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Thread: Americans Don't Know Civics

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    Default Americans Don't Know Civics

    Americans Don't Know Civics
    From high-school dropouts to college graduates to elected officials, Americans are "alarmingly uninformed" about the USA's history, founding principles and economy knowledge needed to participate wisely in civic life, says a report scheduled to be released Thursday.

    The study, the third in a series by the non-profit Intercollegiate Studies Institute, finds that half of U.S. adults can name all three branches of government, and 54% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly said that it belongs to the president.

    And while 56% can name Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol, only 21% know that the phrase "government of the people, by the people, for the people" comes from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Just 54% can correctly identify a basic description of the free enterprise system.

    Those who have held elected office lack civic knowledge; 43% do not know the Electoral College is a constitutionally mandated assembly that elects the president. One in five thinks it "trains those aspiring for higher office" or "was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates."

    "Without knowledge of your country's history, key texts and institutions, you don't have a frame of reference to judge the politics and policies of today," says Richard Brake, head of the institute's American Civic Literacy Program.

    Earlier reports focused solely on college students; the new study expands the focus and concludes Americans across all economic, educational and political/social backgrounds are equally lacking. Among findings:

    71% earn an F; the average score was 49%. Ages 25 to 34 had an average score of 46%; ages 45 to 64 had a 52% average. Of 164 respondents who say they have held elected office, 44% was average.

    Those with bachelor's degrees had an average score of 57% vs. 44% for those with a high-school diploma. The average score for advanced degree-holders inches up to 65%, or a D.

    Civic knowledge declines in proportion to time spent using passive media, such as TV. Reading and talking about history and current events, using the Internet and being involved in political activities has a positive effect.

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    Default Re: Americans Don't Know Civics

    US Officials Flunk Test Of American History, Economics, Civics
    US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

    Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

    "It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

    "How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.

    The exam questions covered American history, the workings of the US government and economics.

    Among the questions asked of some 2,500 people who were randomly selected to take the test, including "self-identified elected officials," was one which asked respondents to "name two countries that were our enemies during World War II."

    Sixty-nine percent of respondents correctly identified Germany and Japan. Among the incorrect answers were Britain, China, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Spain.

    Forty percent of respondents, meanwhile, incorrectly believed that the US president has the power to declare war, while 54 percent correctly answered that that power rests with Congress.

    Asked about the electoral college, 20 percent of elected officials incorrectly said it was established to "supervise the first televised presidential debates."

    In fact, the system of choosing the US president via an indirect electoral college vote dates back some 220 years, to the US Constitution.

    The question that received the fewest correct responses, just 16 percent, tested respondents' basic understanding of economic principles, asking why "free markets typically secure more economic prosperity than government's centralized planning?"

    Activities that dull Americans' civic knowledge include talking on the phone and watching movies or television -- even news shows and documentaries, ISI said.

    Meanwhile, civic knowledge is enhanced by discussing public affairs, taking part in civic activities and reading about current events and history, the group said.

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