You Know Your Country Is In Trouble When…

… it turns out that a citizen of your former colonial master knows exactly twice as much about your civics as the average elected official of your government “of the people, for the people, by the people” :-)

You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

Take the test. (Props for bravery if you are American, get a lower score than me, and admit it in the comments. Incidentally, the source of the quote above is one of the questions I got wrong :-)

53 thoughts on “You Know Your Country Is In Trouble When…

  1. Heh. I got the same score:

    You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

    With questions 4, 8, 15 and 18 answered incorrectly.

    (I do think it is a hallmark of me expecting trick questions in examinations that I didn’t answer 18 correctly…)

  2. You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %

    Weee (I did guess the Socrates/Plato/Aquinas question)

    Though I do question what the heck international trade and specialization have to do w/ American civics.

  3. I am from the US. I got:

    You answered 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %

    I found it odd that there were so many questions having little to do with civics. This was not billed as an test in economics.

    I missed 27, 29 and 33.

  4. You answered 33 out of 33 correctly — 100.00 %

    Average score for this quiz during November: 77.8%
    Average score: 77.8%

    What the hell was with #13 about Socrates and Plato?

  5. 96.97% right. I just got question 7 wrong.

    BTW, I’m French. You know why we always act like we know better? That’s because we usually do.

  6. Yeah, I didn’t do so well… 19/33. What’s ridiculous is the fact that only half of those questions were remotely related to civics. The other half had to do with economic policy, which is a totally different topic. As for Plato, Socrates, etc., why was that question there? It totally didn’t seem to fit in!

  7. As a citizen of a former colony of the former colonial master of the US, I got 30/33 (missed 4, 7, 13)

    Although I’m not sure what it says about the US concept of civics when one question asks for the definition of business profit….

  8. Embarrassing score: 15/33 !

    I’m a Filipino citizen and I did not learn much about America. Just want to see if I know anything.

  9. 30/33, though I should have gotten the question on the Federal Reserve and the one on taxes/government spending correct (didn’t read the answers carefully enough).

    A couple of meta-comments

    – Many (most?) states integrate economics into their civics curriculum, while others keep it strictly U.S. Government & Politics.

    – A good civics curriculum teaches you a little bit about political philosophy, hence the Plato/Socrates/Aristotle/Aquinas question. However, I think in most states that’s covered in an optional comparative government class vice (the mandatory) U.S. Government/Civics.

  10. You answered 20 out of 33 correctly — 60.61 %

    Not bad from a Hungarian, I’d guess :)

    But I’d like to see those answers proven.

    Because, their answer to Question #25 is at least interesting, maybe misphrased, or simply wrong. What about corporations/companies?

    And Q31 – about specialization, which mostly leads to extinction. Diversification of one’s portfolio/offerings/commodities-for-sale/services is plus open trade is what leads to survival on a national scale.

  11. 27 out of 33

    I missed some of the American history questions and the philosophy one…

    I’m Hungarian

    (wow, I just noticed I’m the second Hungarian on this thread, lol)

  12. 96.97% Missed #29, but I don’t think it’s particularly well written. I too would have liked to see a few more civics questions and a couple less on economics, but still interesting nonetheless.

  13. I got 93%. As for the comments on the subject matter of the questions, I suppose it all depends on how you define ‘civics’. The site says it covers American history and institutions, which easily covers all of the questions. The only question I thought was odd was #4. On the other hand, we all act like the debates between Presidential debates are really important, so I suppose it’s interesting to find out how many people actually remember them :).

  14. 27/33 from Belgium. Missed things about the Supreme Court, the Puritans, Gettysburg Adress and levees.

  15. “You answered 23 out of 33 correctly — 69.70 %

    Average score for this quiz during November: 77.9%
    Average score: 77.9%”

    Not bad for someone who’s only travelled to the USA once, I don’t think.

  16. I’m from California and got 32/33. I missed the Lincoln-Douglas question.

    I did well because I’ve been reading Wikipedia lately, not because I remember anything from my high school government and economics class.

  17. I’m a USan. I got 30 out of 33 (90.91%), but only because I lied about the answers when I realized from the way they’re phrased that the survey is doubling as conservative propaganda. I’d have “missed” three or four of the economics questions if I’d answered truthfully, and for some of them there are no correct answers among the choices. All of the questions which actually had to do with civics, I got right, for whatever that’s worth, but I missed one history question.

  18. I did terribly on the test, but scored 57.58%

    Some of the stuff I got completely wrong, other things I just picked the wrong (but similar) option. I’m Australian.

  19. You answered 27 out of 33 correctly — 81.82 %

    Average score for this quiz during November: 78.0%

    I’m Canadian.

    From bc, Michael, and Brit’s comments, it appears the average is increasing.

    I wonder whether they’re tracking the nationality of test-takers, and if so, whether non-US test results are included in the averages. The optional section at the bottom asked me for my “Postal Code”, though I’d expect a test for Americans to ask for a “ZIP Code”. Did anyone from other countries get a localized label there?

  20. 32/33 (missed the “of the people, for the people” part, which is sorta sad).

    That said, I think this test has some serious issues when used above the middle-school level. For example, it’s not clear whether question 3 implies “in the US Constitution” (in which case the answer is one of the choices) or “in practice” in which case the answer is “we have more than 3 branches of government”. Question 9 is quite poorly phrased in that more than one choice is a power of the federal government under the US Constitution + amendments. If they meant powers exclusive to the federal government, they should ask that. There are several questions (sputnik? c’mon!) that have nothing to do with civics. Questions 30 and 31 are based on some fairly arguable economics (heck, one could even argue that, with less basis for questions 25 and 27).

    That’s 5-6 questions right there (20% of the score or so) that have nothing to do with the test or are really hard to answer “right” without knowing what sort of answer is being fished for.

  21. 28/33. I have to take issue with question 31, “international trade and specialization most often lead to which of the following?” The correct answer is majority of products bought in the USA are made in China ;-).

  22. You answered 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %
    Question #7 – D. Gettysburg Address
    Question #12 – B. the Supreme Court struck down most legal restrictions on it in Roe v. Wade
    Question #14 – B. stressed the sinfulness of all humanity

    USA! USA! USA!

  23. You answered 26 out of 33 correctly — 78.79 %
    Average score for this quiz during November: 77.6%

    Still better than the U.S. elected officials. :)
    I’m from Poland.

  24. I agree with other commenters, the quiz’s “correct” answer to question 31 is largely a matter of opinion. Would those that claim to have scored 100% concur?

    In other words; was it a conscious decision to select the answer you thought they were looking for?

  25. seventyeightpercent: absolutely. Most of the econ questions were clearly set up ‘in an ideal econonomic system’ rather than reality where there are competing nations, etc.

    If you look at #31, A and B are not necessarily contradictory.

    #27 also compares just between free market and a gubmint controlled economy w/out any in betweens, some of which are probably better and more sustainable in the long term, so on top of idealism, there also bias in the questions.

  26. 31 out of 33 correctly — 93.94 %

    I’m American and I resent gerv’s implications that he was going to score better than Americans. There’s this opinion in other countries that Americans are all stupid, fat and lazy. I think it is jealousy. There are stupid people the world over. I’m sure I could find plenty of British surveys that would make us all snicker at how dumb and backwards they all are.

  27. You answered 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %

    Average score for this quiz during November: 77.6%
    Average score: 77.6%

    Answers to Your Missed Questions:
    Question #9 – A. Make treaties
    Question #13 – E. certain permanent moral and political truths are accessible to human reason
    Question #27 – A. the price system utilizes more local knowledge of means and ends

    From NJ, lived in the county all my life and never had to take Civics or US History classes.

    I’m strongly suspicious of the fact that AFP doesn’t say what sort of elected officials they surveyed. There are only 543 Federal elected officials (6 don’t really count though). If they surveyed elected officials of states and territories, I’m not surprized. A state governor would find memorizing their state’s constitution a far more useful (for their job) activity than learning about what the Federal Reserve does or Plato, et al thought.

    Secondly, I noticed something incorrect in the survey itself: The Electoral College is not an “assembly” since it never meets as such, it’s an abstract term for the combined electors from each of the states and the federal district and isn’t even given a name or described in the Constitution. I’m also pretty sure the Constitution allows the income tax (Since they had to pass an amendment to explicitly allow it).

    Finally, if I were to go to Britain with a similar test about British civics (CF. the “Britishness immigration exam” proposed in the past) do you think they would do any better? I think very few countries in general have a high civics-mindedness, which may be the point: You don’t need to have a knowledge of how your country works for it to work, similar to almost every other well-administered system out there (EG. You don’t need an EE or CS degree to use a computer, you don’t need to pass the Postal Civil Service exam to mail a letter, etc.).

    These sorts of “surveys” and “exposes” may show that people don’t know [insert subject here], but they encourage the simplistic view (That you advance with that title) that “all the problems of the country are because of [this (civics education or whatever)]” and dangerously “we give everyone a fast course in [this] and everything will be OK”. I doubt it highly. If everyone knew that FDR tried to “pack the court” in 1936, would that make them question the current electoral system (SMDP), and examine others to see if there are better (IRV?)? Would having them know the Constitution specified a 10 year census make them protest the notorious Gerrymandering of those results? Arguably this just means that we need a good civics curriculum plan, but none of that is brought up in this quiz, only “We suck at this” and “Lets do something quick” or “We’re doomed”.

    Long rant, my apologies.

    BTW, to the Canadian: I got “Postal Code” too. I don’t think they intended this to be taken internationally, or they would’ve added “Country”.

  28. 31/33; 93.94%. One of those was a mis-click — I’m very much aware that it’s the Congress that declares war. I successfully guessed the Socrates question, and the one I got wrong was economics, not civics: The one about [increasing/decreasing] taxes and [increasing/decreasing] spending. And while I can see the logic in their answer I consider it destructive in the long run.

    Like others have said, this was billed as a civics quiz, not economics. Seems the quiz-maker doesn’t understand the difference.

  29. miguel: Chill out, I was only teasing :-) I didn’t say all Americans are stupid, fat and lazy. The article certainly suggests that a cross-section don’t know their civics very well. But even when I posted, I suspected that most American readers of this blog would do very well indeed, because the free software demographic is highly educated and generally very hot on civics, civil rights etc.

  30. I missed number 29. (I somehow overlooked the correct answer and put E, even though I wasn’t fully comfortable with that as an answer.) But I test well and have some interest in economics, which this quiz hits pretty hard, especially compared to most US civics and government classes, which generally don’t cover macroeconomics hardly at all beyond a brief discussion of what the fed does.

    In general, the quiz is rather badly constructed for measuring knowledge of US civics. Except for a handful of really basic things (three branches, a couple of the amendments, and where a couple of specific powers are vested, not even the important ones at that) there is very poor coverage of the actual structure of our government. There’s nothing about reserved powers, nothing about the overall roles of the branches, nothing about the two houses of the legislature…

    On the other hand, there are a number of the questions included that don’t really add anything much because they are not at all specific to US civics and, indeed, would be at least as culturally pertinent to Germany or England as to America. Numbers 13, 17, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, and 33 are all pretty nation-inspecific. For such a short quiz, that’s a pretty large number of off-topic questions.

    I give the quiz a D-.

  31. 20/33 – UK Citizen

    Agree that the quiz does seem to have a lot of non-USA specific questions. Also the answer to Q2 is found in Q8 (not that Q2 was that hard).

    miguel: Gerv was comparing his score to the elected officials not citizens of the USA per sé. Elected officials should get a higher score but I’m not altogether sure that our MPs would do so well in a similar test.

  32. “You answered 30 out of 33 correctly — 90.91 %” Some of the questions could have been written better. For example:

    29. A flood-control levee (or National Defense) is considered a public good because:

    I had a hard time understanding what they even meant for a moment. It’s just badly written, and is more of an opinion-based as opposed to fact-based question. And this one just made me laugh:

    30. Which of the following fiscal policy combinations would a government most likely follow to stimulate economic activity when the economy is in a severe recession?

    That’s just silly, because it depends on who is in office and which party has control of the congress. The questions that tried to assign multiple choice answers to complicated economic questions that absolutely depend on context for a good answer are no good. The questions that asked for clear data (sources of quotes, what powers the Constitution awards, etc.) were great though.

  33. 28/33 – 84.85 % (missed 4,7,8,11,13)

    I’m a US citizen, raised in Massachusetts. For what its worth, I never took a civics course. I did, however, minor in economics.

  34. I got 30/33 correct; when I took it, the questions about which I was uncertain were 4 (didn’t think any of the others were possible, but wasn’t certain), 14 (c-e out, a didn’t sound right), 30 (“most likely”? used literal, brain-off reasoning here only because the answer depends on who occupies government at the time, and I don’t know the history of such actions), and 33. Of those I only got 33 wrong.

    I didn’t know the answer to 13, but given that I knew Aquinas was a prominent Catholic theologian and that the others were ancient Greek philosophers, with a little thought I could work backwards to an answer. (In particular, moral relativity and non-divine explanations for morality would be non-starters, and Christianity didn’t even exist when the pagans were alive and so that ruled out one of the remaining two.)

    The questions I got wrong were:

    Question #12 – B. the Supreme Court struck down most legal restrictions on it in Roe v. Wade
    Question #29 – B. a resident can benefit from it without directly paying for it
    Question #33 – D. tax per person equals government spending per person

    12 I was approaching from a more recent perspective in which many legal restrictions are permissible (parental consent, waiting periods, etc.), so it didn’t strike down those (most) legal restrictions, or something like that — my reasoning seems extremely in retrospect given that I certainly know Roe was before those restrictions. 29 I simply didn’t know, I guess; I usually find that when something is described as a “public good” I disagree, so that probably didn’t help matters. 33 I didn’t get because I made the assumption of two “every”s being in there; I didn’t like the answer I gave (debt is zero) because it ignored a non-zero outstanding balance, but it seemed the most likely to be what was intended to be correct.

    The questions here really were excellent in general as a test of knowledge; that said, I don’t think some of the questions are interesting except as somewhat esoteric history, and others were poorly worded, and others were economic truisms given in the context of the real world where they aren’t necessarily always true.

  35. 21/33, UK.

    If we tried a test for a completely different country, I’d guess the scores would be much lower. The US gets a disproportionate amount of media coverage in the rest of the world.

  36. 29/33 – UK citizen

    There were quite a number of questions I didn’t know, but which were amenable to educated guesses (at least to rule out a number of the wrong answers). I also agree with the many comments that many questions were not about US civics.

    So it seems lots of us are scoring highly. But I wonder whether I’d still have posted my score if I’d screwed up.

  37. If you’ve had a macroeconomics class, you’re supposed to know what a public good is. What that has to do with US civics, however, is an open question.

    Jeff Walden: yeah, I used process of elimination on several as well. That’s part of what I meant when I said “I test well”. A good student takes that sort of thing for granted, I suppose, but a surprising number of people panic if they don’t know the answer directly and leave it blank or pick a choice at random.

  38. You obviously know more about the US than I do, Gerv – I only scored 23 out of 30 (69.7%). That’s still higher than the “average” US citizen or elected official though…

  39. Missed only 33. And that only because a) the correct answer was only “correct” in a tautological sense and b) it just seemed likely that the quiz authors didn’t know the difference between “debt” and “deficit”. After all, the answer to 27 is equally awkwardly stated (“local” is irrelevant; it’s all about the overwhelming amount of information the price system can summate, regardless of its location of origin).