Civics Test

December 15, 1999

Taking a civics test is not most students' idea of a good time. You can really say that after looking at the results of a national civics test conducted this year by the Education Department. At least one thing is clear: somebody should be grounded.

Only 26 percent of the high school seniors who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress test had a "proficient" grasp of the fundamentals of American government. That means that almost three-fourths of the nation's newest eligible voters in the 2000 election have little or no grasp of the workings of their own government. And since we have a representative form of government, I can assume that many of them will be voting for representatives without truly understanding how they will be representing them.

Now I should point out that the Education Department has been trying to put a good face on this study--which is perhaps why this is the first you have heard about these results. The federal bureaucrats point out that even though only 26 percent received "proficient" rating, a total of 65 percent were deemed "at or above" some basic level of understanding. Well, I'm glad that two-thirds had some understanding of government, but that completely ignores the fact that one-third had virtually no understanding of government.

One of the questions, for example, asked students to name two advantages of the American form of government. Only 25 percent of the public and private school students could do so! When asked to look at a drawing of the symbol of justice, only 9 percent could explain what the blindfold and scales signify!

For years commentators have been lamenting citizen apathy. Now we appear to have a greater problem: citizen ignorance. Our form of government depends on educated and involved citizens. It appears those will be in short supply in the 21st century.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.