Are you dumber than an elected official? That could be the name of a new TV game show based on the results of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute annual Civic Literacy Test. According to ISI’s November 20th press release:
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 an average score of 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. (Emphasis mine).
The failing scores of elected officials would be funny if it weren’t so sad — and expensive. Interestingly, this last session (this is the third year of ISI’s Civic Literacy Test) all the moaning and groaning seems to have reached the NC General Assembly. Included in this year’s studies bill (S.L. 2008-181) was creation of the Higher Education Civic Education Study Commission to advise the state “on the role of higher education in helping to strengthen and enhance the ability of colleges and universities to participate in civic engagement activities with K-12 educational institutions, faith-based programs, or other service programs affecting the social development and literacy of school-aged children.” High and lofty purposes, but does anyone seriously think recommendations from some legislative commission are going to signficantly improve these trends? A good first step might be civics classes for all elected officials.