So I took that Civic Literacy Quiz
that's been going around. Reportedly
, a random sample of 2,500+ Americans positively bombed this test, managing an average score of 49%. The average for those with a high school diploma was 44%. The average score for those with a bachelor's degree was 57%, still essentially a "failing grade." We can argue about sampling methods (self-selected respondents on the Web are doing a ways better, averaging scores in the seventies). But this is the real killer stat: elected officials
actually performed at about the same level as high school graduates, averaging 44%. (I'm tempted to think that Sarah Palin was disproportionately represented ...)
Looking over these questions, I just have trouble ... well ... believing
the reported results. I mean, I went to what I considered a so-so public high school in the 1980s, and I think that we covered pretty much all
of the material in the quiz's civics and history sections. Moreover, these strike me as the kind of quotes and factoids you see cited more or less constantly in political news stories, TV documentaries, etc.
Most people don't find high school history all that interesting, I'll grant you. And I'm probably the most jonesin' political junkie you're likely to know: My unhealthy NPR and New York Times
fixations have no doubt helped keep it all fresh in my head for the past 20 years.
But, seriously, I thought most of us had the basic civics and U.S. history stuff--who can declare war, who controls government spending, oft-quoted phrases from the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address--down before we learned how to drive ...?
Then there are those economics questions: I didn't take any
economics classes in high school or
college. But, you know, there are circumstances where the process of elimination can take you pretty far ...
I scored 96.97 %--literally just getting one question wrong (an economic one, natch)--which I realize now that I misread.
Then again, there has to be some
explanation for George W. Bush's enduring popularity in some quarters, to say nothing of the burgeoning Palin fan club, right?