I have often bemoaned the state of science education in our schools, but apparently our kids aren’t learning civics either. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs wanted to know how prepared its high schoolers were to take up the job of full fledged participant in politics when they turned 18. They commissioned a national research firm to test their state’s students.
The firm randomly selected 10 questions from the pool of 100 questions used to develop the naturalization test for new citizens. This is similar to how the real tests are developed, and someone applying for citizenship must score 6/10 correct to pass. It’s interesting to note that immigrants taking the test pass 92.4% of the time on the first attempt.
Here is the actual test, along with the percentage of high school students who answered the question correctly:
These are not trick questions. Hell, only 6 in 10 knew the Atlantic Ocean was on the east coat! Only 1 in 5 that George Washington was the first President! Out of 1000 students absolutely no one scored 8 or higher. No one! All tolled, only 2.8% of Oklahoma high school students would qualify for citizenship. Even allowing for the 3 point margin of error, that’s a really sad state. And it’s not just Oklahoma. The same test was administered in Arizona where they crushed Oklahoma with 3.5% of their students passing.
In fairness, I would be surprised if the results were much different had they surveyed adults than kids. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. These results are damning not only to the kids, but to us as a society. We can’t reasonably expect people to participate thoughtfully in a form of government they do not understand.
It’s tempting to view this as a failure of the education system, but this is also a failure of parents. You talk to your kids about drugs. You talk to your kids about religion. You talk to your kids about sex. Have you talked to them about politics lately?