Aug 13 2008

Not a voter “literacy” test: a civics test instead

Category: Congress,constitution,election 2008,White Househarmonicminer @ 9:09 am

So, here is a civics test for prospective voters. The test’s author, Doug Patton, has devised a 27 question test that 8th graders would once easily have passed. He thinks you should be able to score at least 18 in order to vote. That’s 66.6%, a “D” when I was in school.  Patton’s introduction to his test:

I have never been an advocate of the popular notion that “everyone should vote.” Some people look at me as if I am somehow un-American when I say that I am not in favor of encouraging people to vote who would otherwise never darken the door of a polling place. I really don’t want someone on the streets of Hollywood, who just failed to identify the vice president of the United States on one of Jay Leno’s “Jay-Walking” segments, helping to select the person who will lead my government for the next four years.

Take the test here.

I have to report, sadly, that enormous numbers of high school graduates cannot pass this test (that is, get a score of 66.6%). More college graduates than I would wish are similarly unprepared. Yet this test is not hard, for anyone who has the vaguest notion of how our government functions, and the barest minimum of knowledge about current events. I know it is politically impossible that a test such as this will ever be adopted. But if you can’t pass it, you should be embarrassed to be voting. And in all honesty, I think the author of the test was too generous. In my opinion, if you can’t score about 24 out of 27, you should go out to lunch on election day (since you’re already there…), and then go home, and read a book or something.

If you don’t have this basic understanding and information, and lot more besides, you simply have no way of evaluating what the issues are about, who is lying to you, who is shading the truth, etc. You simply don’t have the conceptual tools to even read the newspaper.

Let me be really blunt. If you aren’t at least this well informed, and you still vote, you are a patsy. A sucker. A mark. You’re clueless. None of your political opinions are worth their weight in pond-scum. You should be wearing a sign that says “kick me” on your back, because that’s exactly what the people manipulating your vote are doing.

It isn’t enough for you to just “learn the test” now. That doesn’t instantly assure that you’re qualified to vote. (Talk about “teaching to the test”…) The point is that all of the opinions you now have were formed in a state of abysmal ignorance of basics, which means they have no chance of being well-considered, though some may be correct (the stopped clock principle…). So, if you want to be a competent voter, learn these basic facts. And then, read a little basic US and World History (NOT a Howard Zinn book). Then spend some time catching up on current events, and see what parallels you can find between them and the bit of history you’ve learned. Listen to some wise people discuss the issues, if possible with people with whom they disagree, so you can hear fair presentations of both sides. Don’t just read/listen to the main stream media, ABC, NBC, CBS, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc.

You should also read blogs. On the right, read Powerline, Hugh Hewitt, and maybe Instapundit at a minimum. On the left, read the Daily Kos and Huffington Post. In the talk radio world, center-right hosts Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager and Michael Medved are all known for having guests from the left on their shows, and treating them fairly, with extended discussions that will allow you to get a feel for the issues. On the left, sadly, there is no national talk radio show that routinely gives extended interviews to thinkers from the right. Well, truthfully, there is hardly a national talk radio show from the left that’s worth mentioning, but of course, the left owns the main stream media I just listed. Which is why you need to pay attention to both the old media and talk radio… between them, you get a fairly balanced dose of information and perspective.

Of all the networks, I trust Foxnews the most. What, your left-leaning friends say that Fox is too conservative and isn’t really fair and balanced? Hmm… haven’t we already established that you’re incompetent to judge when you’re being misled? If you get your info from all the sources above, no one is going to able to pull the wool over your eyes.

Then, maybe you can vote intelligently in the NEXT election cycle.

Do us all a favor. If this simple test is beyond you now, stick to watching Survivor reruns and MTV. Don’t vote this time around. Educate yourself, and maybe vote in the next election cycle.

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One Response to “Not a voter “literacy” test: a civics test instead”

  1. harmonicminer » Ignorantly decrying ignorance says:

    [...] ignorance on the part of the public about basic historical and constitutional principles and facts, which I’ve discussed before, we are treated to this: What’s behind the dumbing down of [...]

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