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Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions

Earlier today eCAHNomics mentioned and linked to an Intercollegiate Studies Institute civics quiz. The quiz is 33 questions long and it’s well worth your time to take it and see how you do.

But, even more importantly, the Institute has used a 60 question version quiz as part of a three year study involving incoming college freshman and graduating seniors. In addition they have aggregated the results of the online version. The results are truly startling and go a long way toward illuminating the genesis of our current political and economic turmoil.

A summary of their findings is available. Their surprising results include:

Seventy-one percent of Americans fail the test, with an overall average score of 49%.

[Public] Officeholders typically have less civic knowledge than the general public. On average, they score 44%, five percentage points lower than non-officeholders.

Earning a college degree does little to increase knowledge of America’s history, key texts, and institutions. The average score among those who ended their formal education with a bachelor’s degree is 57%, or an “F.” That is only 13 percentage points higher than the average score among those who ended their formal education with a high school diploma.

Students did poorly even at the most elite schools. Harvard seniors, who did best, earned an average score of only 69.56%, or a “D+.”

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