Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Can You Pass A Citizenship Test?

Well, now that the holiday season has ended and we get back to our "normal" lives, it is time to take a test. Now, I have every confidence that everyone here at CommentaramaPolitics can easily pass this test, but it never hurts to review.

Playbuzz.com - Citizenship Test

And if you are really ambitious, you can try these from the History Channel Two Quizes [Caveat - These have not been updated since 2009]

I know you all did very well. And I am almost certain that you learned all the answers to these questions in elementary school. Am I right? Well, did you know that Civics classes are no longer a basic requirement in most public schools? As a matter of fact, 39 states require only one class in government or civics to graduate. If you think this is scary, watch this short video made by a couple of student journalists included in this 2012 HuffPo article - 'Lunch Scholars' Of course, it was edited to include the best "wrong answers". But when one student was asked "Who is the Vice President?" and her answer was "bin Laden", I died a little inside. There should be no student in any public school who cannot answer that question correctly.

I really have not point here except, if our students do not know the basics of when, where, what, why and how our government works, how can we reasonably expect them to be able to protect and defend our Constitution?


Tennessee Jed said...

one more examples of how our educational system has failed.

Anthony said...

I think someone could not know who Joe Biden is and manage to be a productive citizen :) .

Seriously, the text below should be kept in mind.

The two student journalists who created the video have issued a statement. From KIRO-TV:

"The video that we made as a school project has received a lot of unexpected media attention, and has been co-opted into an ongoing political debate that has become quite volatile. It should be known that we filmed for several hours, during which time many students gave correct responses; the film represents a short segment of the most entertaining answers. The bottom line is that we made the video to get a few laughs around our school, and it turned into something bigger. It was not our intent to polarize people, set off a firestorm, or get people to point fingers. Having said that, people will take from it what they will. We want to continue our work as student journalists in a productive manner."

I'm not too worried about kids' grasps on civics. I've heard way too many people who should know better say silly stuff about the Constitution. For example, if I had a dollar every time I heard someone in high dudgeon rant that a private company had infringed upon free speech rights by firing an employee for controversial social media comments I would be able to buy Microsoft. In my experience no matter the depth of their knowledge about the Constitution, people almost invariably cherrypick in order to get to the conclusion(s) they want to get to.

Anthony said...

Moving back to students, IMHO American kids are alright. They know a lot. My daughters routinely offhandedly throw some really sophisticated concepts at me when they are discussing things they are passionate about (my daughters love to draw and they read lots of art books and watch lots of Youtube videos about drawing).

More relevantly, America's economy is still doing very well vi a vi its foreign competitors, in part due to people doing what they love (stuff which wasn't necessarily taught in schools) in part due to people being willing to take risks (which ties into my first point) and in part due to their willingness to assume leadership roles (assertiveness is not something Americans lack).

The educational systems where kids memorize vast quantities of facts have something to recommend them, but countries which have such systems acknowledge they are problematic in some senses. Below are snippets of an interesting blog on the subject.


Interesting article in the WSJ about the lack of creativity in Asian graduates. But I think that the article misses the point.

The conclusion is that Asian grads aren’t creative because they don’t have he soft skills that come from a liberal education. Ironic that this is the conclusion since the rise of the liberal arts education in the US is blamed for the demise of the US worker, the plight of the ’00 generation, the worthless degrees being offered (at outrageous prices) at most US institutions, the lack of engineers, etc., etc.
The economy in most Asian countries is such that many or most of the menial tasks that kids do at home or in a family business in the US are done by (very) low wage laborers in Asia. Sometimes, kids are not even allowed to have jobs outside the home anyway. Kids never get to build a tree house, never get to work on a car with their father, never get to have an after school job, never build Ikea furniture (it costs 10Y to have someone off the street do it for you, so why would you?).

The knock on the US education is that while it’s broad and pushes independent thinking, kids spend time in the most stupid of majors. But kids graduating from college in Asia with their skulls full of more info than American kids could ever imagine don’t know how to use any of that info because they’ve never had the chance to try. Stupid as basket weaving or X studies may be, the life surrounding the typical US high school and college campus forces most students to at least learn to budget their own time and money and often work at a job too. Internships in Asia are few and far between and not valued anyway. After school jobs are seen as both socially demeaning as well as a waste of time.
END of blog quote

Don't get me wrong, I think the American education system can be improved, but I wish the reformers luck. In my experience Common Core is a step in the right direction, but many conservative websites are flooded with parents whining about 'impossible math' which made their little darlings cry and ruined their history of getting straight As.

LL said...

if our students do not know the basics of when, where, what, why and how our government works, how can we reasonably expect them to be able to protect and defend our Constitution? That's the point, isn't it? Orwell said, "Ignorance is Strength".

ScottDS said...

47 out of 50 - not bad!! :-)

And I agree, it's a shame civics isn't really taught anymore. My dad was a teacher and he expressed the same sentiment. (He would've taught the class if it actually existed.)

tryanmax said...

I only had one semester of civics, and I aced the citizenship test. The basic mechanics of our government could be taught in an afternoon. I really don't know what another semester or two would add. Also, keep in mind, the video wouldn't be funny if most people didn't know that the answers were wrong. That we collectively make fun of not knowing basic civics is a very good sign.

Kit said...


I got 50/50.

tryanmax said...

On a tangential note, I didn't like any of the answers for the question about who U.S. Senators represent. The intended answer (which I selected) was "all the people of the state." I follow the reasoning, but because I'm me, I dug around a little bit to see how other sources answer the question. A lot of government and university websites halfway duck the question and say simply "the state" which was the answer I was looking for.

BevfromNYC said...

BING BING BING!!! I won the "Predictions for 2015" Contest (yeah, there was a contest...wasn't there?) Anyway, Boehner gets to keep his position as Speaker for another session. Personally I am glad because he has actually done a good job (IMHO). Now let's see what he and McConnell can do when the Republicans have both sides of Congress.

ScottDS said...

Kit -

Well, gooooood for you! ;-)

BevfromNYC said...

. In my experience Common Core is a step in the right direction, but many conservative websites are flooded with parents whining about 'impossible math'

Anthony - It's not just conservatives who are whining. Just as many liberals who are whining too. And it's not just that little Billy is losing his place at Harvard at 6 yrs old. I was talking to a woman whose 5 yr old grandson hated going to school because it was too hard. That shouldn't happen to a 5 yr old. And when I say too hard, I mean, he had an hour of homework...HOMEWORK!!! He's in freakin' kindergarten! We had this conversation in a room full of retired elementary school teachers who were appalled. The main discussion turned to when did we start demanding that kids know how to read, to write, and do simple math by the time they were 4 yrs old? Those free wheeling creative years are being cut short.

And I agree with you, that we are breeding the creativity out of kids. But then I blame a steady stream of electronic entertainment for that. Kids no longer have to make their own fun or play "make believe" because it is all manufactured for them. We need people because creative thinkers are creative problem solvers who become creative inventors.

I can't complain about "liberal arts" majors or kids getting worthless degrees because I have a BFA in Theatre Production. But I am one of those creative problem solvers who got to play make-believe when I was a child.

However remember this - Hitler was a artist too...

BevfromNYC said...

Kit and Scott - There will be prizes for all who took the test. No fighting. :-/

BevfromNYC said...

TennJ - I wouldn't go so far as to say it has failed, but we do not do anyone any good by by thinking that facts don't matter. And that seems to be a growing theme today in education, so it is no wonder that the whole UVA sexual assault lie criticism was brushed aside by the liars as "well, it's not the facts or truth that matters. It COULD have happened and we need to do something to stop it from happening again."

BevfromNYC said...

Tryanmax - you are right that "the basic mechanics of our government could be taught in an afternoon" However our form of government is more than just "mechanics". To truly understand our government you have to understand where it came from, how it was born, and why it is so precious. Just like teaching the "birds and the bees". Anyone can manage the mechanics of making a baby, but learning to be a good parent is where the real education really is.

Old Time Reader First Time Commenter said...

Bev......49/50. Missed the one right for US citizens only. The test appears designed for middle school or even lower students.

I always thought it would be interesting if they asked political affiliation PRIOR to taking tests like these. Would probably give a pretty decent insight into the lack of basic civic and national understanding based on Dem or Rep.

Who do you think would score higher? Dem, Rep, Lib, Greens, OWS, SJW, Northerners/Southerners?

OTHH....I strongly believe we should bring back some sort of requirement for those who vote. Ex: Anyone (sex, race, age, etc.) ca vote who contributes to the success of the nation., i.e., property owner, business owner, gainfully employed.


BevfromNYC said...

OTR/FTC - So glad you decided to comment!

I think that there would probably be no difference in party affiliation and who would do better because one would already have some knowledge of how the system is set up just by being engaged in the process. But taking that into consideration, only about 25% of the registered voters actually vote on a regular basis (as in every election cycle).

I am opposed to having a requirement to vote other than being a citizen.
If we have property rights requirements then we are back where we started when we had a King. However I strongly believe that one should have to have proof that they are a citizen by showing a valid government-issued photo ID. There is no excuse why anyone who is a citizen does not have a valid form of ID.

tryanmax said...

Bev, hence the remainder of the semester. Like I said, it wouldn't make good comedy if the bulk of people didn't get the joke.

On the homework/Common Core front:

I'd like to know these schools sending kindergartners home with any homework. My kindergartner certainly isn't getting any. (True, Nebraska rejected CC, but on the grounds that our standards are higher.) Regardless, I'm sure it has nothing to do with CC, because this isn't a new complaint. Too much homework has been a complaint anytime anyone wants to tinker with standards since I was in grade school.

I can't square the circle either way. The current standards are apparently so abysmally low that we graduate idiots who learned less in twelve years than grandpa did before noon on his first day of primary school. At the same time, any attempt to correct the problem results in oppressively difficult tests and mountains of homework that smother the very essence of childhood.

EricP said...

50 outta 50, and, as always, thank you, great-grandpa Livingston, Schoolhouse Rock and 11th grade Civics with Mr. Perry!!!

AndrewPrice said...

Sorry I've been absent today. It's bandage changing day and sometimes those can be rough... like today. I'll take the test and comment soon! :)

Anonymous said...

50 out of 50! Although I would call the civil war the war between the states or the war of northern aggression, but that's a story for another day. :)

BevfromNYC said...

GypsyTyger - I thought the very same thing! Obviously, this test was written by Yankees...;-)

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - I expect you to get 52 out of 50...

Anonymous said...

Right on Bev!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Sadly, I only got 50 out of 50. I apparently missed the extra credit questions.

Good call on Boehner. I never saw it as a real threat.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The attacks on Common Core are both based on false information and often are hypocritical.

That said, we have encountered a couple of strange assignments in the math section. In both instances, it wasn't clear why anyone would solve the problem the way they wanted.

Kit said...


I'm a Southerner but a loyal American and therefore I call the Civil War the "War of Confederate Treason". ;)

Kit said...

I sent it to a friend of mine who lives in England (she is English but lived in the US for about a year) and she got 45 out of 50.

And she said none of that came from her year in the States. So there seems to be little excuse to fail it.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, I second what Anthony has said. American kids are doing really well. Moreover, the arguments/"studies" put forth that say that American kids are stupid/failures/falling behind or whatnot cherrypick "facts," often completely misusing statistics to turn nothing into something, they present those facts out of context or misconstrue them entirely, they compare apples to oranges, they rely on isolated incidents which they try to describe as systematic, they ignore vast amounts of contrary evidence, they way overstate the importance of minutia, and they tend to be awash in self-righteous nostalgia.

BevfromNYC said...

"..."War of Confederate Treason"

Kit - I repudiate you as you, Sir, are no Southerner! Blasphemer!!! ;-) Just kidding...maybe...

Koshcat said...

50/50 (whew)

I enjoyed civics when I was in school. At least in the class I took we really critically looked at how the constution set up the government and then how things worked in real life. That was in 9th grade. We then had US Government in 12th grade which was really dry and boring.

Kids today are really bright and doing things a year or 2 earlier than I did. My daughter has already completed all the 5th grade math requirements and is expected to finish 6th grade by the end of the year. How well the kids do seems to be most associated with the parents and the district.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, it's my understanding that one of the goals of Common Core related to math is to teach multiple approaches to the same type of problem. I wouldn't expect it to be revealed in the assignment, but it stands to reason that this would sometimes result in having kids do things "the hard way." While frustrating to a sense of efficiency, I see the value in fostering understanding over rote usage of formulas.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Generally, that is true. But with this particular assignment, it was pure nonsense. Even the teacher couldn't explain what was being taught.

That said, this was the first time we questioned an assignment.

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