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US officials flunk test of Amerian history, economics, civics

WASHINGTON (AFP) – 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.

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 11:59 PM on Nov. 22, 2008 in Politics & Current Events

Answers (23)
  • 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.


    Answer by Anonymous at 11:59 PM on Nov. 22, 2008

  • 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.


    Answer by Anonymous at 12:00 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • well yeah, ever since i was little i've always heard that it's sad that American's can't pass the test that immigrents have to pass to get a green card. honestly i've heard some of the questions, and couldn't answer them.

    Answer by Anonymous at 12:22 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • hell yeah I know I would not pass not everyone is perfect


    Answer by Anonymous at 1:35 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • This is surprising because... why?? Oh wait... it isn't.

    Most people were too busy passing notes to each other during their highschool government classes. Or too busy watching American Idol. Why care about the internal workings of our "great" country when Paula Abdul is practically comatose during AI performances?

    Answer by OOHPFG at 3:04 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • I agree with OOHPFG.......People do not care anymore. They simply shut thier eyes and plug thier ears, -get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed, do it all over again. No body thinks to look into the processes and persons that put us where we are now. Just as nobody really concerns themselves with the laws around them they just focus on, follow the law- stay out of jail, but what is a No-No law and what is a Freedom? .....Its hard to say, people just know the basics, Don't rob, don't speed, don't kill....

    Answer by BabyBeans0506 at 3:15 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • I am not at all surprised. There's not enough concentration for one on history and government in our schools. For another thing, people don't care anymore. It's sad but maybe if we made people care they would. It disgusts me that people can complain about immigration yet a good majority of them probably couldn't pass the proper testing...

    Answer by OneToughMami at 3:19 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • I'm not surprised at all. Hae you heard GWB speak?

    Answer by Anonymous at 3:29 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • I am not surprised in the least.

    Answer by QuinnMae at 10:48 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

  • I find it funny that no one is is surprised but had no problem making fun of Palin when the lies of her lack of knowledge hit mainstream media.

    Answer by Anonymous at 10:51 AM on Nov. 23, 2008

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