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.