Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Okay, Here's a Test has a decent civics test up on its site. Unfortunately, the public doesn't do so well:
ISI crafted a study to measure the independent impact of college on the acquisition and maintenance of civic literacy over a lifetime. First, a random sample of 2,508 American adults of all backgrounds was surveyed, allowing comparisons to be made between the college and non-college educated. They were asked 33 straightforward civics questions, many of which high school graduates and new citizens are expected to know. Respondents were also asked several questions concerning their participation in American civic life, their attitudes about perennial issues of American governance, and other behaviors that may or may not contribute to civic literacy. Finally, the results were run through multivariate regression analysis, allowing ISI to compare the civic impact of college with that of other societal factors.

Seventy-one percent of Americans fail the test, with an overall average score of 49%.

  • Liberals score 49%; conservatives score 48%. Republicans score 52%; Democrats score 45%.

  • Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government, a minimal requirement for understanding America’s constitutional system.

My score:

So what's yours?

Side note: some of this ain't civics, some of it is political theory. For example, they ask a question about what the government should do in a recession (raise or lower taxes, raise or lower spending). That's economics, and it's dependent upon the causes of the recession and which economic theory you espouse. So there's a bit of a bias.

Side note #2 - SPOILER ALERT, TAKE THE TEST BEFORE READING IF YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE IT AT ALL: D says questions are changing between when he took it (He got 100%. Toldja he's smarter than I am.) and when I took it, as bloggers are calling the site out on nuances. (Question #9 specifically had originally included "levy income taxes" as its "B" choice instead of "make zoning laws" and both are powers granted to the U.S. federal government by the Constitution. As the commenter I linked said: Perhaps they're making some distinction between the original Constitution and the current version as amended (the power to levy income taxes was granted by amendment), but Amendments are properly part of "the Constitution".tax question, and was wrong. So given some inherent bias in the questions, and the fact that the questions are evolving, it appears it is not exactly scientific. But it's subtle enough and it's a good enough idea to know this stuff that I endorse it.

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