The title of this post comes from a comment a student left on my civics quiz yesterday. You’ll understand why in a minute.
So! A few days ago, this video circulated around the internet. In it, a woman interviewed a bunch of (ostensibly) Texas Tech students, asking them basic civics questions.
Their answers should horrify you.
Skeptical Chili was skeptical. I mean, COME ON! The CIVIL WAR?! You don’t know who won the FUCKING CIVIL WAR?! I wasn’t buying it, so I decided to run a little experiment of my own. I put together a quick little short-answer, true-false quiz that I’d give to my own students and see how they compared to the kids in the video.
Let’s just say I’m not skeptical about the video anymore.
I passed out the quiz and told my kids that I WASN’T grading them – like, to the point that they didn’t even have to put their names on them if they didn’t want to (and most didn’t). I explained the Texas Tech video and my incredulity about its accuracy (I had to explain “incredulity.” Sigh) and told them that I wanted to prove that college kids knew the answers to these basic questions. I also told them that most of the questions were lifted straight off the INS website’s citizenship practice test.
Here’s the quiz:
When was the Declaration of Independence issued?
Against which country did we fight the War of 1812? What famous building was occupied and then burned in that war?
When did the Civil War begin (the year or the event)?
Who was President during the Civil War?
Which side won the Civil War?
Where is Pearl Harbor and what happened there?
In WWII, the US fought WITH two other nations; which were they, and against whom were we fighting?
What are the three branches of the US government?
How many years is a term of office for a Representative?
For a Senator?
For a President?
For a Supreme Court Justice?
How many terms can each serve?
What is the First Amendment and what does it protect?
What does the 13th Amendment do (bonus points for correctly listing the date of ratification)?
What does the 19th Amendment do (bonus points for correctly listing the date of ratification)?
What did Susan B. Anthony do?
How old do you have to be to vote in US elections?
Under our Constitution, there are a number of powers that belong to the States. Name ONE of these:
Who becomes president if both the president and vice president die?
How many Supreme Court Justices are there? Who’s the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
How many Senators are elected from each state?
How many representatives are elected from each state?
Name your CURRENT Senators and Representatives:
What did the Citizens United Supreme Court decision do?
True or False:
Illegal immigrants can have access to federal assistance programs like Food Stamps, Welfare, and Unemployment Insurance.
The US has a higher incarceration rate than any other nation in the world.
This nation was founded on the basis of Christianity and the Bible.
It is a crime to videotape police officers making an arrest.
In 29 states, someone can be legally fired because he or she is homosexual.
The United States was founded under the principle that all men and women can participate in the political decisions by voting.
The federal deficit has increased under President Obama.
Voter turnout for the most recent mid-term elections was the lowest it’s been since World War II.
Socialism, Fascism, and Communism are all words that mean basically the same thing.
I currently teach two composition classes at two different institutions; one is a state-run community college (though a fairly large and well-established one) and one is a medium-sized public university.
The class average for my community college kids was a 25.5, and the class average for the university kids was 48.5. Seriously. The highest grade of all of them was a university student, who scored a 79.
Most kids thought Susan B. Anthony was Betsy Ross. A few kids thought Pearl Harbor is in Boston and was the site of the Boston Tea Party. With ONE exception, all students thought that the deficit has increased under President Obama. At least four of them thought that the First Lady becomes President if the President and Vice President die, and one kid thought that Clinton was President during the Civil War.
No, I’m not kidding.