Take the American Civic Literacy Test … Sad State of Affairs with Nations Ignorance & Being Informed


How incredibly sad that Americans fail to know the basics when it comes to history and civics, yet they know who the judges are on American Idol and the past winners. They know “Survivor” but do not know what are the three branches of government. How is it possible that so many people can be and have become so ignorant to so simple and basic questions regarding the United States civics? It brings up the obvious question of how can one make an informed decision when they are not informed.

“The nation’s ignorance of the kind of knowledge necessary for informed and responsible citizenship — and the failure of our nation’s colleges to effectively address and fix this problem — would certainly be unacceptable to our founding fathers, who believed that the university would create leaders to preserve liberty,” asserts Dr. Brake. “Our report demonstrates that Americans today expect no less from our colleges than our founders did.”

How badly are our schools failing us and our children when the most common and simple civics questions cannot be answered? An uninformed public is an easily deceived public and easily manipulated by government.


Press Release from The American Civic Literacy Program

Washington, D.C., November 20, 2008 – Are most people, including college graduates, civically illiterate? Do elected officials know even less than most citizens about civic topics such as history, government, and economics? The answer is yes on both counts according to a new study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33-question test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an “F.” Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an “A.” Even more startling is the fact that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

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  • Comments

    25 Responses to “Take the American Civic Literacy Test … Sad State of Affairs with Nations Ignorance & Being Informed”

    1. Fox Fire on November 20th, 2008 6:25 pm

      Step right up

      The chance of a lifetime

      to prove how smart you are!


      I failed at Civics…

      Didn’t interest me to be a sitting duck

      on some “seat” in a fancy house of stone,

      a historic mansion, surrounded by statues;

      in the middle of a rat-infested city

      full of the homelessness…

      to be held responsible for everybody.


      I preferred the ‘Arts’


      So bash me!


    2. Fox Fire on November 20th, 2008 6:32 pm


      Didn’t interest me

      in the least, little bit…

      to be a sitting duck

      sitting on some “seat”

      in a big, fancy house

      made of stone…

      A historic mansion

      surrounded by statues,

      right smack in the middle

      of a rat-infested city

      full of violence

      and homelessness…

      To be held responsible

      for everybody.


      I preferred the ‘Arts’


      Now it’s your turn!


    3. caesu on November 20th, 2008 6:43 pm

      You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %

      Average score for this quiz during November: 77.7%
      Average score since November 20, 2008: 77.7%

      Answers to Your Missed Questions:
      Question #30 – C. decreasing taxes and increasing spending

      I choose D, and stand by it.

      did they also look into how elected Republicans and Democrats scored?

    4. dave on November 20th, 2008 7:48 pm

      caesu, I see your back from the idiot convention.

    5. caesu on November 20th, 2008 8:09 pm

      dave, I see you are still as eloquent as always.

    6. Michelle on November 20th, 2008 9:28 pm

      I passed :-) Didn’t say with flying colors but I still passed.

    7. scott on November 21st, 2008 8:49 am

      dave – no doubt…. i’m guessing this caesu clown is still a little wet behind the ears if he does not even know what liberals actually want, higher taxes and increased spending. It has been that way HISTORICALLY and there is nothing in Obama’s voting record taht suggests otherwise. He needs a little history lesson on his party’s views and the precedents set by Democratic Presidents before the Messiah who know is telling his advisers to tell the public to “Temper expectations.” LOFL! He does not even understand that people like Pelosi and Reid hate his way of life and his freedoms. They depise you! They want to control you. If you want a microcosm of what America will look like in 4-5 years, take a gander at San Francisco, Pelosi’s home. They are the most socialist city in America and it has turned into a cess pool.

      Be ready with your tin can like the rest of the non federal tax paying people, the welfare recipients, the uninsured, the homeless….it’s your right as well to ask for a hand-out.

    8. Buzz on November 21st, 2008 9:14 am

      You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

      Average score for this quiz during November: 77.2%
      Average score since November 20, 2008: 77.2%

      I also picked D for question thirty and stand by it.

      I thought I did pretty good until I saw caesu’s score.

      I guess I should have taken an economics class somewhere along the way. Ah, the beauty of life is I can still do it.

    9. scott on November 21st, 2008 10:21 am

      That’s the problem…too many idjits picking D for question 30 and standing by it…LOL!

    10. scott on November 21st, 2008 10:23 am

      I don’t believe his score. How much research on the web did you do? Liberals are cheats and liars.

    11. Richard on November 21st, 2008 10:40 am

      Maybe Americans don’t know such trivia as where Canada, Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean are …

      (An uncle of mine, who used to teach high school in Connecticut, swears that this story is true: some kids in the school couldn’t find the Atlantic Ocean on a map. And apparently, some ‘American history’ textbooks don’t even mention things such as the Civil War ….)

      But, hey, they know who’s the current Hollywood heartthrob. Isn’t that all that’s needed?

      Remember, this is the ‘me’ world. It has to be relevant (whatever that means) … gone are the days of my school years, when we learned (or failed to learn) something because we were told that that was the course material.

      I guess the idea used to be that the teachers knew better than we did what we needed to know.

    12. Richard on November 21st, 2008 10:50 am

      I was marked wrong on #33:

      33) If taxes equal government spending, then:
      A. government debt is zero
      B. printing money no longer causes inflation
      C. government is not helping anybody
      D. tax per person equals government spending per person
      E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

      They said that the right answer is (d), but I disagree. It doesn’t necessarily follow that, if taxes equal government spending in the aggregate, this is true for every person. Bill Gates will pay more taxes than I will, for example.

    13. david on November 21st, 2008 11:09 am

      scott – Pedophiles such as yourself are not allowed to take the test so no wonder you haven’t posted a score.

      How was your daughter in bed last night? Did you jizz in her eye?

    14. katablog.com on November 21st, 2008 12:16 pm

      Richard: I’m will you. But my reasoning is that when Government spends, it’s not necessarily spent on a “per person”. To me it sounded like that answer was saying that if I pay $1,000 in taxes, the government provides me $1,000 worth of services. Since E. is not true, D cannot be true.

    15. kerrjac on November 21st, 2008 5:23 pm

      The sad part is that people use these sorts of studies to spew broad insults at the American populace. First of all, the study methods weren’t sound, as they consisted of administering a multiple choice test orally over the phone. But more importantly, so what? What makes civil literacy more than any other area of knowledge or political cause? It’s easy to spew insult & criticism over a broad populace, but America has almost 400 million individuals, you’re talking about real people (myself included) who have real lives. & if they’re too busy in their daily lives or even in their leisure time to tell some stranger over phone that the answer to question 3 is A, then it’s probably a good thing. Lost in all of this is the strengths of our education system, which is moving away from rote memorization. Ask baby boomers about computers & the internet, their knowledge would pale in comparison to our youth. Times are changing. You can’t use old standards to measure new ones. New generations are always getting smarter. And you can’t measure that intelligence with archaic standards from old generations.

    16. Richard on November 21st, 2008 10:34 pm

      Poster #15 says: “New generations are always getting smarter.”

      Glad to hear that … otherwise I would never have known it. Or suspected it, for that matter.

    17. kerrjac on November 22nd, 2008 9:09 am

      IQ tests have been dramatically rising since they were first used in the 60′s. The norms are redone every so often, but basically if used old norms for people taking the test today, then the average person today would like a genius. Which is not to say that IQ is the best measure of intelligence, or that there aren’t alternative explanations for this. But certainly an IQ test is more scientifically sound than asking a few people questions over the phone.



    18. Jesse on November 24th, 2008 12:37 pm

      I scored 91%! Oh but wait, I still can’t get into any sociology or political science graduate program in America…my undergrad degree comes from a non-accredited religious college. If I can supply my score on this test along with ample evidence of my heresy and immorality since graduation do you think the “open minded” gatekeepers of the California State University system will reconsider?

    19. Kathy on December 8th, 2008 7:40 am

      Well, I thought it was an interesting test, but as I got to the last 10 questions or so I thought they became pretty convuluted! It would have been difficult to do those over the phone. Have a good day.

    20. SofP on January 9th, 2011 8:25 pm

      If TV is what people watch, then why not teach more on TV, in a fun way? I live in Japan, and Japanese people have really fun shows that teach them about their world via game shows talk shows, and comedy shows. Japanese TV is really interesting and fun, and I think that US TV has it in the interest of the public to change what they show.

    21. BCL1 on April 24th, 2012 10:54 am

      I got a 100%. Now can I become dictator and tell everybody what to do in this worthless democracy?

    22. William Teach on April 24th, 2012 11:32 am


    23. BMS on June 5th, 2012 11:03 pm

      I scored 91% so I got 3 wrong and 1 of them was a stupid mistake I made because I rushed through it (anyone who has ever taken a test can identify with that). The other 2 were economic questions, which I can tell from this message board were the biggest source of wrong answers for a lot of people. But still, I am embarrassed for this country and furthermore, cannot believe some of the pathetic excuses people are offering up to justify the performances rendered overall on this simple test. As a citizen of any state, society, culture, etc. you have a duty to at least be remotely aware of your origins and the dictates by which your system of government currently operates under. Plain and simple.

    24. Sam on July 20th, 2012 2:13 am

      I answered #33 correctly
      33) If taxes equal government spending, then:
      A. government debt is zero
      B. printing money no longer causes inflation
      C. government is not helping anybody
      D. tax per person equals government spending per person
      E. tax loopholes and special-interest spending are absent

      The answer is C! They give my money away to special intrest groups and big banksters and Congress has already used up my SocSec. D is the answer in their dreams of Utopia.

    25. One in Four Americans Were Unaware that Earth Circles Sun … The Dumbing Down of America | Scared Monkeys on February 15th, 2014 5:25 pm

      [...] not just science that individuals have an issue with, remember how poorly folks did on the civics literacy exam? It should be considered a crime in how children are being educated. But I am sure Common Core is [...]

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