Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why it matters

I just was forwarded an interesting (and tough) quiz on American civics. I think it's crucial for us as a nation to have a better understanding about our form of government (the way it was intended and the way it is now), our history and what makes us different than other nations. Without this knowledge, how can we elect responsible representatives?

Here's the quiz. It's 33 questions long, and they range from easy to hard. Take a few minutes (don't just breeze through it) to take this test. Without giving away any answers, I thought some of the following analysis of the results were interesting:

1) 2,508 people took this test and gave detailed information about themselves. 71% failed.

2) The multiple-regression analysis indicated that a person’s test score drops in proportion to the time he or she spends using certain types of passive electronic media. Talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and even monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries diminishes a respondent’s civic literacy.

3) Actively seeking knowledge through print media and high-quality conversations has the opposite effect. Reading about history and current events in books, magazines, and newspapers—and talking about these subjects with family and friends—increases a respondent’s civic literacy.

4) The least correctly answered question was the one asking about the difference between Free Markets and Central Planning. Respondants did worse on this question than a random coin flip would have done.

5) 164 surveyed said they had held an elected office at least once in their life. Their average score was 44%. The average score for those who had never held an elected office was 49%.

Make sure to leave your score or your surprises in the comments section. I'm clearly lacking in my knowledge of political history. The more we educate each other, the more likely it will be for us to elect a group of people more like the ones who framed our country than the ones who now just take legal bribes. In spite of the modern poo-poo about our founding fathers being a bunch of white men, the were also incredibly hard working, intelligent and noble, diverse in background, education, opinion, wealth and religion. Let's keep pushing to get our Congress back towards its roots.


John Hanrahan said...

I got an 84.85
I got 5 questions wrong.

Ryan you didnt say how many you got right.

It should be noted that I recently read the bill of rights which I am sure helped my score.

Ryan said...

Johnny, sorry. First off, feel free to round up to an 85% and congrats. I just barely nipped you with an 88%. I missed the questions about the Puritans, FDR's threats, the Gettysburg address and the Lincoln Douglas debates.

I also think you should get a bonus point for reading the bill of rights recently.

Roller said...

I got an 82%. Interesting note on the free market / central planning one - I didn't think it was worded very well. Could be my own ignorance (I missed it).

Keep those coming, I love history/trivia. Which reminds me... I haven't been to this site in years but definitely lost some hours here. Baseball trivia will never get old...

G. Smith said...

I got five wrong - 85%. I should report that I also recently read the bill of rights (inspired by the Loop and The Lou) and a biography of FDR.

I should also admit that I got lucky on some of the questions - the free market questions threw me a bit. Here were a series of factual questions about U.S. history and particular documents - and then suddenly I was back in Ryan's post on the economy.

I smelled an agenda - so I did a little more searching and found out that the makers of the quiz also publish titles such as "Top Schools for Conservatives, Old-Fashioned Liberals, and People of Faith," and "Conservative Thought: The Crossroads for Perennial Ideas."

Still, I don't know how one could score below 50% and be an elected official - well, maybe just a two term president.

Roller said...

"Ohhhhh, SNAP!!!! I gotta forward this to Stewart!!"

- Bill Maher, after reading the last line of G's comment (which made me laugh, too).

Coovo said...

I'll admit it, I got like a 72.something. I thought a few were kind of hard. questions 30 and 31 seemed more like propaganda tools than questions. Not surprised that G's Columbo like detective work unearthed its true motives.

Ryan said...

Coov, I know what you mean. I guess the idea being that if it is as true as an economic question can be stated, then it's more imporant to know that than to know what FDR's gov't programs were called. Cause-and-Effects are more important than Names.

G, funny. Just post one of your liberal ("old-fashioned"?) quizzes that tries to educate people on the same topics, and we can claim we are "Fair and Balanced". Actually, that phrase is tainted...

G. Smith said...

DOH! - you've caught me criticizing without a suggestion of an alternative. All I've got is propaganda.

I forgot to say that I, too, like these types of quizzes. They make me smarter - I didn't know much about the Lincoln/Douglass debates until now.

The point about the benefits of taking an active role in educating ourselves is great. It reminds me of this re-run of BSG I watched last week.

But an honest question - I appreciate the idea that we should try and remember what the founding ideals of this country were, and there are plenty of politicians that should be reminded of our founding documents. However, is there a danger of relying too heavily on the Founding Fathers dogma when it comes the the economy? Afterall, America in 2008 is a significantly different collection of interest groups than it was in 1776. How do we even compare today's economy with one based on slave labor?

Ryan said...

GMoney, it's not just about the economy, it's about our entire culture. The African slaves were actually freed by arguments formed directly from the founders, that all men are created equal. It's a formula that doesn't go out of date or context. It is self-corrective.

The further we stray from it, the more we ironically need it. Understanding why it was written and formed that way is crucial to not repeating history (tyranny). For example, whether you meant to or not, you referred to current America as a "collection of interest groups."

The Bill of Rights applies to all individuals, not collections of people. This is why hate crime legislation is so dangerous, for example. We have already started to define people by the groups they belong to, not by their inherent, self-evident worth as an individual. Multiculturalism has had a big hand in this and has caused a lot of damage.

If there is something radically different about human nature now from 230 years ago (there's not), then we can always amend the constitution. But it should be hard, not easy. Those guys (the founders) were way smarter and wiser and more informed than these guys (our current Congress who wants no responsibility).

We all also need to understand that high levels of personal morality are necessary to maintain a free democracy. Treat people with respect! That's where formality comes from, chivalry, etc, these aren't antiquated, worthless concepts -- as I used to consider them. Yeah, it can be overdone, but I don't think our culture needs to worry about an over abundance of formal respect for life and each other at this point in time.

The more our government does as charity, the less moral we become. The more our government legally divides us into sectors of people, the more divided we become, etc.

We have succeeded so far as a country because of our rule of law. The more we allow this to be obscured, the greater our chances of failure and self-destruction, although we may be fooled into thinking we are making progress in some short term.

kevin! said...

i think 5 questions were worded poorly...

i remember the lincoln/douglas debates bc lincoln had some surprisingly pro slavery quotes (for the south). what people will say to get elected. another factoid is those debates were like 3 or 4 hours long. i'll settle for the cliff notes.
think obama is inheriting a mess? maybe so, but when lincoln was elected, 7 states seceded. damnnnn

Vanessa said...

So this is my first comment on your blog but I took this quiz and scored a 77%. I then proceeded to send it around the office and was surprised by the results. My office is comprised of mostly 50 year olds and above and then a handful of 25-35year olds. The 50year olds all scored high 80s and 90s. The 25-35 year olds all scred 70-77. What does that mean for the younger generation? Did we skip history class or something?

Roller said...

Vanessa, excellent question. Really.

It's probably a number of things, but the expansion of television, and then the internet, have lead to a multitude of different forms of education/entertainment all competing for eyeballs. The lowest common denominator is a favorite in that competition, and they aren't preaching the Bill of Rights.

Just a theory.

Have any of you guys seen Idiocracy? It's pretty dumb, but funny, and sad, but unfortunately rings somewhat true.

Roller said...

p.s. Vanessa, don't be a stranger 'round these parts. Thanks for stopping by.