Oklahoma High School Citizenship Test

While going trough my daily routine of searching the web for content, on Digg I stomped into a shocking article. Many high school students throughout the world are very smart when it comes to: math, science and geography. But what about politics and history? The Oklahoma Council of Public Affair ran a organized commissioned study to determine the level of basic civics knowledge at Oklahoma High. To their shock this is what they found out:

Article: 2.8% of Oklahoma High School Students Pass Citizenship Test
Author: Gary Norton
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The Oklahoma Council of Public Affair, a conservative public policy research organization commissioned a study aimed at determining the level of basic civics knowledge of Oklahoma High School students. To their dismay the study revealed that only 23% of students knew that our first President was George Washington and only 2.8% of the students scored well enough on the test to be eligible for US citizenship.

The study was done by Strategic Visions on behalf of the Council. They took ten questions randomly selected from the one hundred used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services to test applicants for citizenship. To become citizens, applicants have to get six out of ten correct. Here are the questions and results.

Question                                                                 Percentage of Correct Answers

What is the supreme law of the land?                                                        28

What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?          26

What are the two parts of the US Congress?                                          27

How many justices are there on the Supreme Court?                              10

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?                                          14

What ocean is on the east coast of the United States?                            61

What are the two major political parities in the United States?             43

We elect a US senator for how many years?                                             11

Who was the first President of the United States?                                  23

Who is in charge of the executive branch?                                                29

When this test is given to applicants for citizenship, 92% score high enough to pass, while only 2.8% of Oklahoma high school students make the grade. As pointed out by the Council

Of course, immigrants have had an opportunity to study for the test-a distinct advantage-so we might not necessarily expect a 92 percent passing rate from Oklahoma’s public high-school students.

On the other hand, most high-school students have the advantage of having lived in the United States their entire lives. Moreover, they have benefited from tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars being spent for their educations. Many immigrants seeking citizenship, meanwhile, often arrive penniless and must educate themselves on America’s history and government.

After seeing the questions for yourself, you the reader can judge whether a 92 percent passing rate is a reasonable expectation for Oklahoma’s high-school students. Unfortunately, Oklahoma high-school students scored alarmingly low on the test, passing at a rate of only 2.8 percent. That is not a misprint.

Look, I can understand that a high school student may not know the exact number of justices on the Supreme Court. But high school students not knowing who is in charge of the executive branch of government, the Bill of Rights, or the two major political parties, is hard to fathom. And most disturbing, is the realization that at age eighteen these people are eligible to vote

Are these results unique to Oklahoma? Probably not.

Sadly, that result does not come as complete surprise. When the same survey was done recently in Arizona, only 3.5 percent of Arizona’s high-school students passed the test. As the nation’s largest newspaper, USA Today, editorialized: “[T]he Goldwater Institute, a non-profit research organization in Phoenix, found that just 3.5 percent of surveyed students could answer enough questions correctly to pass the citizenship test. Just 25 percent, for example, correctly identified Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence.

I also fear that a great many adults would display the same level of ignorance if this test were administered more broadly. I’m reminded of the famous quotation from Daniel patrick Moynahan to the effect that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. As these test results indicate, many students, and likely their parents, may have strong opinions that were formed in a fact free zone.