I guess I couldn't figure out what free markets have to do with civics.

November 25, 2008 at 2:42 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

OK, I took that test. It's fun and interesting, although I think a couple of the questions are a bit misleading.

You answered 31 out of 33 correctly — 93.94 %

Average score for this quiz during November: 78.1%
Average score: 78.1%

One of the two I got wrong I initially got right. I foolishly went back and changed my answer.

The November average score isn't quite as low as I thought it might be. That's encouraging.

November 25, 2008 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew, SW: Great scores. Of course that means neither one of you have any future in politics.

November 25, 2008 at 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

It's easy to control a people who have no sense of their own history.

Tom, I'll take the quiz if you will :)

November 25, 2008 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bee: You're right, the Powers That Be would much rather have us ignorant and uninformed.

I'll probably take that quiz, just out of curiosity. But I've never been good at taking tests (I know, that's what they all say).

November 25, 2008 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Enemy of the Republic said...

This isn't related to your post, but Ali sent this to me. He wanted you to have it. I will blog on Gaza soon, but I'm sick with flu right now.

Check this link http://www.welfareassociation.org.uk/
I guess you and Tom can donate online to this organization. Please share it with Tom

November 26, 2008 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger MRMacrum said...

I will admit to often making a mistake regarding civics. One I just made was particularily embarrassing in that I did it on a conservative blog I love to hate. It matters not that the mistake was really about splitting hairs, it was a mistake nonetheless.

That said, I do have a fairly decent base of knowledge to work from. I used to assume my chosen leaders did also. Matter of fact I expected them to be better versed than I. Sadly, as your post points up, this is not the case. And it seems that of the ones who really are not schooled well are the "stars". The pols who hog the spotlight because they look good, whine good, or accuse good. That we choose to use superficial criteria to pick our leadership bothers me the most I guess.

November 26, 2008 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Enemy: Thanks. I'll check out the link.

MRMacrum: That's the thing; we expect our leaders to be more knowledgeable than we are. It's like a group of assembly-line workers finding out that they know more about business and marketing than their CEO; or students knowing more about a subject than their teacher. It's totally backwards.

Like you said, it's partly because Americans are so focused on looks and charm and soundbites. The actual issues kind of fall off the radar.

November 26, 2008 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger libhom said...

I took the quiz, and one of the answers was incorrect. They said that increased international trade increases productivity instead of lowering standards of living.

International trade creates inefficiencies by having goods transported over enormous distances. It also stifles technological advances by getting rid of the trade barriers that protect new industries.

International trade increases certainly have diminished the standard of living here in the US. NAFTA and the WTO have proven that.

November 26, 2008 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Libhom: Yup, I remember that question. A few of their economic questions seemed based on opinion instead of fact. Economics isn't an exact science. If there were concrete "right" and "wrong" answers, every country would be using the "right" economic system.

November 26, 2008 at 3:32 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

The economic questions seemed to have been sent over by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or CATO Institute.

libhom, what they were working off of in composing that question was the now somewhat quaint notion about comparative advantage.

Your contention about inefficiencies caused by long-distance shipping will come true if fuel prices bound upward again and stay there. As it is, those inefficiencies are more than offset by incredibly cheap labor and land costs in places like China, by the increased efficiencies of advanced communications and by just-in-time shipping and stocking of goods.

I would say our trade regime has retarded broadened improvement in economic security and peace of mind more than it has degraded the standard of living.

A benefit of trade is that people of very modest means can buy tools, appliances, electronic gadgets, clothes, shoes, etc., for incredibly reasonable prices. That's actually an improvement in their standard of living.

The problem is that when they go to rent or buy a place to live, see a doctor or dentist, get their vehicle repaired, hire a lawyer, pay for a funeral and burial or send a kid to college, they're suddenly hard up against high-living-standard prices.

Hold on, though. I expect the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese to come up with low-price alternatives for those things any time now.

November 26, 2008 at 9:52 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Tom, my lack of a future in politics is probably more a function of my absolute horror at the thought of having to spend endless hours schmoozing and grubbing for money. I don't know how they stand it.

November 26, 2008 at 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a 78%, Civics and Government were always my strong point but this test is more on economic then Civics.

We assume that at least all in congress are lawyers but in truth anyone can be elected as long as you are old enough and I'm sure we can entertain ourselves with examples.

They take like a several week cram course on civics but other then that it's up to the staff and the lobbyist.

However I am not going to run for Congress


November 26, 2008 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I got 25 0f 33 correct for 75.76%. Once I started noticing those questions about economics, I knew I wouldn't get much more than an average score. When I looked at the answers for questions I missed, my reaction was either pretty much "Oh, well duh!!" or it was as others have suggested... some of the economics questions' answers did seem more like a matter of opinion, more subjective than anything (so I will only PARTIALLY blame my general lack of understanding of economics on my low overall score). 8-)

I think 75.76% IS a low score. I was disappointed that I did not do better. I am even more disappointed that I did almost twice as well as the average score of elected officials who took the test.

November 27, 2008 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: I wouldn't doubt it, that some of those questions were "suggested" or influenced by the US Chamber of Commerce, or the American Enterprise Institute or some group like that.

I too would make a terrible politician. I'm not much of a socializer. I'd rather do the most menial job in the world than spend hours every day sucking up to groups of people.

Erik: I got 27 correct, out of 33. But to think that the "average" elected official missed more than half of those questions -- no wonder the country is in such sad shape.

I think you're right, they take a cram course on civics and then just rely on teleprompters and staff members for the right answers.

Paul Malden: I think you were commenting on this post, but your comment appeared several posts down (the one about John McCain and Jackson Browne), so I answered it there.

November 27, 2008 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: I had pretty much the same reactions to my wrong answers. Either "Duh! Of course!" or "says who?"

And I also agree: how can somebody who missed more than half of those questions be "representing" us and getting their salaries from our tax dollars?

November 27, 2008 at 12:40 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home