A sad time for Americans
A recent study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute American Civics Literacy Program shows that many people do not understand the basics of American government and how it works.
As a matter of fact, 71 percent of the 2,500 people that took a test – with 33 questions about the government and economy – failed.
I find it amazing in a democracy like ours so many people can know so little about their government.
The average score was 49.
The average score for elected officials was 44.
Yes, you read that correctly – average citizens know more about the government and how it works than the people elected to run it.
To be fair, the sample size in the study – 2,500 people – is much too small to relate the results to the entire nation, which has a population of about 306 million people.
This does, however, show a scary trend.
With the economy in a recession and the stock market going up and down more than a roller coaster, citizens are looking to the government to help.
Congress already passed a loan – or bailout depending on your point of view – to help financial institutions and may or may not agree to loan money to the automakers based in Detroit.
Helping American businesses is good. Spending money when you or the people you are trying to help don't understand why they are facing a problem is a bad thing.
When the citizens – who do not understand the economy according to the study – ask politicians – who understand the economy even less – to help is inviting disaster.
What is to stop the problems from reoccurring 10 or 15 years down the road?
Understanding how the government works is important. Presidential candidates can promise the moon, but can't make those promises become law until Congress approves them first.
It is also important to understand the basics of the economy since the United States operates on a free-market system.
Most people will not find studying civics and economics to be exciting, but a basic understanding will make them better citizens, which will lead to a better government and a stronger economy.
The fact this study shows a high level of civic illiteracy is sad.
The fact these findings came out in an election year with the highest voter turnout in a long time is disturbing.
If you want to take the test to see how well you understand civics, visit www.americancivicliteracy.org.