November 20th, 2008
10:12 PM ET

Controversial Civics Survey

All right, so I got a little wound up over Friday's story about the results from a civics quiz given by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).  It found that elected officials failed at a higher rate than those who haven't held public office.  ARE THEY KIDDING?!  Shouldn't elected officials know more about civics than the folks who elect them?

I went to the site and took the quiz before I posted this blog entry, and I passed handily.  And to be fair, the ISI says that some elected officials are among the best scorers.  But the fact that a higher percentage of them failed than those who haven't held public office seems, in a word, nuts.

Carl Azuz, Anchor

P.S. Have a great weekend, by the way.  And if you're off all next week for Thanksgiving, we hope you have a wonderful turkey day!  CNN Student News will broadcast next Monday and Tuesday, and we hope to see you then.

Filed under: News Coverage
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Jason

    I have a solution to the problem.

    Have elected officials watch CNN student news every morning and they would gain greater insight into civics. Think of it, between the shout outs and the the talking democracy sections they would grow their scores greatly. Higher scores for all.

    November 21, 2008 at 12:32 am |
  2. Taylor

    What!!! They've beeb holding office and they know less than we do!! That's just not right!!

    November 21, 2008 at 6:36 am |
  3. Taylor

    Sorry i meant been

    November 21, 2008 at 6:36 am |
  4. Tiffany

    WOW! Maybe they should change some elected officials!

    November 21, 2008 at 8:17 am |
  5. Jubin

    When people elect people they don't look what they know.

    November 21, 2008 at 9:56 am |
  6. Lindsey

    I think all the people that failed that test should not be with the whote house people or whatever they are called. The people that are not part of it though, i dont think it really matters. The people that are higher up should know more about the united states.

    November 21, 2008 at 10:22 am |
  7. Rath

    I think it is totally uncool that most of the people with power failed. Those people that are running our country and are deciding our future are more ignorant than us. I feel like the government has let me down.

    November 21, 2008 at 10:22 am |
  8. Kassandra

    I think that if they don't know it then they should either get to know them again or they shouldn't be in working for the government.

    November 21, 2008 at 10:29 am |
  9. Sambo

    Hay Carl i think that if you can pass than cant alot of other people can?
    I cant wait till thanksgiving so that i can see the family.
    I just cant wait till i take the test to see what my score is.

    Happy Thanksgiving Day Carl Azuz

    November 21, 2008 at 10:55 am |
  10. Asia

    wow I think that the people should now there country and if the people in public office then i country is not better off.

    November 21, 2008 at 11:06 am |
  11. Tristan

    hey carl just keep on coming with those puns you're doing great

    November 21, 2008 at 11:12 am |
  12. Katelyn

    This is not a good way to test us, the test are a big hunk of balony it is just a way to crush peoples hope and that can cause a bad feeling to the people who made the test.

    November 21, 2008 at 1:08 pm |
  13. Evan

    I think that if those officials don't know that much about their country, they shouldn't have had been elected. The public knows more than they do. C'mon give me a break!!!!!!!!!

    November 21, 2008 at 1:57 pm |
  14. Tara

    I think that the people who are in office should know more than us the people who haven't been in office. One of the reasons they should know more than us is because their job is to learn about this and thye should change this. Some have been in office for a while and and some have been in office for years. But thye have to read the declaration of Indepence and all those documents.

    November 21, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  15. Jordan

    It is pretty nuts for elected officials to have a lower percent than civilians but why do they have to know things about things that aren't in they're field. they should be able to specialize in one area and have the bare min. of knowledge in other fields. I wonder why civilians have a higher average. Maybe you should tell theoris on the next show. That would be interesting.

    November 21, 2008 at 2:03 pm |
  16. AN

    Hello this is hard but I believe that the people that are in the pollitics need to know this stuff!

    November 21, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
  17. Sydney

    That is pretty sad that we have people in office that don't even know the history about thier own country and consistution. In school children have been learning about history since they were in fourth grade. Its not that hard!

    November 21, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  18. Sam

    Thats sad that so many people did so bad on that test. I think that we should defentaly have a better teaching.

    November 21, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  19. mike

    I think it is unexceptable how the elected officials didnt do as good as the citizens did. If they arent as smart as a person that isnt running i don't think that they should be able to run. I think one of those smart citizens should run instead. I don't think it is right how the elected officials didnt do to good.

    November 21, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  20. Lacey

    In a way, I found it a little crazy that they couldn’t pass it. I mean, the fact that they are supposed to be running the country, and cant even pass a test that most shows our history. It just doesn’t make sense. I don’t really even think it makes sense for them to be in office, if they don’t even know the history of our country.

    When I took it, it was quite a bit hard. I didn’t get that great of a score myself. But still, I cant believe that in any way shape or form that this should be stood for if they are in office. As it says, if they don’t know the history of our country, anything that did happen, such as a worthless war, could happen again.

    November 21, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  21. beth

    they were elected to know more and to do more than we could but when we are geting higher scores than they are it is kind of sad they are expected to know more it is really stupid that they dont know stuff about our country that we do.

    November 21, 2008 at 2:46 pm |
  22. Timmy

    Why do you think that so many people failed the civics test?

    November 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm |
  23. Stephanie

    I think that it is really sad that lots of our officials don't know most of the questions, because if they're running our country, they should at least know its history! If they don't they might make some of the same mistakes that other presidents made!

    November 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm |
  24. Steven

    I thought the civics quiz was relitivly hard. Some of the questens were easy because they were on the student news.

    November 21, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  25. Huey

    i think people who are in goverment should now all about the gaverment

    November 21, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  26. Annissa

    I think that elected officials should know more about the government than us. It’s crazy to think that regular Americans know more about the country and its history than the people who specialize in it.

    November 21, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  27. Carter

    I think that even everybody should know those Questions. Especaly our goverment people.

    November 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm |
  28. LAUREN

    if the people in chrage dont know what they are doing then how are they supposed to do thier job, help our country, or teach civilans???? THey need to be informed.

    November 21, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  29. Will

    I think that it is pretty crazy that our elected offials don't really need to know abounch of footnotes. If there doing a good job then they should stay in office and if some got the highest score then your not really giving them credit for the good job they did. They should start teaching this next genoration about the history of this conutry.

    November 21, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  30. Carlos

    Most of the people passed but some of them failed. It was easy for most of them. It is hard for some people. The citizens and officials did great. Some of the officials didn't. The officials are supposed to run the country! I'm not sure but if I did something like that it will be easy!

    November 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm |
  31. Vannessa

    I think candidates should take this test before they are elected, and have their scores revealed to the public. This may make voters think twice about whoever they are supporting.

    November 21, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  32. Valerie

    I think candidates should take this test BEFORE they are elected, and have their scores revealed to the public. This may make voters think twice about whoever they are supporting.

    November 21, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  33. Vannessa

    When I heard the report about those test scores on CNN Student News, I was so stunned...at first I thought I was hearing things!

    November 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  34. Valerie

    I think that these test scores have really woken up some Americans that have assumed that anyone who runs for a political office is going to know important facts about U.S. history.

    November 21, 2008 at 8:10 pm |
  35. Lizzy

    Cut those elects some slack. That test was actually very difficult. I myself scored a 91 on the first try, but I don't think I know more than the average American elected official. I mean, if 2,500 "random" people were surveyed, how many were elected to public office? This isn't a fair representation of our government. When we think of elected officials we automatically think of senators and the president. But I doubt any of those 101 people were luckly enough (or unlucky enough as it may be) to be chosen in a random sampling of these few people. There are 300 million people in this country, it's a long shot. Stop making rationalizations about the whole government, and start making rationalizations about the American public in general. It's them who's really at fault.

    November 21, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  36. Lauren

    Hey Carl! I took that test and lets just say I have had much better scores on tests. It was very hard and I don't blame the people for not knowing that stuff. I am in social studies class learning about this stuff, and I still don't have it all memorized. Twenty years from now I will probaly not get as good as a score as I did today, and my score wasn't even remotely good. Who can remember every little detail about social studies class in middle school and high school. I also don't know why people are blaming the government official for not knowing these things because they're just like you and me. It is true that people need to care more about these things, but you can't jump to conclusions based on 2,500 people and a 33 question test that doesn't even begin to cover all of Americas history.

    November 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm |
  37. Seth

    I find it scary that only twenty-three percent of elected officials got the question about the Gettysburg Address. This just shows the degredation of our society.

    November 21, 2008 at 9:29 pm |
  38. Colby

    I think the elected officials should study their country more than the citizens do.

    November 22, 2008 at 8:44 am |
  39. Brandy

    i thought that to even run for president you had to have a certain grade of some sort. it is crazy that anybody can take this quiz and most pass, but some elected officials don't. i thnk that any elected official needs to take a quiz period end of statement.

    November 22, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  40. Issy

    I thought that the quiz was a little difficult. There were words i didn't understand. There were a few questions that were a bit confusing to me.

    November 22, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  41. Tessa

    I am a seventh grader. I knew some of the answers but I didn't understand some of them. My vocabulary isn't that big. I didn't know what the Federal Government is, or what it does so that made me get a few questions wrong. I found it disturbing to know that many elected people failed the quiz more than people who don't hold an elected position. I think that people that don't get an A on this quiz shouldn't be elected.

    November 22, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  42. Joyce

    The elected officials need to study.

    November 23, 2008 at 7:05 am |
  43. Olivia


    November 23, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  44. Erin

    I don't think it matters as much if normal citizens don't know everything about our countries history then it does elected officals. I am not saying it is not important for citizens to know this stuff, but if you want to be elected into office you should know this stuff.

    November 23, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  45. Angelina

    My history class paused the broadcast when we were watching it, and to every question.. WE got them ALL right! ... Vote Buckeye Union for elected offical positions!

    November 23, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  46. savanna

    I think it's horible that our leaders don't even know basic history.:(

    November 23, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  47. Chris

    This is alarming and embarassing! Let's require all students to take and pass the Citizenship or Civics test in order graduate or receive your GED. If more emphasis and importance is placed on Citizenship/Civics you will see an increased proficiency of this subject area.

    November 23, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  48. Hannah(Han Nah)

    Listen, i'm in 6th grade-if i was in america- i didn't study much of us congress or supreme court-those things
    i scored 45.45%
    i even got a question that 16.25%citizen and10.71% politicians got right!!!

    November 24, 2008 at 4:07 am |
  49. Natasha

    the officials need to do more than the citizens of the country do! That's just not right!!

    P.S. GO MUSTANGS!! :]

    November 24, 2008 at 6:26 am |
  50. Jenny

    Citizens of the US, especially members of the government should take it upon themselves to know more about their country. It's like if you were taking a vacation to a foreign country, you would probably do a little bit of research on the place you were going to. But the difference is, we won't just be here for two weeks. It's important to know the history and it helps to be knowlegable when trying to make decisions to better ourself and our country.

    November 24, 2008 at 11:02 am |
  51. Sara

    I actually think that this is kinda funny. The most likely people to know things about our U.S. History….and they don’t. But I guess we shouldn’t expect them to know everything. I’m pretty sure that we would know who would win if they went on “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader”!!! :p

    November 24, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  52. KASH!NA

    So here is my take on this story. Elected Government officials SHOULD know about these questions. If they are going to be in office they should at least know what has happened in the past, because if you don't know what has happened in the past. You are more likely to repeat it.

    November 24, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  53. Scott

    I think it is funny that they all did very bad. It is just a money contest to get elected anyways.

    November 24, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  54. April

    I think the fact that a lot of the people that are running government don’t know their civics is a little messed up. Honestly if you run for the country then you should know the history of it.

    November 24, 2008 at 12:52 pm |
  55. Jessica

    Oh. Em. Gee. That is just plain ridiculous! I admit, I probably couldn't answer quite a few of the questions on that quiz anyway, but still. Elected officials should know more about civics than the people who elect them.

    November 24, 2008 at 12:53 pm |
  56. Sammie

    WOW! For the fact that so many of our congressmen and women are failing the civics survey more than the average being is really sad. They should know the history of the country they are helping run, not just think “hey, we are congress people and we don’t need to know our country’s history.” We need people in politics that know their history.

    November 24, 2008 at 12:55 pm |
  57. Aurora

    I believe that they (elected officials) should at least be able to know more on the civic test than average Americans. If they don’t know more than us, how should we expect them to successfully lead us!

    November 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm |
  58. Ben

    Also people who failed the test should try to learn more on the subject I mean why are there people in office who don't even know about the country they're running

    November 24, 2008 at 3:30 pm |
  59. Hunter

    It's just sad. They don't know it, and yet they still were choosen to work for it. Those questions aren't hard that you showed on Friday's show, but I do admit I missed one. Yet they still shouldn't be an official if you don't know anything about your country's history.

    November 24, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  60. Bak

    Why is that strange phenomenen happening?
    American people's standard is homogenized regardless of their jobs?
    Anyway public officials should have both better knowledge and better operation ability about politics than the general folks do. Public workers need to be more alert.

    In the meantime, elected people's work is not directly related to those suggested civics. They work under the broad definition lerated to civics. Therefore these result came out. I just guess.

    November 24, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  61. Joyce

    I scored like86% or something.i passed
    It was hard. I think I did well considering I'm still in middle school-not senior year
    Officials not knowing history???!!!
    Maybe they thought:history wont repeat it self over again and we dont need it that much
    I think they at least got the Qs about government right-not the history.
    do they learn it and then forget???
    anyway,that's shocking
    -im not the same joyce who said'the elected officials need to study"

    November 25, 2008 at 2:16 am |
  62. Cody

    korean parents give punch to the officials-are you stupid?!-
    they are just weird and shocking

    November 25, 2008 at 2:19 am |
  63. EvEra

    I'm a classmate of Joyce and Cody and the other kids who comment at this time- we're in Asia

    I passed the average score and the officials can't???
    It might not be too much needed in their lives, but I think that Americans who are in important positions like being a official should at least know our country's history and other things.
    Some people can't pass- I understand that. But this is too much!
    Proud Americans should know what to be proud of.

    November 25, 2008 at 2:26 am |
  64. Cindy Liss

    (Liss is not my last name or middle name.)
    Our teacher- Mrs. Johnson passed the test with extremely high scores.
    Officials might not be perfect and be smart like Einstien, but too much has failed.
    They need to study- and think of a excuse.
    Mrs. Johnson told us: ' People, what are you proud of? And why? If you are a American, learn at least a piece of history and how America works'

    November 25, 2008 at 2:34 am |
  65. Megan

    Elected officials should be passing these quizzes with 100%! We trust these people to deal with major issues. How can they if they don’t know the basics or the background? It’s their job to know and it should be required.

    November 25, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  66. Emerald

    I don’t think that they are in office because they know there history. I think that after a certain time in anyone’s role in office what is happening in the moment becomes the project at hand. I do think that history will repeat itself in every generation at a much smaller impact, regardless of how much we have learned. Maybe test should be run against the odds and only the people who pass are in office?

    November 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm |
  67. katie

    i think that that is amazing that innocent people knew more than people in office

    November 25, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  68. Ashley :)

    That's hilarious letting monkeys serve. Who trained them? BYE!!!!!

    November 26, 2008 at 11:55 am |
  69. Bayan

    I cant believe they did worse than us citizens! Do we really know who we are electing? My Civics class took the quiz and we did a good job. People these days!!

    November 27, 2008 at 1:33 pm |
  70. Bayan

    i did so well, people should vote for me!! hahahah...

    November 27, 2008 at 1:35 pm |
  71. natalia

    hi i like your show. this is a poem for cnn student news

    all done have a nice day!

    November 29, 2008 at 7:28 pm |
  72. Stephanie

    Wow!!! Knowing this is really a shocker for me. I know that I wouldn't do the best on the quiz but hey I'm only 15, and still learning!! But really, an adult who is in the government doesn't know?? Maybe people should start being the government, than acutal government and see who does better? lol

    December 7, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  73. Mason

    I took the survey and got a 73%. Does this mean I can run for a senate seat in my state now?

    December 9, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  74. Evan

    I believe that this case is just the same as the popular show, are you smarter than a fifth grader? Most of these answers to the civics test were probably basic knowledge in grade school, but without refreshing your memory some things (even important things) can be forgotten or mixed up with other items. If the elected officials took a refresher test every five to ten years (this would be ridiculous and an absolute waste of money and valuable time) I sure the officials would do better. Plus they got a lot of other important things on there mind.

    January 14, 2009 at 10:29 pm |