Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ISI Finds That America and Its Elected Officials Fail Civics

The results are in and most of us failed.

The Interscholastic Studies Institute released a report on November 20, entitled
Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and
According to the report:

More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33question
test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an “F.” Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an “A.” Even more startling is the fact that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

This is astonishing. Even among those with Bachelor's degrees from colleges, the score is only slightly higher at 57%. That still fails. ISI blames colleges for not adequately teaching the foundations of our political and economic system. According to the study, those who talk frequently about politics have a better grasp of the system regardless of their level of education.

Bachelor's degree holders specifically have a poor understanding of such basic institutions as the presidency and the electoral college. They also do not grasp the essentials of capitalism.

Although colleges certainly are to blame, high schools have to realize they failed as well. I learned more in two economics classes in high school than I did in college. We not only heard about supply and demand, but were obliged to demonstrate a complete understanding of it. My did that teacher love supply and demand curves! They were tedious then, but I am thankful now. Too many teachers abandoned the seemingly tedious to be more entertaining. Another teacher taught civics with the same kind of thoroughness. Both were Republicans although you never heard them say so in class. They believed in teaching ideas, but keeping politics out, something I respect.

Will this study have any impact? Hard to tell since ISI is a free market think tank. It is clear that America is losing its sense of itself and its grounding in the past.

You can take the quiz for yourself at:

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