Americans fail basic test on history and institutions

If you took a test covering basic questions about American heritage and civics, how do you think you would do? Do you think college freshmen should be able to pass such a test?

You can take the test to see how well you score. But for college freshmen and seniors, the average result is barely more than half the questions answered correctly.

This test, created and administered by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, is not difficult. Some questions are so basic that everyone should be able to answer them correctly. Some are more subtle, including the one I missed. But for college freshmen — people who have, for the most part, just graduated from America’s public schools — the inability to answer nearly all these questions correctly is an embarrassing indictment.

The results of the test show that there’s little difference between liberals and conservatives in their understanding of American civics, with liberals answering 49% of the questions correctly; conservatives 48%.

By testing students at the end of their college careers, ISI found that college adds very little to students’ knowledge of these matters.

Perhaps the most amazing finding relates to elected officeholders: “Officeholders typically have less civic knowledge than the general public. On average, they score 44%, five percentage points lower than non-officeholders.”

You can learn more about this test and its conclusions — and take the test yourself — at American Civic Literacy Program. The test is 33 questions, and you’ll get your score, along with the questions you missed, right away.

3 Comments

  • That test is an interesting one. Some questions ask what the government does verses what it should do so I got an 84.5%
    Kansans for Liberty’s September 19th meeting will be on “Who’s responsible for what in government.” That is because the membership wants to know more about the heirarchy so it is nice to see people wanting to learn more about our government.

  • I agree… interesting test. There are questions on this test that the populace–and our legislators–would question whether the correct answers are truly correct. Is there a single liberal left who believes you can improve the U.S. economy (in a recession) by lowering taxes? Now if you qualified that by saying lowering taxes for the middle class and poor, but soaking the rich till they bleed, then maybe. Fundamental truths are no longer fundamental truths in this country. That’s why our children are not learning them in our public schools. Seeing Tucker Carlson’s special on Fox News about the textbooks our children are reading… the scores on this test should surprise no one.

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