Citizenship Tests

Perhaps we should consider stripping voting rights from anyone who can't pass the test? I am saddened to see that the South does particularly badly here, although only Vermont has a majority with a passing score (and that barely).


Texan99 said...

I didn't see a link to the whole quiz, but the example questions look a little more like history trivia than real civics. I'd rather see questions about the Bill of Rights, the electoral college, the three branches of government, the sharing of power between the feds and the states, how senators are elected, appointment powers, or how to amend the Constitution.

E Hines said...

how senators are elected

And when the method changed, and why.

There's also this introduction to a more general level of education quiz from PJMedia's Bruce Bawer in the context of the level and quality of education of Ocasio-Cortez and of Congressmen in general:

find, say, Kazakhstan on a map. I would ask her to name five chemical elements, four Canadian provinces, and three Shakespeare plays. I would ask her which king signed Magna Carta. I would ask her to name one Russian novelist, one French newspaper, the fourth president of the United States, and the third book of the Bible.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

I was going to say I never can get the books of the Bible in order--it's a favorite crossword clue. I can't even remember the order of the businesses along the single main drag in the nearest town, and am always spacing out then wondering if the one I'm looking for is ahead or behind. But I guessed Leviticus, and I was right, so maybe I'm neither a completely ignorant heathen nor entirely senile yet.

Kazakhstan on a map might hang me up. A French newspaper's name might occur to me in time. I'd do fine on the other questions.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

State measurements are racial and ethnic. Don't say that out loud. Just look at the map silently. These are averages. There is less variation on the top 25% of SATs in every state, so I'm betting that's true here as well.

It is hard to know which factoids should be considered essential. The people who know lots of them may have a false idea which ones are simple and essential. While having command of a basic arsenal of facts may be necessary to clear thinking, and even more to clear discussion, I would prefer a subtler test: Ask many questions that are older, classical, not current events and treat them as a group rather than worrying about any single one. We have too many people who are very good at current events - but that often means they just keep up with their political indoctrination from the media and academia, so they can reassure themselves they are still among the elite.

Grim said...

I could only get to three provinces of Canada without looking it up -- which is funny, because I'd have no trouble picking Kazakhstan out on a map. (It's the second biggest country north of Afghanistan, with the first biggest being Russia.) I also know several French newspapers for the same reason: because of the war on terror, those things have occupied much of my professional attention. Canada mostly I trust to take care of itself, so I pay little attention to it though it's closer.

I did not accurately remember the fourth President of the United States. I thought it might have been John Quincy Adams, but he was 6th. Leviticus I knew. The rest of those questions strike me as absurdly easy.

State measurements are racial and ethnic. Don't say that out loud. Just look at the map silently.

I wondered if that was true, but there are some definite counterexamples. Alaska has a terrible score, but is two-thirds non-Hispanic white. Kentucky has one of the lowest scores, but it's ~88% non-Hispanic white. It's beaten out by Mississippi and Alabama, even.

Of course, this is a single survey.

...see questions about the Bill of Rights, the electoral college, the three branches of government, the sharing of power between the feds and the states, how senators are elected, appointment powers, or how to amend the Constitution.... And when the method changed, and why.

I think that's right, including Mr. Hines' addition.

Texan99 said...

I'm less concerned arcane facts and what they says about the average citizen's depth of education than I am about a working knowledge of the aspects of our political system that bear on our current interaction without our own government and legal system. I'd like to think that students are being taught about basic policies that directly affect our understanding of how things work and therefore what kind of thing we ought to be voting for.

There's something bizarre about being eligible to vote for President when you can't name the current Vice President.

J Melcher said...

Agreed the quality of the test must be improved. After such improvements however, yes, voting should be contingent upon passing the test.

Now, should the test include a physical fitness component? Be able to walk (or self-propel with customary assistive accessories like crutches or wheels) at least one mile? Be able to lift a ten pound, one-cubic-foot box from the floor and place it on a 30-inch-high counter? Strangle a cougar?

E Hines said...

I'm less concerned with an ability to recite facts--even basic civics facts, though I'm more concerned about knowing these things than many others--than I am with an ability to think critically. Facts can be learned or looked up, but it takes a framework of ability to think to give those facts useful relationship and meaning.

Modern Monetary Theory says print money to pay national bills, and don't worry so much about debts or deficits. Inflation is a monetary price increase from demand exceeding supply. How to put those two facts together into a useful relationship? Hmm, let's see, now....

Eric Hines

douglas said...

The facts as a general background are important so that one has some context within which to evaluate current decisions to be made. That said, I don't think it's important if you know that Madison was 4th President and not JQ Adams (I also made that error), or at least not nearly as important as knowing about the ideas Madison stood for, for instance. I think that it seems that none of us would get 100%, and I know we're all pretty knowledgeable, so maybe it's a test not designed to sort the top 10% out from the rest, but to simply determine a minimum knowledge exposure- so providing opportunities to show indication of remembering some of the associated factoids, but not expecting anyone to get them all.

Put another way, maybe we learn these facts as we learn about the ideas around these people and places, and being able to recite the factoids is emblematic of having at least been exposed to the ideas accompanying them. A possibility, I think.