Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Are You Smarter Than a 12th Grader?

When Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention, he was asked, what kind of government had been established. His answer, "A Republic, if you can keep it." Well, if the following is any indication of our nation as a whole, we are in more trouble than I realized.

The Goldwater Institute issued a Policy Brief this week, titled: "Freedom From Responsibility: A Survey of Civic Knowledge Among Arizona High School Students". They hired a private survey firm to conduct a survey of high school students. The testing and results were grouped according to what type of school the student attends; public, charter, or private. The students were asked ten questions about basic government and civics. The questions came from the group of questions given to candidates for US citizenship. To pass the test, a candidate must get six of the ten questions correct. The Immigration Services recently reported that the first-try pass rate was 92.4%.

When ten questions were given to the students, only 3.5% from the public schools passed with a score of 60%. Charter school students only did twice that good and private school students did about four times as well as public school students, which is still a very low score.

So, how hard were the questions? I could understand if they were similar to, "Name the Supreme Court Justices and what state are they from?" Or, "How many Representatives come from the state of Indiana?" You would have to study like you would when going to a national spelling bee for a test like that. But, remember non-citizens passed with over 92% correct answers.

Here are the ten questions:
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
3. What are the two parts of the US Congress?
4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?
8. We elect a US Senator for how many years?
9. Who was the first President of the United States?
10. Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?

Can you answer at least six of those correctly? Only 3.5% of the public high school students could.

"In the end more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free." Edward Gibbon

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

"Ultimately, a vibrant democracy must rely on the knowledge, skill, and virtues of its citizens and their elected officials. Education that imparts that knowledge and skill and fosters those virtues is essential to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy and civic life." Charles N. Quigley, for the Progressive Policy Institute

In the survey of the (1,134) public school students, not a single one got more than seven right answers. Less than 30% knew the answer to #1 was the Constitution. 25% knew #2 is the Bill of Rights and even less knew the House and Senate for #3. Under 10% knew there are nine Justices. 1/4 got Thomas Jefferson for #5. Over 41% missed knowing the Atlantic Ocean is on our East Coast. Less than half knew the party names. 15% guess that Senators serve for six years. For #9, the first President, 26.5% knew it was George Washington. Bill Clinton got 3% of the votes. 26% knew the President is in charge of the Executive Branch.

Those results are alarming! Only 40 students got six or seven right answers. 172 students missed all or only got one right. Some could argue that maybe the test was given to students in their early years of high school, when they learn most of this in the later years. Seniors passed at a rate of only 4.1%. If the results were argued based on race, the passing rates were: 3.5% for Anglo, 3.1% for Hispanic, 5.5% for African American, 11.5% for Asian, and 1.3% for Native American students.

For Charter schools, 7.3% passed (all with six or seven right answers). 13.3% missed all or got one right answer. For Private schools, 13.8% passed and 9.7% missed all or got one right.

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." And, "Enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." Thomas Jefferson

It appears that we have failed miserably at passing on American values to the younger generation.

1 comment:

  1. How about college grads? I missed the majority of those questions. (: I knew you'd be proud.