American Knowledge

We completed day 1 here at Houston Christian for the 2010-2011 academic year; I met with sections of American Studies, European History, and US Government & Politics. Today I have my other section of US Government & Politics. I will have them, as I did yesterday, complete a quiz that was conducted to see how much (or little) students know about the historical and political nature of the United States. I will admit that not all of the questions were great. Better yet, I am not sure all were relevant in that if you did not know something, it would hamper your academic or professional growth in life. Here is what was noted about this survey:

  • 71% of Americans failed the civics knowledge test;
  • 51% of Americans could not name the three branches of government;
  • The average score for college seniors on the civics knowledge test was 54.2% (an “F” by any standard);
  • The average student’s test score improved only 3.8 points from freshman to senior year;
  • Freshmen at Cornell, Yale, Princeton, and Duke scored better than seniors on the civics knowledge test.
  • 79% of elected officials that took the civics knowledge quiz did not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits the government from establishing a religion.
  • 30% of office holders did not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.
  • 27% of politicians could not name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.
  • 43% did not know the purpose of the Electoral College.
  • 39% of lawmakers believe the power of declaring war belongs to the president.
  • The average score for college professors who took the civics knowledge quiz was 55%.

You can find this particular quiz here.


9 thoughts on “American Knowledge

  1. I think this is just another sign of indoctrinating students to be too nationalistic. But, they should know the three branches. That is like 4th grade knowledge.

  2. that is appalling!!!!!!! haven’t taken the quiz yet myself. i DO wonder how i’d do??? there is so much i DON’T know!

    and just curious jason, what in the world is wrong with knowing what your government does/is/stands for??? do you think it’s wrong to respect the country in which you live? nothing is perfect but….

  3. I earned an 82% on this quiz. These are the questions I got wrong:

    Question #8 – C. appoint additional Supreme Court justices who shared his views
    Question #11 – A. their arguments helped lead to the adoption of the Bill of Rights
    Question #26 – C. revenue minus expenses
    Question #27 – A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends
    Question #29 – B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
    Question #31 – A. an increase in a nation’s productivity

    Not bad, I think…

  4. hey, not bad for someone who never finished college! i got an 82%! but i do think that a few of those questions might be just a tad bit subjective…. but then again, maybe i just need to learn a bit more about the subjects 🙂

  5. I got a 93.9% but I have to say that there were definitely tricky questions in that quiz.

    #4 struck me as a bit odd because without knowing the context behind the debate it would be really difficult to determine whether it was a moral or political argument.

    #7 was my favorite because I know there were scores of people who thought that this was a reference to the Declaration of Independence.

    #8 would have been hard if I had not taken the History of World War II even though this is not explicitly a problem pertaining to the events of the war.

    #13 had little to do with basic knowledge of our government unless you understand the impact that each of these political minds had on the founding fathers.

    #14 I’m really interested to hear about peoples views about the puritans (a.k.a. how many people got it wrong)

    #15 because this is so often quoted in original intent cases, I bet that this was one of the most often missed.

    #27 didn’t have an answer that I felt totally confident in (even though I got it right) because it neglected to mention how free markets let demand spur production where government dependencies rely on sanctioned quotas.

    #32 sadly I am pretty confident that most Americans don’t even know that there is something called the Federal Reserve in the United States.

    I would really like to hear the results of how well this year’s seniors fared.

  6. Most of the ones I got wrong had to do with the economy and how it works. I’m an ENGLISH teacher; math isn’t part of my functioning vocabulary, so economics is right out…

  7. Chili: I missed two of them. Can you believe I missed the Gettysburg Address one? Ouch! But think of how well you did?

    Patrick: That is a great score; I am not shocked, though.

    Harrell: But you are so smart.

  8. I missed three, which left me with a 90.91%. While I did fine, particularly for a woman who has not has a history or English class since high school, I found that some of the questions and answers choices were poorly, or at the least, strangely worded.

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