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Roadtoad
3rd December 2008, 09:21 AM
From a column by Dr. Walter E. Williams... (http://townhall.com/columnists/WalterEWilliams/2008/12/03/ignorance_reigns_supreme)

Only 21 percent of survey respondents knew that the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people." comes from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Almost 40 percent incorrectly believe the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war. Only 27 percent know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States. Remarkably, close to 25 percent of Americans believe that Congress shares its foreign policy powers with the United Nations.

Among the total of 33 questions asked, others included: "Who is the commander in chief of the U S. military?” "Name two countries that were our enemies during World War II." "Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?" Of the 2,508 nationwide samples of Americans taking ISI's civic literacy test, 71 percent failed; the average score on the test was 49 percent.

Depressing? It gets far worse...

But not to worry. A 1999 survey taken by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni of seniors at the nation's top 55 liberal-arts colleges and universities found that 98 percent could identify rap artist Snoop Dogg and Beavis and Butt-Head, but only 34 percent knew George Washington was the general at the battle of Yorktown.

Frankly, I don't see how a society can maintain itself, much less defend itself, when it's so damned clueless about what and who it is. Great. We know who Snoop Dogg is, but how about Leadbelly? Or Muddy Waters? Or Howlin' Wolf? All three of whom contributed far more to music that Snoop, and laid the foundation for a broader segment of our society?

With that in mind, how many knew that Odetta had died? (http://townhall.com/news/entertainment/2008/12/03/american_folk_music_legend_odetta_dies_at_77)

Odetta died Tuesday of heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital, said her manager of 12 years, Doug Yeager. She was admitted to the hospital with kidney failure about three weeks ago, he said.

In spite of failing health that caused her to use a wheelchair, Odetta performed 60 concerts in the last two years, singing for 90 minutes at a time. Her singing ability never diminished, Yeager said.

"The power would just come out of her like people wouldn't believe," he said.

With her booming, classically trained voice and spare guitar, Odetta gave life to the songs by workingmen and slaves, farmers and miners, housewives and washerwomen, blacks and whites.

Consider her covers of Dylan's songs, and realize that it had the power that it did simply because Dylan's work fell within a much broader context than protest marches and demonstrations within the 60's. Odetta knew this, as does Dr. Williams, and most of us who have some knowledge of history and current events. And when you consider the idiots who are teaching that Lincoln perpetuated slavery, (as some of my kids college instructors have tried to tell them), or some of he bizarre teachings that have come out of our classrooms, including "Intelligent Design," (No, I don't know Williams' stance on that, though I would like to), it actually becomes frightening. When you realize we've raised a nation of dopes who can't even name ONE of the articles of the Bill of Rights, and what they mean, it's depressing.

Just a thought.

tyr_13
3rd December 2008, 09:33 AM
I find that many of these surveys lay their questions out in a way to produce the desired effect. Example, they might ask, "Do you know who Snoop Dogg is," and accept a yes answer even if the person thinks it is the name of the RCA dog, yet they leave blanks for more difficult questions.

I'm not saying the lack of knowledge on the basic operation of the government isn't depressing, but it isn't nearly as bad as some of these surveys make it seem.

Isn't there a joke that goes, "Yeah 98% of the population of the US can't find Iraq on a globe, but unfortunately for Saddam, the 2% includes all of the USMC,"?

dudalb
3rd December 2008, 12:24 PM
Don't get me started on the amount of Historical Illiteracy out there.

Roadtoad
3rd December 2008, 12:28 PM
Why not? I did.

Region Rat
3rd December 2008, 12:31 PM
Don't get me started on the amount of Historical Illiteracy out there.

<goad>

Hey dudalb, I hear there's a large amount of Historial Illiteracy out there? Know anything about it?

</goad>

EeneyMinnieMoe
3rd December 2008, 01:01 PM
This is nothing new. I'm currently reading a book on the history of broadcasting where a stunning true anecdote is told about a 1960s spy series.

The setting was WW II Europe and Africa and Hitler and de Gaulle were mentioned by name in several early scripts. A CBS executive called a producer and asked "Hey, will kids know who De Gaulle was?". They surveyed a group of youngsters and found that they didn't and that few of them had ever heard of Hitler.

So they removed the references to specific leaders and then to specific countries, since Germany and Italy had since become NATO allies. The bad guys where only called "the enemy" and a lot of the kids watching at home thought that they were, get this, communists.

Ken Burns found the same thing with his WWII series; since Russia was our enemy for four decades, today's kids believe we fought Russia in World War Two!

Some things never change.

Roadtoad
3rd December 2008, 01:40 PM
Title of the book, please? Sounds like it would be worth reading.

Presently, I'm reading Douglas Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name. Scary business, that. It's a solid argument for reparations for the descendants of slaves.

AWPrime
3rd December 2008, 02:16 PM
So they removed the references to specific leaders and then to specific countries, since Germany and Italy had since become NATO allies. The bad guys where only called "the enemy" and a lot of the kids watching at home thought that they were, get this, communists.

Ken Burns found the same thing with his WWII series; since Russia was our enemy for four decades, today's kids believe we fought Russia in World War Two!

Some things never change.This does give me a '1984' feeling.

dudalb
3rd December 2008, 02:24 PM
<goad>

Hey dudalb, I hear there's a large amount of Historial Illiteracy out there? Know anything about it?

</goad>

Every Freaking Day.

neltana
3rd December 2008, 02:36 PM
There is a lot of historical illiteracy out there. I'm not defending it. But the main survey mentioned in the article seems a little flawed. Putting aside sampling issues that concern me...this was a telephone survey that had 118 questions, 33 of which are the civic literacy test.

This survey says it is trying to determine civics knowledge in the United States, not English language skills, right? Folks who didn't finish high school make up a large part of the ISI sample and those folks are weighted up by significant amounts (between a factor of 2 and 5).

So, in order to assess civics knowledge in this population, it is going to be important that we ask about the underlying questions in as clear a way as possible, right? Well, check out the following question they ask:

"#25. Free enterprise or capitalism exists insofar as:
a. experts managing the nation's commerce are appointed by elected officials
b. individual citizens create, exchange, and control goods and resources
c. charity, philanthropy, and volunteering decrease
d. demand and supply are decided through majority vote
e. government implements policies that favor business over consumers.

To answer the question properly, you need to parse the common everyday word "insofar" and realize that they basically are asking for a textbook definition.

This is a test that was designed to make a point...it was designed to be failed by most people who took it! The language and design of these questions is not meant to be accessible and understandable by the population they are surveying. Thus, the results cannot be used to draw conclusions about those populations.

Keep in mind, these are questions in a phone interview. Folks aren't seeing them on paper. So, they have to remember the root of the question and the wording of all 5 responses.

Try calling up a friend on the phone and asking him or her the following:

#13. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas would concur that:
a. all moral and political truth is relative to one's time and place
b. moral ideas are best explained as material accidents or bygone products of evolution
c. values originating in one's conscience cannot be judged by others
d. Christianity is the only true religion and should rule the state
e. certain permanent moral and political truths are accessible to human reason

Wait...what was b again? This seems a little dense for a phone survey, doesn't it? Are we assessing the interviewees' knowledge of the four philosophers here or the interviewees' memory?

Seriously, this test might not be hard when you take it on paper, but the way it was administered sounds deadly.

In many ways, this test is more about attention to detail than civics. For instance, the question the article cites where only 27% of people knew that the Bill of Rights prohibited a state religion has a little bit of a "gotcha."
"#6 The bill of Rights explicitly prohibits:
a. prayer in public school
b. discrimination based on race, sex, or religion
c. the ownership of guns by private individuals
d. establishing an official religion for the United States
e. the president from vetoing a line item in a spending bill"

The answer is clearly d. However, there are a lot of people who would say that the 1st amendment does prohibit prayer in school. There have been a number of court cases to that effect that have restricted the practice. There is clearly a prohibition, just not an "explicit" one. Should we really count the folks who answered "a" as woefully ignorant of civics? If they had simply asked "Does the Bill of Rights allow for the establishment of a state religion" I daresay most folks would have gotten it right.

gumboot
3rd December 2008, 02:43 PM
I'm always very skeptical of these surveys. I believe British ones have produced similar results, with people thinking Winston Churchill was a legendary character, but Arthur Pendragon was a historical figure.

I note this survey, like the previous ones mentioned in the article, and like the British one I mentioned above, was only of young people. I can't help but feel the "smart arse" factor isn't being taken into account.

Hagrok
3rd December 2008, 02:46 PM
How many people would sit through a 133 question multiple choice quiz on the phone? I don't think I know a single person who would do so.

I would guess that the sample set would be a very specific set of people; maybe the extremely lonely?

Alt+F4
3rd December 2008, 02:52 PM
How many people would sit through a 133 question multiple choice quiz on the phone? I don't think I know a single person who would do so.

Good point. What did the "researchers" do with the answers of respondents who hung up after 5 or 10 questions?

Thunder
3rd December 2008, 03:02 PM
well....when we focus on things like evolution vs. creation, gay marriage, standardized tests, we tend to forget the important things...like...um....History????

Gord_in_Toronto
3rd December 2008, 03:27 PM
A nation that forgets its history is condemned to relive it forever.

A quote I had always attributed to Arthur_Schopenhauer but, after a bit of Googling, appears to be attributed to a large set of people that does not include him.

qwints
3rd December 2008, 04:35 PM
Yeah, the ISI's survey was pretty sketchy. That doesn't change the fact that historical illiteracy is widespread.

I blame Longfellow.

Bikewer
3rd December 2008, 05:13 PM
If the daily posts on the "Mythbusters" bulletin board are any indication, science education is in fully as sorry a state as "civics" or history.
Daily we get questions that would have made Frank Herbert hang his head in despair....

UserGoogol
3rd December 2008, 10:22 PM
People should certainly know about history, but I don't think "cultural heritage" really matters. Particular cultures are not necessarily worth defending, they are merely institutions which rise and fall according to the interests of the people which compose them. Some institutions are better than others, and the United States of America is pretty decent as such things go, but to focus in particular on "your" past seems like the wrong way to go about things.

Also, I took the online version of the quiz (http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx) a couple months ago (and again a few minutes ago) and got a perfect score on it both times. Booyah~

H3LL
3rd December 2008, 11:06 PM
Well as a Brit it is well known that almost half of all Americans have below average intelligence.

:D

.

Soapy Sam
4th December 2008, 04:51 AM
The difficulty with being historically literate, is that there's more history every day!
Where is it all coming from?

Gord_in_Toronto
4th December 2008, 07:42 AM
<snippers>

Also, I took the online version of the quiz (http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx) a couple months ago (and again a few minutes ago) and got a perfect score on it both times. Booyah~

Back to civics class for me. :o
You answered 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %
Answers to Your Missed Questions:

Question #7 - D. Gettysburg Address
Question #10 - C. Religion
Question #33 - D. tax per person equals government spending per person

neltana
4th December 2008, 08:02 AM
Geez, question 33 was simply an algebraic transformation!

Unfortunately, I contaminated myself with the answers before I took it. I believe I would have done well, but who knows?

My wife got in the high 70's, as did my son who was in elementary school. However, I read the questions aloud and that contributed to a number of wrong answers I believe.

Some of those free market questions are arguable to say the least!

Gord_in_Toronto
4th December 2008, 08:27 AM
<snip>

Some of those free market questions are arguable to say the least!

As in any test you have to know what the test setter wants the answer to be. The truth does occasionally enter into it. ;)

technoextreme
4th December 2008, 08:35 AM
From a column by Dr. Walter E. Williams... (http://townhall.com/columnists/WalterEWilliams/2008/12/03/ignorance_reigns_supreme)



Depressing? It gets far worse...



Frankly, I don't see how a society can maintain itself, much less defend itself, when it's so damned clueless about what and who it is. Great. We know who Snoop Dogg is, but how about Leadbelly? Or Muddy Waters? Or Howlin' Wolf? All three of whom contributed far more to music that Snoop, and laid the foundation for a broader segment of our society?

With that in mind, how many knew that Odetta had died? (http://townhall.com/news/entertainment/2008/12/03/american_folk_music_legend_odetta_dies_at_77)



Consider her covers of Dylan's songs, and realize that it had the power that it did simply because Dylan's work fell within a much broader context than protest marches and demonstrations within the 60's. Odetta knew this, as does Dr. Williams, and most of us who have some knowledge of history and current events. And when you consider the idiots who are teaching that Lincoln perpetuated slavery, (as some of my kids college instructors have tried to tell them), or some of he bizarre teachings that have come out of our classrooms, including "Intelligent Design," (No, I don't know Williams' stance on that, though I would like to), it actually becomes frightening. When you realize we've raised a nation of dopes who can't even name ONE of the articles of the Bill of Rights, and what they mean, it's depressing.

Just a thought.
Potificating preachers should make sure they aren't in the same boat that as the people they are complaining about. History is a broad broad subject and Im sure that I can always structure a test that everyone can get a zero on.
I can't help but feel the "smart arse" factor isn't being taken into account.
Teacher: Whats half life again?
Myself:A video game.

Roadtoad
4th December 2008, 08:49 AM
Potificating preachers should make sure they aren't in the same boat that as the people they are complaining about. History is a broad broad subject and Im sure that I can always structure a test that everyone can get a zero on.

Perhaps you can. I took the test ages ago, and only missed one, (and had I read the test right, I might have gotten it, too.) Truth to tell, though, there are elements of every nation's history that ought to be understood by its citizens. It's that simple.

If a Englishman couldn't tell me a damned thing about the Magna Carta, I think that would depress the hell out of me. You'd expect someone from England to understand some of the basics of his own nation's history.

NobbyNobbs
4th December 2008, 08:59 AM
If the daily posts on the "Mythbusters" bulletin board are any indication, science education is in fully as sorry a state as "civics" or history.
Daily we get questions that would have made Frank Herbert hang his head in despair....


Who?


:D

d1artbob
4th December 2008, 09:05 AM
Perhaps a test of the essentials would be better. Putting aside pop culture, which each generation has vast knowledge of, what should a citizen know? That Washington was the General at Yorktown? Probably not. That Washington refused to be crowned, insisting on republican democracy? Yes. In other words, what of our roots is important to the healthy evolution of our republic? Gray areas abound, of course. Essential is the knowledge that Congress is to declare war, but is it essential, until war threatens, to know the name of the current Speaker of the House? I'm not certain.

sthomson
4th December 2008, 09:20 AM
I took this test online and scored very well (I missed two out of 33).

HOWEVER, if this had been administered verbally, I'm sure I would have gotten a failing grade. Several of those questions were grammatically very tricky. Almost like they were set up to catch you in the wrong answer. I would like to see the methodology of this study re-worked before I trust the results.

neltana
4th December 2008, 09:45 AM
Perhaps you can. I took the test ages ago, and only missed one, (and had I read the test right, I might have gotten it, too.) Truth to tell, though, there are elements of every nation's history that ought to be understood by its citizens. It's that simple.

Well, what about the following question:

Which of the following fiscal policy combinations would a government most likely follow to stimulate economic activity when the economy is in a severe recession?
a. increasing both taxes and spending
b. increasing taxes and decreasing spending
c. decreasing taxes and increasing spending
d. decreasing both taxes and spending

Now, the answer is c, based on the premise that the best way to stimulate economic activity is to have as much money in it as possible. Therefore, you take less out in taxes and you inject more in spending.

However, this is a theory. The question is what a government is "likely to do". Hillary Clinton blamed the 2001 recession largely on the Bush tax cuts. Similarly, many say that the 1982 recession was made worse than expected by the Reagan tax cuts. Whether they are correct in these assessments is beside the point, clearly political opinions vary on this subject.

So, had Clinton been elected, a person could be forgiven for choosing "a". That is the policy she said should have been followed to get the economy going again. If Ron Paul had been elected, I am sure that he would argue that "d" was the right answer. Are Barak Obama and the Democratic congress "likely" to cut taxes to stimulate the economy? Good question, not sure I know the answer--but it has nothing to do with economics, it is a political matter.

What a government is "likely" to do depends entirely on which government you have at the time and what else is going on in the economy at that time. When Paul Volker was trying to shrink the money supply to curtail double-digit inflation, do you think he would have supported a fiscal policy that essentially went the other way?

I think this is a test that is pushing a certain way of looking at the world under the guise of our cultural heritage.

***Silly Sidebar***
My wife also pointed out that the question "Name two countries that were our enemies during World War II" could legitimately include the Soviet Union, despite our alliance. We might have proclaimed our official neutrality in the Poland matter in 1939, but we clearly were on Britan's side at that point. When the Soviets invaded Poland, which was "during" World War II, they were our enemies even though we had not officially entered the war.

Are we counting angels dancing on the heads of pins here? Perhaps (okay, totally). My point is that, the more history you know, the more likely you are to over-think and screw up simplistic questions like this. So, a low score doesn't necessarily mean ignorance of history, merely a different perspective on it.
***End Silly Sidebar***

ponderingturtle
4th December 2008, 10:06 AM
Almost 40 percent incorrectly believe the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war.

Given how many people who work in the white house believe this as well it should not be surprising.

Alt+F4
4th December 2008, 10:34 AM
I like what this blogger had to say about the ISI:

But I have questions about the ISI itself, and it’s own responsibility for the civic ignorance that it documents.
The ISI’s National Civics Literacy Board of Directors (http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/about_board.html) is comprised of conservative academics and policy advocates from the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the New Criterion, the Wall Street Journal, the National Center for Policy Analysis, Civic Enterprises, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Center for Creative Leadership and the Philip M. McKenna Foundation.

In other words, the people who run ISI are the very same people whose policies and favored candidates have destroyed the public education system on which our national civic literacy depends.

The ISI report focuses its attention and criticism on American colleges, but as anyone who has taught at the college level knows, what can be accomplished by colleges largely depends on the basic knowledge that students bring with them – that is, on what they’ve learned (or not learned) in grade school and high school.

By advocating policies that slash funds to public education, increase class sizes, reduce teacher salaries and benefits, and eliminate early childhood and after-school educational programs, the board members of the ISI are themselves responsible for the civic illiteracy they now hypocritically bemoan.

Linky: http://themovingtarget.wordpress.com/2008/11/23/do-you-know-more-american-civics-than-sarah-palin/

Mojo
4th December 2008, 01:59 PM
Or Muddy Waters?


I suppose you know about the "where's that?" incident?

Jeff Corey
4th December 2008, 05:40 PM
Frank Herbert?Is this the author of Dune? WTF has he got to with history?

Jeff Corey
4th December 2008, 05:46 PM
Well as a Brit it is well known that almost half of all Americans have below average intelligence.

:D

.

And less than half of the Brits have above average intelligence.

gumboot
4th December 2008, 08:19 PM
The difficulty with being historically literate, is that there's more history every day!
Where is it all coming from?

Someone really needs to develop some sort of engine that runs on history. It would be perfectly clean renewable energy!

qwints
4th December 2008, 08:59 PM
What's that from? I swear that I've read a story with an engine that ran on the past.

tyr_13
4th December 2008, 09:08 PM
I want a car that runs on sexual frustration. Not only could I get it to go from 0-100 mph in 2.1 seconds, I could get it to the moon and back!

(/derail, errr, demoon?)

Roadtoad
5th December 2008, 10:34 AM
I want a car that runs on sexual frustration. Not only could I get it to go from 0-100 mph in 2.1 seconds, I could get it to the moon and back!

(/derail, errr, demoon?)

I TOLD you, don't date my ex-wife!!!

bigred
5th December 2008, 11:18 AM
It's a solid argument for reparations for the descendants of slaves.
:rolleyes: There is no such thing. That concept is more idiotic than people who can't do simple math.

Hey I'm a Christian and we were persecuted by the Romans, somebody tell Italy to start coughing up some lira errr I mean euro.

Anyway I have soapboxed about such illiteracies myself and agree it's bad, but I'm also skeptical of these studies, eg whether they are a truly random sampling of our society, how they word the questions, etc.

Seanette
5th December 2008, 11:28 AM
One thing I don't get about the "reparations for slaves" deal: not one living person in the United States was a slave or a slave holder. One does not have the option of choosing one's ancestors. So why should those of us living in 2008 be punished for what people from the 1600s through 1865 did that we had no control over or say in?

Roadtoad
5th December 2008, 11:33 AM
It ought to be discussed, but probably not here. I still suggest reading the book to get an insight as to WHY I'm saying this. It's scary stuff.

bigred
5th December 2008, 11:42 AM
Also, I took the online version of the quiz (http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx) a couple months ago (and again a few minutes ago) and got a perfect score on it both times. Booyah~

"You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %"

I admit a few were guesses :) PS wtf with the Socrates/etc question?

bigred
5th December 2008, 11:45 AM
One thing I don't get about the "reparations for slaves" deal: not one living person in the United States was a slave or a slave holder. One does not have the option of choosing one's ancestors. So why should those of us living in 2008 be punished for what people from the 1600s through 1865 did that we had no control over or say in?

Because our society is all about political correctness now, not logic.

PS I don't care how scary slavery was or what any book says, the reparations idea is so stupid there aren't words strong enough to give its stupidity due credit. OK end sidetrack, pardon.

Roadtoad
5th December 2008, 11:59 AM
Because our society is all about political correctness now, not logic.

PS I don't care how scary slavery was or what any book says, the reparations idea is so stupid there aren't words strong enough to give its stupidity due credit. OK end sidetrack, pardon.

Okay, maybe I'm wrong about debating it. If you're going to devolve a discussion into personal attacks, it's not worth doing.

And not all reparations are monetary, nor are they necessarily to be paid individually. As I said, read the book. Blackmon illustrates how one company dealt with it, honestly, fairly, justly.

dudalb
5th December 2008, 12:10 PM
I'm always very skeptical of these surveys. I believe British ones have produced similar results, with people thinking Winston Churchill was a legendary character, but Arthur Pendragon was a historical figure.

I note this survey, like the previous ones mentioned in the article, and like the British one I mentioned above, was only of young people. I can't help but feel the "smart arse" factor isn't being taken into account.

I agree the surveys are suspect, but my statements on historical illiteracy and how widespread it is is based more on personal observatiion by me and others.
A someone who is active in many living history programs, we all have some real horror stories to tell.
To be fair, a lot of the problem is that History is very poorly taught in many schools in the US...and I have a sneaking suspiscion the same is true everywhere.

neltana
5th December 2008, 02:10 PM
Let me know if someone starts a reparations thread...could make for an interesting discussion, but I can't think of a good OP that wouldn't attract trolls.

Anyhow, back to the subject of historical illiteracy, it does seem that we are complaining about it more as a proxy for general ignorance than anything else. I doubt anyone would be too upset if an American citizen had neglected their study of the American Revolution because their research into particle physics was too intense to allow it.

But I am willing to be told I am wrong.

Roadtoad
5th December 2008, 03:23 PM
Let me know if someone starts a reparations thread...could make for an interesting discussion, but I can't think of a good OP that wouldn't attract trolls.

Anyhow, back to the subject of historical illiteracy, it does seem that we are complaining about it more as a proxy for general ignorance than anything else. I doubt anyone would be too upset if an American citizen had neglected their study of the American Revolution because their research into particle physics was too intense to allow it.

But I am willing to be told I am wrong.

Regrettably, I'd like to, but like you, I don't see how the OP wouldn't start drawing out the trolls. We have enough of them, thank you.

Mojo
5th December 2008, 03:45 PM
"You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %"


That's what I got. wrong on:

4. What was the main issue in the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858?
11. What impact did the Anti-Federalists have on the United States Constitution?
27. Free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning because...
29. A flood-control levee (or National Defense) is considered a public good because...

Not bad for a foreigner?

quixotecoyote
5th December 2008, 05:55 PM
I only missed the Gettysburg Address question, but I hae a few complaints I didn't see mentioned. C&P of questions follow so don't click the spoiler if you want to test yourself first.

29) A flood-control levee (or National Defense) is considered a public good because:
A. citizens value it as much as bread and medicine
B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
C. government construction contracts increase employment
D. insurance companies cannot afford to replace all houses after a flood
E. government pays for its construction, not citizens

The correct answer is B, but the class of public goods given as examples suggest E is true also, although it is not true for all public goods.

1) Which of the following are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence?
A. life, liberty, and property
B. honor, liberty, and peace
C. liberty, health, and community
D. life, respect, and equal protection
E. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Answer A should not be included because it confuses people who've heard both versions and thus may be slightly more informed than average.


33) If taxes equal government spending, then:
A. government debt is zero
B. printing money no longer causes inflation
C. government is not helping anybody
D. tax per person equals government spending per person
E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

If taxes ALWAYS equal government spending then A is true as well as D.

Damien Evans
6th December 2008, 02:41 AM
We're forgetting our heritage.

Well why wouldn't I? It's friggen Welsh!:D

Bob Blaylock
6th December 2008, 03:12 AM
One thing I don't get about the "reparations for slaves" deal: not one living person in the United States was a slave or a slave holder. One does not have the option of choosing one's ancestors. So why should those of us living in 2008 be punished for what people from the 1600s through 1865 did that we had no control over or say in?


Any true reparations would have to have the effect of making it as close as possible to how it would be if the wrong for which they are offered had not taken place.

In the case of slavery, how would things be different today, if it had not taken place?

As my wife points out, there is no American alive today who either was a slave or who owned a slave. We have many people who are descendants of both slaves and slave owners. How are the lives of these people affected by this past wrong?

I don't think a significant case can be made that the descendants of slave owners are living lives that are very much different than they would be if their ancestors hadn't owned slaves.

For the descendants of the slaves, I have to agree that their lives are very different. Had slavery not taken place; their ancestors would have been left in Africa, rather than being brought here. I suppose it could be argued that among these Africans, different combinations would have met and produced different offspring, and so the people who are now descendants of slaves would not even exist. Rather than go there, I'll just assume that somehow, the same people would now exist who otherwise do. However, instead of living here in the United States, they would be living in Africa.

So really, the only true way to offer reparations to the descendants of slaves is to offer them a one-way ticket to any nation in Africa that will have them, along with whatever legal action is needed to terminate their status as U.S. citizens and to establish them as citizens of the African nations to which they are sent.

Do you think there'd be very many takers? I rather doubt it. When it gets down to it, I think nearly everyone would have to recognize that life in the U.S. is better than life anywhere in Africa.

On the other hand, it'd be a win-win both for the U.S. as a whole, and for Africa as a whole. Those who are most vocal in whining and demanding “reparation” are surely among those who contribute the least to our society, and who are prone to be the greatest burden. We'd be better off to be rid of them. On the other hand, they are surely more intelligent, educated, and productive than most of the current population of Africa, so Africa would be better off with them.

Mojo
6th December 2008, 04:49 AM
I only missed the Gettysburg Address question, but I hae a few complaints I didn't see mentioned. C&P of questions follow so don't click the spoiler if you want to test yourself first.

If taxes ALWAYS equal government spending then A is true as well as D.


That's not quite what the question asked.

Alt+F4
6th December 2008, 09:20 AM
To be fair, a lot of the problem is that History is very poorly taught in many schools in the US.

I teach in the largest school district in the U.S. and the message is loud and clear - teach for the test, get grades up, give more tests. Statistics and data driven instruction only. No free inquiry. Gone are the days of learning for learning's sake. Libertarians and rabid free market folks want to turn children into cogs on the great assembly line of free enterprise.

John Dewey once said that if you want to teach a child about flowers take him outside and show him a flower. We can't do that anymore, it's not cost effective and there's a standardized test on Thursday.

Roadtoad
6th December 2008, 02:14 PM
Any true reparations would have to have the effect of making it as close as possible to how it would be if the wrong for which they are offered had not taken place.

In the case of slavery, how would things be different today, if it had not taken place?

As my wife points out, there is no American alive today who either was a slave or who owned a slave. We have many people who are descendants of both slaves and slave owners. How are the lives of these people affected by this past wrong?

I don't think a significant case can be made that the descendants of slave owners are living lives that are very much different than they would be if their ancestors hadn't owned slaves.

For the descendants of the slaves, I have to agree that their lives are very different. Had slavery not taken place; their ancestors would have been left in Africa, rather than being brought here. I suppose it could be argued that among these Africans, different combinations would have met and produced different offspring, and so the people who are now descendants of slaves would not even exist. Rather than go there, I'll just assume that somehow, the same people would now exist who otherwise do. However, instead of living here in the United States, they would be living in Africa.

So really, the only true way to offer reparations to the descendants of slaves is to offer them a one-way ticket to any nation in Africa that will have them, along with whatever legal action is needed to terminate their status as U.S. citizens and to establish them as citizens of the African nations to which they are sent.

Do you think there'd be very many takers? I rather doubt it. When it gets down to it, I think nearly everyone would have to recognize that life in the U.S. is better than life anywhere in Africa.

On the other hand, it'd be a win-win both for the U.S. as a whole, and for Africa as a whole. Those who are most vocal in whining and demanding “reparation” are surely among those who contribute the least to our society, and who are prone to be the greatest burden. We'd be better off to be rid of them. On the other hand, they are surely more intelligent, educated, and productive than most of the current population of Africa, so Africa would be better off with them.

As I said, not all reparations are necessarily monetary, or even personal.

Blackmon describes in his book how one bank dealt with the issue. The results were uniformly positive, and worked towards the benefit of nearly all. In the end, it helped to heal a lot of wounds which were a long time in the making.

My family didn't own slaves. In the region of Virginia where we were in the early 1800's, there wasn't enough land for us to farm. (And besides that, my earliest ancestor left in the early 1840's, primarily since he preferred to avoid any kind of dancing, particularly any dancing which took place in the treetops.) In California, we were too broke to afford slaves, though we did do a great deal of farming, (in between stage coach robberies.)

Still, we benefitted from the slave trade, and later, from a system of ersatz slavery which kept people of African ancestry in bondage. Our benefits were not direct, but we still gained from people who kept men with dark skin under an abusive and cruel form of servitude. At some point, some recognition of this must take place, and at the very least, public acknowledgement that it was an evil act. Beyond that, I'm not sure how that would work out. If it means we make arrangements to ensure that slave descendents had access to the services necessary to build a good life, (though it ought to be understood that no one can guarantee a good life, however you define it), perhaps that's one way.

I'm not in favor of cash payments. Not only would the money wind up wasted, but the very people you'd want to help would wind up being hurt the worst.

Alt+F4
7th December 2008, 05:28 AM
If it means we make arrangements to ensure that slave descendents had access to the services necessary to build a good life, (though it ought to be understood that no one can guarantee a good life, however you define it), perhaps that's one way.

Perhaps, but how would you distinguish who was the descendent of a slave and who wasn't? My family didn't come to the United States until the 20th century, why should my tax dollars go towards this?

Instead of reparations the goal should be ensuring justice and civil rights for ALL Americans, regardless of who they are who their ancestors were.

This seems to be something our President elect doesn't get: when you deny the rights you treasure to others, you only diminish yourself. Ooops, sorry, didn't mean to start another gay marriage thread.

Alt+F4
7th December 2008, 05:42 AM
At some point, some recognition of this must take place, and at the very least, public acknowledgement that it was an evil act.

In regard to your OP, then I guess American historical education isn't that bad. In the 15 years that I've taught high school U.S. history I've NEVER had an American educated student not know who Harriet Tubman was. Yeah, I've had a few that thought the Underground Railroad was a real railroad and one "interesting" kid who thought Harriet Tubman was the bus driver of the bus Rosa Parks was thrown off of.

Regardless, American children are taught of the horrors of slavery. I can't speak for all teachers but I always teach that the sharecropping system was virtual slavery, as do my collleagues. Blackmon's book did not uncover any secrets.

geni
7th December 2008, 06:11 AM
If a Englishman couldn't tell me a damned thing about the Magna Carta, I think that would depress the hell out of me. You'd expect someone from England to understand some of the basics of his own nation's history.

The Magna Carta was largely repealed in the 19th century.

Mojo
7th December 2008, 06:27 AM
If a Englishman couldn't tell me a damned thing about the Magna Carta, I think that would depress the hell out of me.


Brave Hungarian peasant girl who forced King John to sign the pledge at Runnymede and close the boozers at half past ten.

The Magna Carta was largely repealed in the 19th century.

Did she die in vain? :(

bigred
7th December 2008, 06:29 AM
I teach in the largest school district in the U.S. and the message is loud and clear - teach for the test, get grades up, give more tests. Statistics and data driven instruction only. No free inquiry. Gone are the days of learning for learning's sake. Libertarians and rabid free market folks want to turn children into cogs on the great assembly line of free enterprise.

John Dewey once said that if you want to teach a child about flowers take him outside and show him a flower. We can't do that anymore, it's not cost effective and there's a standardized test on Thursday.
You summed this up so concisely and yet so well. Bravo.

You can largely thank our high-tech minded society for that. It's all this "bits and bytes" sort of bottom-line corporate mentality which is myopic in the extreme - and very tragic. :( I really, really pity kids growing up now. Seems everything is so.......structured. Standardized tests, organized sports. Good grief. Are kids still allowed to go out at recess and just play however they want, or has that been "organized" too?

geni
7th December 2008, 06:41 AM
John Dewey once said that if you want to teach a child about flowers take him outside and show him a flower.

Not so. Otherwise teaching people about neutron stars would be rather tricky. Indeed one of the major advances of civilisation over time is improveing the ability to learn about things without practical experence.

geni
7th December 2008, 06:42 AM
Did she die in vain? :(


Well King John completely ignored it and imediately instigated a civil war to prevent it's enforcement.

Mojo
7th December 2008, 06:59 AM
Well, seeing as it said (according to my handy history reference book by Sellar and Yeatman):


No one was to be put to death, save for some good reason (except the common people).
Everyone should be free (except the common people).
Everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the realm (except the common people).
No person should be fined to his utter ruin (except the common people).
The Barons should not be tried except by a special jury of other Barons who would understand.

...it was clearly a Good Thing for everyone (except the common people).

bigred
7th December 2008, 07:01 AM
I'm so glad we didn't continue that slavery sidetrack.

Harpyja
7th December 2008, 07:32 AM
I took the online survey posted earlier.

I'm a 15 year old Hispanic middle-class female who has last been tested to have an IQ of 152 at the age of 10. I am currently taking American History and (Honors) Constitutional Law courses at a private high school.

My results are listed in the spoiler.

You answered 22 out of 33 correctly — 66.67 %

Average score for this quiz during December: 75.0%
Average score: 75.0%

Answers to Your Missed Questions:
Question #9 - A. Make treaties
Question #13 - E. certain permanent moral and political truths are accessible to human reason
Question #22 - A. Congress
Question #23 - B. missiles in Cuba
Question #27 - A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends
Question #28 - C. requires those with higher incomes to pay a higher ratio of taxes to income
Question #29 - B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
Question #30 - C. decreasing taxes and increasing spending
Question #31 - A. an increase in a nation’s productivity
Question #32 - C. buying or selling government securities
Question #33 - D. tax per person equals government spending per person

Harpyja
7th December 2008, 07:45 AM
I think we should be more shocked by the chart that is given on the results page than anything. Unfortunately, I don't believe I'm able to post links quite yet, so I'll just quote the entire thing.

In short summation; how should we expect our citizens to know more about governmental history than our elected officials?

Of the 2,508 People surveyed, 164 say they have held an elected government office at least once in their life. Their average score on the civic literacy test is 44%, compared to 49% for those who have not held an elected office. Officeholders are less likely than other respondents to correctly answer 29 of the 33 test questions. This table shows the “knowledge gap” for each question: the difference between the percentage of common citizens who answered correctly and the percentage of officeholders who answered correctly.

All survey respondents were asked whether they have ever engaged in any of 13 different political and civic activities. These included, for example, registering to vote, signing a petition, contacting a public official, publishing a letter to the editor, and whether they have ever been elected to a government office.

Among the 2,508 respondents, 164 say they have been elected to a government office at least once. This sub-sample of officeholders yields a startling result: elected officials score lower than the general public. Those who have held elective office earn an average score of 44% on the civic literacy test, which is five percentage points lower than the average score of 49% for those who have never been elected. It would be most interesting to explore whether this statistically significant result is maintained across larger samples of elected officials.

The elected officeholders come from the ranks of Democrats (40%), Republicans (31%), Independents (21%), and those who say they belong to no party or indicate no affiliation (8%). None were asked to specify what office they held, so the proportion in which they held local, state, or federal positions is unknown.

Not all officeholders do poorly, of course. Some elected officials rank among the highest scorers. But the failure rate on the test among those who have won public office is higher (74%) than among those who have not (71%). Officeholders scored lower on all sub-themes of the test: political history, cultural institutions, foreign relations, and market economy.

In each of the following areas, for example, officeholders do more poorly than non-officeholders:

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.



Thirty percent do not know that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.



Twenty-seven percent cannot name even one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.



Forty-three percent do not know what the Electoral College does. One in five thinks it either “trains those aspiring for higher political office” or “was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates.”



Fifty-four percent do not know the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. Thirty-nine percent think that power belongs to the president, and 10% think it belongs to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.



Only 32% can properly define the free enterprise system, and only 41% can identify business profit as “revenue minus expenses.”


On some questions, Americans who have held elected office do better than Americans who have not. They are a little more likely, for example, to recognize the language of the Gettysburg Address (23% to 21%) and to know that the question of whether slavery should be allowed to expand into new territories was the main issue in the Lincoln–Douglas debates (25% to 20%).

Officeholders and non-officeholders find it equally difficult to identify the three branches of government. Only 49% of each group can name the legislative, executive, and judicial.

Ausmerican
7th December 2008, 08:25 AM
I am sorry that Americans are losing there heritage but there is an answer. Ask a foreigner! I just took the test and got oer 80% and I am Australian, although I have lived here in the States for a decade now.

As a humorous (or not) aside, and another reason to ask foreigners about your history, a few years back there was a quiz done in Australia on TV. People on the street were asked a couple of questions. Sadly nearly all of them when asked who the first POTUS was answered George Washington. Hardly a one could answer who Australias first Prime Minister was.

Edmund Barton btw.

Alt+F4
7th December 2008, 08:27 AM
I took the online survey posted earlier.

I'm a 15 year old Hispanic middle-class female who has last been tested to have an IQ of 152 at the age of 10. I am currently taking American History and (Honors) Constitutional Law courses at a private high school.

[/spoiler]

Did you read the questions or did someone read them to you? That is why this survey is ridiculous and proves nothing.

Alt+F4
7th December 2008, 08:32 AM
I am sorry that Americans are losing there heritage but there is an answer. Ask a foreigner! I just took the test and got oer 80% and I am Australian, although I have lived here in the States for a decade now.

As a humorous (or not) aside, and another reason to ask foreigners about your history, a few years back there was a quiz done in Australia on TV. People on the street were asked a couple of questions. Sadly nearly all of them when asked who the first POTUS was answered George Washington. Hardly a one could answer who Australias first Prime Minister was.

Edmund Barton btw.

I bet most Americans don't even know who the current Prime Minister is. Two places we never teach about in Global History (9th/10th grade) in NYC - Canada and Australia. Why? No questions about those countries on the standardized test.

Ausmerican
7th December 2008, 08:46 AM
I best most Americans don't even know who the current Prime Minister is. Two places we never teach about in Global History (9th/10th grade) in NYC - Canada and Australia. Why? No questions about those countries on the standardized test.

That is because, regardless of the question, the answer for both Canada and Australia would be...
D: Both pot AND beer!

technoextreme
7th December 2008, 09:13 AM
Perhaps you can. I took the test ages ago, and only missed one, (and had I read the test right, I might have gotten it, too.) Truth to tell, though, there are elements of every nation's history that ought to be understood by its citizens. It's that simple.

No. The reason why I can do that is because my understanding of history in some regards is more thorough than the splendidly stupid simplifications that a multiple choice question can ask.

Alt+F4
7th December 2008, 09:24 AM
No. The reason why I can do that is because my understanding of history in some regards is more thorough than the splendidly stupid simplifications that a multiple choice question can ask.

As it should be. :)

When did the mastery of the multiple choice question become the standard by which learning is achieved? Doing well on a multiple choice test says nothing about a person's knowledge, it only measures memorization skills.

Despite it's uselessness, multiple choice questions determine if a child will advance to the next grade, housing values, and, if the merit pay people get their way, a teacher's salary.

So why such an emphasis on a methodology so flawed? Answer: it's easy to grade and produces data.

Ausmerican
7th December 2008, 09:30 AM
There was an obious bias in the Snoop/Washington question. Why compare knowing who one is with knowing which battle the other was a general in?

I am fairly sure that ALL the people who knew who Snoop Dogg is also knew who George Washington was. They could possibly recognize both of them if shown a picture.

But as far as the battle General Washington was in, there are probably just as many if not more people out there who know who Snoop is that couldn't name a single CD he has put out or even a song.

qwints
7th December 2008, 09:40 AM
Well, first of all, the current Prime Minister of Australia is Bruce. (unless it's Sheila)

What bothered me most about the test was the results they highlight aren't actually what the questions said. Saying that x number of people didn't know the Bill of Rights prohibits a national religion implies that they incorrectly answered a true/false question - not that they said the Bill of Rights bans school prayer.

Saying that people couldn't name 'even' one right in the first amendment is similarly misleading. To me, it implies that people were asked to name one and either named one not in it or couldn't answer. Instead, that question seems to refer to this question:

10) Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the first amendment.
A. Right to bear arms
B. Due process
C. Religion
D. Right to counsel

These are all rights enshrined in the constitution. It's not that big a deal to me that people couldn't remember which one came from which amendment as long as they know that they have them.

Harpyja
7th December 2008, 04:14 PM
Did you read the questions or did someone read them to you? That is why this survey is ridiculous and proves nothing.

I read the questions.
What exactly proves that?

shuize
7th December 2008, 04:40 PM
That test was easy. I'm a bit annoyed with myself for misreading one of the questions and actually missing one of the answers.

qwints
7th December 2008, 08:00 PM
I read the questions.
What exactly proves that?

It's a lot harder answering questions like that when they're read to you out loud than when you see them on paper.

Nancarrow
8th December 2008, 01:36 AM
Among the total of 33 questions asked, others included: "Who is the commander in chief of the U S. military?” "Name two countries that were our enemies during World War II." "Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?" Of the 2,508 nationwide samples of Americans taking ISI's civic literacy test, 71 percent failed; the average score on the test was 49 percent.

Ooh! I know these! Lessee... the CiC would be... Bill Paxton. Wartime enemies, that's easy - Russia and Spain. One power of the Feds: in charge of emergency distribution of beanbags to all citizens in times of global chair shortage.

How'd I do?

Bob Blaylock
8th December 2008, 02:18 AM
I just now took this test (http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/resources/quiz.aspx).

My results:You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

Average score for this quiz during December: 74.9%
Average score: 74.9%

Answers to Your Missed Questions:

Question #4 - B. Would slavery be allowed to expand to new territories?
Question #27 - A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends
Question #29 - B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
Question #31 - A. an increase in a nation’s productivity


I missed the following four questions:

4) What was the main issue in the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858?
27) Free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government’s centralized planning because:
29) A flood-control levee (or National Defense) is considered a public good because:
31) International trade and specialization most often lead to which of the following?

#4, I admit I just didn't know. The other three, seem to me, to be matters of political opinion, not proven fact. I certainly don't agree with the “correct” answer to #29.

I did get question #13 correct, but that was a lucky guess, and I don't see what it has to do at all with the subject of the quiz.13) Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas would concur that:

soikins
8th December 2008, 04:45 AM
I didn't do well, but I'm not American (or live in USA), so I might be excused.

You answered 28 out of 33 correctly — 84.85 %

Average score for this quiz during December: 74.9%
Average score: 74.9%

My missed questions:
4) What was the main issue in the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858?

I knew it was about slavery, but didn't know much more.

10) Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the first amendment.

Had to know it, but didn't.

14) The Puritans:

All I knew about them was that they were some protestant group. Made the wrong choice between "complete religious freedom" and "sinfulness of all humanity".

15) The phrase that in America there should be a “wall of separation” between church and state appears in:

I have never read any of the documents/speeches, so I had to make an (un)educated guess. I guessed wrong.

33) If taxes equal government spending, then:

Got confused I guess, shouldn't have answered that wrong.

If the questions would have been asked by phone, I would probably score worse, but I believe it would still be above 50%.

bigred
8th December 2008, 06:52 AM
As it should be. :)

When did the mastery of the multiple choice question become the standard by which learning is achieved? When this country lost its collective mind. I think the 60s, more or less.



But as far as the battle General Washington was in, there are probably just as many if not more people out there who know who Snoop is that couldn't name a single CD he has put out or even a song.
ie there is hope - careful you might be shovelling false optimism. :cool:

Mojo
8th December 2008, 07:03 AM
15) The phrase that in America there should be a “wall of separation” between church and state appears in:

I have never read any of the documents/speeches, so I had to make an (un)educated guess. I guessed wrong.


I suspect that I only knew that one as a result of reading the replies to one of DOC's threads.

Madalch
8th December 2008, 12:00 PM
Did she die in vain?

No, that was the ostrich.

(For the ones who ask "Which ostrich?", it's the one that Archie Duke shot because he was hungry.)

Bob Blaylock
8th December 2008, 12:50 PM
33) If taxes equal government spending, then:


In the context of what this quiz is about, that was a dumb question. It's a math question, not a civics question; and the answer would be obvious when you realize that if X=Y, then X÷Z=Y÷Z

Alt+F4
8th December 2008, 03:00 PM
I read the questions.
What exactly proves that?

The original survey was done over the telephone. How well would anyone do having long multiple choice questions read to them, with five answer choices?

Chaos
8th December 2008, 03:03 PM
Ha! 31 out of 33! Eat that!

I got #8 and #11 wrong.

Cavemonster
8th December 2008, 03:28 PM
One thing I don't get about the "reparations for slaves" deal: not one living person in the United States was a slave or a slave holder. One does not have the option of choosing one's ancestors. So why should those of us living in 2008 be punished for what people from the 1600s through 1865 did that we had no control over or say in?

It is a weird and sticky subject.
Part of the idea is that the system allows many to benefit from what people did 150 years ago or so.

There do exist today, millionaires who owe their status to inherited wealth from the exploited work of slaves clearly and directly. It is also clear that people who's grandparents or even parents were unwelcome in most colleges, underfunded in public schooling etc, are still at a disadvantage.

The system that created these benefits and perpetuated them is man-made, I see no problem in purposefully acting to even the balance sheet.

Corsair 115
8th December 2008, 03:28 PM
Two places we never teach about in Global History (9th/10th grade) in NYC - Canada and Australia. Why? No questions about those countries on the standardized test.


Given the importance of Canada to the U.S. economy* and the longstanding relationship between the two countries, the lack of coverage is somewhat curious.


*Which nation buys more dollars' worth of U.S. export goods than any other? Canada. In 2007, Canada accounted for $248.9 billion of the total $1,163.3 billion of U.S. export goods. That's 21.4% of the total. The second place nation? Mexico. It accounted for 11.7%. China was third with 5.6% of the total.

Which nation supplies the most crude oil to the United States? Canada. In 2007 it accounted for 18.82% of U.S. crude oil imports. Saudi Arabia was second with 14.53%, while Mexico was third at 14.04%.