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via sophiaserpentia

if you are a us citizen, and have about 10 mins to test your civics/history knowledge scope this quiz.

some of the stats are terrifying.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
dawestruck
Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
49/60
I dunno man...those questions are pretty hard. By my standards, I think if you can get more than half of them right you're doing pretty well.

Frankly, I kind of disagree with the entire premise of their criticism of America's colleges. The only reason I even got a B- on this quiz (without cheating) is because my college and post-college education was almost custom-made for it. Many of the questions asked were fascinating tidbits of American history, but far from the essential knowledge of a competent citizen. I'd be MORE pissed off at our centers of higher education if they wasted their students time teaching them what the final battle of the Revolution was. You go through that sort of stuff in junior high and high school social studies classes, and for those of us who find it interesting, we can continue learning about it during the more voluntary phase of our education. Others will go on to learn about engineering and medicine and shit (according to the people who conducted the study, this is called "negative learning") and never think about the battle of Yorktown again unless HBO makes a miniseries about it. And that's fine with me.
delascabezas
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
gross exaggeration
What you are describing is part of the cebtral theme of Idiocracy. While I agree that it is not an imperative that every citizen know the minutiae of the entire chain of American history, without at least a fundamentally working knowledge of how we got where we are, it creates a strong possibility(I'd go so far as to say probability) that people will end up living under conditions where they don't understand the origin of those conditions.

A democracy, in my opinion, is only as worthwhile as the caliber of the citizenry. As you say, most people get a cursory run through of this stuff as a teenager... But where is the ability to interrelate past achievements or failures as a society with what is going on currently? Your HBO reference (though tongue-in-cheek to a certain extent) is a big part of the problem - if peoplr think they can learn the history of Rome through a two year miniseries, they'll never read Edward Gibbon or William Carroll Bark and form thier own opinions, rather than what some marketing exec thinks will pull in the best rating that night, or what a director/producer thinks will showcase the actors best.

Though it borders on fascist ideology in some places, I honestly believe that the citizenry of a democracy should not only have to pass tests which exemplify a working knowledge of the system they belong to, in order to benefit from it, I think that it should be the aim of every citizen to actively take part in it. Community service is handed out as punishment for a crime - what kind of society is that?

I agree with you that not all trade-based education is bad in a black and white sense, but I strongly believe, as someone who has pushed harder on self-education than in any curriculum I was a part of, that holistic learning helps you appreciate the fundamental links between past, present, and future. As species (to go one level above the nationalist perspective) we stand to win or lose bigtime based on how well people will understand the past, how it led to the present, and how to adjust course for the future.

At least until that meteor hits...
dawestruck
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
Re: gross exaggeration
I love Idiocracy and have watched it many times (gets funnier and funnier). I don't see the connection - the problems in that world stem from inherent intellectual characteristics, not education. In the opening of the movie (and the final scene), dumb people in trailer parks procreate like jackrabbits while smart people carefully plan their families, leading to an inevitable spiral in the average IQ. The hilarious people who occupy the future Idiocracy world didn't end up like that because they didn't know whether Washington or Jefferson coined the little-used phrase "wall of separation."

I agree with you that a certain level of knowledge is desirable and should be required, which is what we endeavor to do as part of mandatory education. However, I set the bar in a different place than the makers of this quiz. I think I prefer my citizens armed with more functional knowledge of their government and history (for instance, knowing how Supreme Court justices are appointed instead of knowing that the power of judicial review was established in Marbury v. Madison). You may call this setting the bar lower, in a way that will inevitably lead to us watering our plants with Brawndo (it's got what plants crave!). Maybe it is, but I see a qualitative difference...many of the questions on that quiz, I think, border on the trivial.

You're right to call my characterization of the quiz an exaggeration (maybe not "gross"...). There were some questions on there that I think are fundamental. However, I still stand by the assertion that the people who conducted this study are imposing an idiosyncratic (and, in my opinion, misguided) normative standard on the success or failure of our universities.

But you seem to be more concerned with the state of knowledge in society in general, rather than the curricula of our universities. In that case, I definitely think the quiz sets the bar too high. And I find encouragement in some places. The HBO miniseries that I was actually making my tongue-in-cheek reference to is apparently doing quite well, and is based on a best-selling book that is a biography of an American historical figure. I suppose we can have an argument over whether TV producers, publishing house editors, or cloistered academics are the best arbiters of which information is necessary for people to form their own opinions, but I'd rather not.

We both agree that a certain amount of historical, political, philosophical, and economic knowledge is essential to the proper functioning of our society going forward. I join you in believing that the current level is deficient and wishing that people would take more initiative in educating themselves on these matters. However, I don't think that the quiz and study here do a proper job of identifying the depth of the deficiency, the sources of it, or even the proper standard of measurement.
phanatic
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: 49/60
those questions are pretty hard.

The one on Marbury is fairly esoteric, yeah.

My objection is that some of those answers are simply *wrong*. It's silly to define the outcome of the War of 1812 as a "stalemate". The UN wasn't founded to support "international organization," it was created specifically to prevent another world war.

However, I still stand by the assertion that the people who conducted this study are imposing an idiosyncratic (and, in my opinion, misguided) normative standard on the success or failure of our universities.

I agree. There's never anything wrong with knowing something, but knowing what the SC does is more important than knowing what the case was in which it decided that it gets to decide whether a given law is acceptable or not.
gothhippiegrrl
Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
I got a 29 out of 60. :\
(Anonymous)
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
I got 52/60. I'm surprised and credit law school.

questions I missed:

Question #1 - D. 1601-1700
Question #2 - B. stressed the sinfulness of all humanity.
Question #14 - C. 1901-1925
Question #19 - C. philosopher kings.
Question #27 - D. Man trusts his ability to know in order to reject his ability to know.
Question #50 - A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends.
Question #59 - C. requires those with higher incomes to pay a higher ratio of taxes to income.
Question #60 - B. social security.
that6tall2girl
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Sigh...
I know my limitations....I refuse to be another depressing statistic. Divorcee, smoker, and history failure.
el__guapo
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
forgot to log in
I got 52/60. I'm surprised and credit law school.

questions I missed:

Question #1 - D. 1601-1700
Question #2 - B. stressed the sinfulness of all humanity.
Question #14 - C. 1901-1925
Question #19 - C. philosopher kings.
Question #27 - D. Man trusts his ability to know in order to reject his ability to know.
Question #50 - A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends.
Question #59 - C. requires those with higher incomes to pay a higher ratio of taxes to income.
Question #60 - B. social security.
dawestruck
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)
Re: forgot to log in
You should be surprised that you even got into law school. #27 could have been a LSAT Logical Reasoning question.
phanatic
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC)
Re: forgot to log in
Question #1 - D. 1601-1700
Question #14 - C. 1901-1925
Question #31 - A. Edmund Burke argued that society consists of a union of past, present, and future generations.
Question #35 - A. discouraged new colonies in the Western hemisphere.
Question #36 - D. The authority of a legitimate sovereign.

Bah. I knew 35, too.
bradamant
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
I got a 49/60. I'm disappointed and credit the fact that I haven't read much about American History since freshman year of college, unless you count Jon Stewart's "America: The Book."

I don't see this as a college problem, though, but a high school one. People can probably get by without knowing who Burke and Locke are. But they should have a high school civics class in which they learn key principles of U.S. government and economics.

Of course, I don't really expect that to happen. Somehow we've gotten to a stage of anti-intellectualism at which, just because I know what century the Civil War took place during, my opinions probably aren't "authentic" enough to count.
phanatic
Apr. 22nd, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
A lot of what's on there isn't even civics, it's basic economics, and *that* should damned well be pounded into kids' heads while the skulls are still soft.
jellomarx
Apr. 22nd, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
I'm embarrassed to say that I got 45/60.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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