Take the quiz below.
This is a Civics Quiz sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI - not to be confused with Pakistan's Intelligence Agency).
This link is an article by Kathleen Parker reporting on the results of the quiz, and offering some great insight on possible remedies and what might happen in the future if our citizens are not properly educated with regard to Civics. It is probably best to take the quiz first and read the op-ed after, as Ms. Parker gives some answers away in the piece.
In the interest of self-disclosure, I took the quiz and got an 81. This made me unhappy, as I felt like I should have gotten 100%.
Below is the breakdown on the scores, which is very BLEAK.
One of the more frightening aspects is the gap between citizenry and "elected officials" (in the link it states that: "Of the 2,508 People surveyed, 164 say they have held an elected government office at least once in their life.")
The bullet points at the bottom of this link should make every American a little queasy (for example: "Seventy-nine percent of those who have been elected to government office do not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the U.S.")
In her piece, Ms. Parker speculates as to what's responsible for the "dumbing down" of America.
"The ISI found that passive activities, such as watching television (including TV news) and talking on the phone, diminish civic literacy."
Passive activities could also include listening to talk radio.......
Ms. Parker then reports:
"Actively pursuing information through print media and participating in high-level conversations -- even, potentially, blogging -- makes one smarter."
I certainly believe that "actively pursuing" information, and participating in high-level conversations makes one smarter. I do not support the idea that blogging necessarily makes one smarter, given some of the blogs I have seen out there (hopefully not this one :-)). Some blogs I've read have been light on facts and comprehensive thought, and heavy on tin-foil hat conspiracy speculations.
The op-ed then reports:
"Civics courses, once a staple of junior and high school education, are no longer considered important in our quantitative, leave-no-child-behind world."
Not to mention that a lot of states are teaching to a "Standards of Learning" test, which focuses on memorization of "factoids" more than comprehensive, deep knowledge of subjects.
So, how are our colleges doing? After all, that is generally the standard in the business world to define if one is "educated" enough for employment (whereas in years past it was having a high school diploma):
"And college adds little civic knowledge, the ISI study found. The average grade for those holding a bachelor's degree was just 57 percent -- only 13 points higher than the average score of those with only a high school diploma."
Ms. Parker offers some recommendations, which I heartily agree with:
"The ISI insists that higher-education reforms aimed at civic literacy are urgently needed. Who could argue otherwise? But historian Rick Shenkman, author of "Just How Stupid Are We?" thinks reform needs to start in high school. His strategy is both poetic (to certain ears) and pragmatic: Require students to read newspapers, and give college freshmen weekly quizzes on current events."
She (Parker) also offers some frightening conclusions if we do not have an educated citizenry:
"Both Shenkman and the ISI pose a bedeviling question, as crucial as any to the nation's health: Who will govern a free nation if no one understands the mechanics and instruments of that freedom?
Answer: Maybe one day, a demagogue."
Thank goodness we're not there. Yet.