The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (IGI) released results of a 118-question survey taken of 2,508 respondents, the purpose of which was to determine what the level of civic knowledge was among American adults. The respondents were selected to form a cross-section of American society and the results were shocking.
You can take a portion of the test (the 33-question subset dealing only with civic knowledge) and see how you stack up. I was dissatisfied with my 84.85% (a B by most collegiate standards), but took some solace in knowing that was only five incorrect answers and seven percentage points above average. Room for improvement, to be certain.
Post your own scores as comments to this post, anonymously if you must. I think a robust conversation about this survey and its implications is essential.
What this should show us is that we need to take a hard look in the mirror, be honest with ourselves and dedicate our nation to reviving an interest in being education. Talking about making education a national or local priority is not equivalent to challenging our schools to make curriculum adjustments to educate.
What is perhaps most disturbing is that the researchers did not find that any group (as an aggregate) did well. Ivy League educated, elected government officials, rich, poor, churched, unchurched, conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat... all were equally uninformed.
The summarized findings of the test were, as excerpted from the IGI site:
1) Americans Fail the Test of Civic Literacy
Of the 2,508 Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test, 71% fail. Nationwide, the average score on the test is only 49%. The vast majority cannot recognize the language of Lincoln’s famous speech.
2) American Agree: Colleges Should Teach America's Heritage
We believe this whether we are young or old, rich or poor, liberal or conservative. We believe this whether we are male or female; black, white, or Hispanic. We believe this whether we have served in the military or not, and whether we attend church regularly or seldom.
3) College Adds Little to Civic Knowledge
The average score on the American civic literacy exam for those who ended their formal education with a bachelor’s degree is 57%, or an “F.” That is only 13 percentage points higher than the average score earned by those who hold high school, but not college, diplomas.
4) Television--Including TV News--Dumbs America Down
The multiple-regression analysis indicated that a person’s test score drops in proportion to the time he or she spends using certain types of passive electronic media. Talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and even monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries diminishes a respondent’s civic literacy
5) What College Graduates Don't Know About America
Overall, the survey shows that bachelor’s-degree holders tend to know twentieth-century American history better than free-market economics and themes that pre-date the twentieth century, especially constitutional principles and the founding and Civil War eras.
The IGI is a non-profit, non-partisan group with a mission to "further in successive generations of American college youth a better understanding of the economic, political, and ethical values that sustain a free and humane society".