POLL – VIDEO: Should there be a basic quiz before you are given a ballot?

We are in soooo much trouble.

We let these kids vote!

Look what the education system as accomplished.

Yes, that video is from 2014. Does anyone think that the situation has improved in the meantime?

Basic civics… history… gone.

Could they have passed a written test, have done better than when suddenly put on the spot? Maybe. But those questions were pretty basic. Am I wrong?

Sometimes I wonder. If you can’t name your senators and rep at least at the national level, if you don’t know the names of the President or Vice President, if you haven’t a clue about … much… should you be given a ballot?

Folks, please do what you can to make sure that your children know something? And not just about their Catholic Faith but about their country as well?


Choose your best answer. The combox is open to those who are registered and approved here. As always, THINK before posting. If you engage someone, do so thoughtfully and address them directly. It isn’t wrong to be content to read if you can’t think or be polite.

Should there be a basic knowledge quiz before a voter can have a ballot?

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As I continue to think about this, and the whole question of disenfranchising the un-informed, … what about people who just vote straight party? Along party lines? Should there be a challenge question? “Which of these platforms is that of the political party for whom you are voting?” And for “independents”?

Complicated. Throughout history, from the Greek polis onward, people have tried to figure out voting rights and qualifications. My frivolous poll can’t solve much, but… hey! It’s the 2016 Frustration Election!

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  1. excalibur says:

    Lincoln said that America would never fall to an outside enemy, but to an enemy within.

    Long ago the Marxists plotted, they took over the teachers colleges, and have been sending those mis-educated, enculturated, teachers out into the schools throughout America. They have done their job very well indeed. The first obvious signal was how quickly the public schools fell into lockstep with the homosexual agenda (a mainstay of Marxism) during the first half of the 1980’s owing to AIDS.

  2. Lucas says:

    I had to think about this for a while, but I lean no.

    Really, it should be taught in school(and by parents as well). I never learned anything about how to vote, either by school or parents and the first time I vote(when I was 19) they never explained anything to me and just handed me a ballot. I won’t lie, I spent about 5 minutes in the booth trying to figure it out. Eventually a lady came over and asked if I needed help.

  3. kat says:

    I about said the same thing when I saw this video a few weeks ago. Our citizens who came from other countries have basic knowledge they had to know to pass the citizenship test. Should we as citizens not be required to at least know as much as we require of immigrants who become citizens? US Government or civics is still, I think, required to be taught in schools (definitely in my state ); but obviously the students don’t learn very much, or are not required to retain it.

    Our Founding Fathers didn’t give everyone the vote. Perhaps there was a reason, besides sexism and slavery. All males were not eligible either. To cast a ballot, one really needs to know more than a name, race, and gender of a candidate!

  4. Packrraat says:

    My jaw just dropped!!!! You could hardly get more basic than this. I am appalled. But, considering that they don’t teach history anymore and kids don’t read anymore, what can anyone expect? If there were a test, there would be FAR FEWER voters and perhaps we’d get better people in office.

  5. rmichaelj says:

    “Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern.” – G.K. Chesterton, 1917

  6. acardnal says:

    And guess what? They’re all voting for Bernie. . .who wants to pay for their college with my money!

    It seems to me many of these students need to go back to High School first and learn something.

  7. Luvadoxi says:

    I confess to not being able to name representatives and senators from my state. I have no excuse for not knowing my two US senators and I feel embarrassed. I went to school in the 1970s. This is how bad it is–if I were asked who’s my senator the first name that comes to mind is Sam Nunn. Yep. That bad. I do recognize the names of the politicians when I hear them, as being from my state (I was always better at multiple choice than fill in the blank). However, when an election comes up, I do look up the representatives/senators from my district and try to find out some information–usually too late, though. I do tend to vote straight party ticket.
    But really–the Civil War? And the Revolutionary War? What do they learn in high school?? I did run into a young lady recently who didn’t know who won the Civil War.

  8. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Hmm. Years ago a study of the SAT test concluded that high outcomes on this standardized test did not predict success in college very well. What it did predict very well was how the test-takers would perform on other tests.

    Good test takers heavily populate higher education, the media, and the entertainment industry. Are you sure you want a form of screening that will increase the percentage of people with those backgrounds in the voting population as whole?

  9. anilwang says:

    Wow, I could answer all the US civics questions and I’m not even American (I’m Canadian).

    In school we didn’t learned very little about American history except how it impacted Canada (e.g. the underground railroad which lead to Canada got us informed a bit about American politics and constitution and the civil war. The war of 1812 got us talking about the Napoleanic wars, the Louisiana purchase, and the differences in how we handled the natives and how our police and militaries ran).

    But even if someone fell asleep during history class, we get a lot of American TV and I don’t see how someone could watch children’s TV and not be able to answer at least some of those questions.

    As for the voting qualification test, I think there is too much potential for abuse. It would only be a matter of time before the “qualification test” would include something like questions on naming the whole “alphabet soup of genders” or written to exclude “undesirables” or it turns into an IQ test.

    Personally I feel more comfortable about someone voting who is retarded but knows that his parents didn’t abort him when they had the chance than someone like well respected Ethicist Peter Singer that thinks it’s more humane to experiment on babies than monkeys. The great unwashed sometimes are holier and more in touch with what it means to be human than many elites, and I speak as someone in that that elite class. I know I’m not worthy to be in the shadow of some poor and old illiterate grandmothers in our parish that have nothing to offer anyone except their tears and their prayers.

  10. iamlucky13 says:

    First of all, a quiz won’t solve problems of electing competent, just leaders, much less a simple quiz. There is no direct connection between knowing who prevailed in the Civil War and determining for examples:

    Which candidates are lying or just telling voters what they want to hear.

    Which candidates appreciate the intricacies of the first amendment and what it actually protects versus what it does not.

    Which candidates actually understand and are willing to abide by such grave moral duties as refraining from *all* except just wars.

    Which candidates have a realistic plan for promoting the sanctity of life such as by making basic health care available to those who can not procure it for themselves without unduly burdening others or turning health care into a national system for funneling money to big businesses and sometimes even downright morally reprehensible people.

    Secondly, selective disenfranchisement like this is every bit as likely to to be performed in an unjust matter as anything else the government does. If we enacted such a quiz, we’d soon find it populated with questions subtly designed to protect majority policies.

    So while I appreciate the desire to reduce incompetence by the electorate, I regretfully have to reject the idea at a minimum for the simple reason that I don’t want to be denied the right to vote for failing to be able to identify which part of the Constitution establishes abortion or gay marriage as rights or allows the president to commit summary executions of American citizens (or anybody else for that matter) in non-combat situations, etc.

  11. de_cupertino says:

    call me old-fashioned, but I think we had a pretty good government when only free, land-owning men could vote…

  12. arga says:

    This video doesn’t surprise me because I am a history professor at fairly mid-level state university. None of my students, ever, have been able to name in order the major wars that the US has fought. Hardly any can ever answer ANY question you can think of about the American Revolution, the Civil War or any other major conflict, including who was fighting or when. Some don’t know what century they were born in. Few know what a verb is. Some can’t find Europe on a map of the world. Very few know what a footnote is. I avoid asking any student to read aloud from the textbook; it is too painful to listen to. We have been in big trouble for decades. I have seen standards drop, drop, drop at my university; one of my colleagues assigns 10-15 pages of reading A WEEK in a senior-level course. It’s over, friends.

  13. Luvadoxi says:

    Wow arga. I guess I’ve been really out of it since my girls graduated high school in the late 90s….if students can’t read and don’t know the basic wars…Revolutionary, Civil WWI and II, Korea, Vietnam and don’t study geography (what happened to coloring maps???)–are they just sleeping through class or skipping? What are they being taught instead? I’m shocked, truly shocked.

  14. Luvadoxi says:

    I can appreciate the theory behind property owners being the only ones who could vote–they had a stake in the outcome. But it brings to mind real abuses. I remember the days of the poll tax.

  15. iamlucky13 says:

    “None of my students, ever, have been able to name in order the major wars that the US has fought.”

    None at all? How major were you counting? I’m decent at history, but not a wizard, and off the top of my head:

    Revolutionary War, Barbary Wars, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War, Bosnian Intervention, Afghanistan War, 2003 Iraq War.

    Panama and Grenada fit in between Vietnam and Persian Gulf, but I can’t remember which was first, and I don’t know if most historians would actually consider them wars.

    I don’t really remember what precipitated the Mexican or the Spanish-American Wars, but oddly enough I do recall that Admiral Dewey was a junior officer under Farragut at New Orleans, and used similar tactics in the Battle of Manila Bay.

  16. JARay says:

    My father,who belonged to a very different age, always used to say that only those who owned property should be allowed to vote. Ownership inculcates a sense of responsibilty for what is going on in the society in which we live. I live in Australia although I was not born here, and it was quite a surprise when I came to vote here to find that we use a system of preferential voting. If the person you vote first, fails to make sufficient votes as a proportion of the whole, your vote then drops down to the one you chose as second choice. This continues until the choice is only between two candidates. This stage is called “two party preferred” and the final winner is the one who comes out on top then.
    Hence, when I vote here I always choose the christian candidate first even though I know that this candidate will not win. So I go down the list and I always choose the “green” candidate as my last because they always represent those who want abortion and same sex-marriage and “gay rights”.

  17. The Cobbler says:

    Mexican-American war — we somehow managed to buy “Texas” from them without getting the definition of “Texas” in writing, or something.

  18. crickally says:

    I did not vote in the poll. I believe one of the worst decisions this republic ever made was to lower the voting age to 18. It should be changed back. In fact it should be raised to at least age 25. From all my contacts with young adults today, it seems that nearly all of them lack the maturity, wisdom, rationality, and prudence to select our civil leaders. They are ruled by emotionalism and the compelling desire to be “politically correct” and popular with their narcisistic, hedonistic contemporaries.

  19. Matthew Gaul says:

    We should draw the lower house by lot from the eligible voter pool. It would be more representative, not just 435 lawyers.

    If you get in by lot, in two years there is a referendum on you. If you lose, a new representative is drawn by lot.

    It’s not foreign to classical political theory.

  20. NancyP says:

    A voter test would remind many of our citizens of the racist literacy tests used to bar former slaves from voting in the years after the Civil War. I can’t see any state requiring it.

    What states can, and should, require is a passing grade of C or better in a U. S. government class in high school, a class that requires a project or paper on some aspect of the voting process, for graduation. Engaging students in activities like this actually works. I am in a position to know, as I teach U. S. government now.

    I can’t bring myself to ask my students to watch the so-called debates, especially after last night’s Republican train wreck. I did ask them to research a candidate’s life story, political career and stance on important issues. They did quite well and seemed surprised at how much they learned.

  21. Kerry says:

    Further evidence of the great Mercy of God that profound ignorance is not commensurately painful.
    There is actually a person named Snookie? Whiskey, tango etc.

  22. IoannesPetrus says:

    I say: “No, absolutely not.” In the system of governance in question, voting is so essential that the best thing the governing document can do is to make it the right of citizens with suffrage. (This implies duty but the document cannot compel.) Disqualifying any of these from exercising it is contradictory by itself, but because the vote is not e.g. one of confidence but for policies, it also becomes political and leans, as such, totalitarian.

    I say: change the way suffrage is granted; the suggestion of a test is geared towards this, but it needs to be explicit and not retroactive. But really I would say: change the system of governance. Granted, even in the best of circumstances, something can go wrong but (or so) circumstances are best when they prepare us for everything. I don’t know about you all but I, for one, am feeling very naked these days.

  23. exNOAAman says:

    “Get X wrong and your ballot doesn’t count”…
    …well yeah; and X= “your legal name”.
    …in english…

    That alone would eliminate a large chunk of voters in certain cities

  24. myers16670 says:

    I say “absolutely not” as well.

    We require everyone to pass both written and practical tests before being issued a driver’s license; how’s that working out? No, I think Chesterton said it best: the most important things are best left to the least important people. If we leave the least competent to fend for themselves we wind up with the government we deserve.

    Besides, who gets to write the test? The same all-star lineup staffing our polling stations?

  25. Roguejim says:

    On a local level, I wonder if renters should be permitted to vote on levees that affect the property owners, i.e., increase their property taxes. No, I say.

  26. tskrobola says:

    This would explain Donald Trump, I guess.

  27. JacobWall says:

    It should just be included in the ballot. The ballot would list all the real candidates, and mixed in with them would be the names of important American historic figures – Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, etc. If someone puts an X beside one of the “fake” candidates, it simply shows they don’t know history, and their ballot’s invalid. Of course, it would be hit and miss, since some people would, by luck, guess a real candidate. And a few jokers would vote for the dead guys, even though they knew who they were. But it would weed out a good number of these people.

  28. iamlucky13 says:

    @ IonnesPetrus:
    “I say: change the way suffrage is granted;”

    Any Heinlein fans here? “Service guarantees citizenship?”

    (I’m not advocating the idea, but it is not without merit)

  29. Supertradmum says:

    I voted no for several reasons. The decline of education happened over a long time, and on purpose, to create a dumb populace. Bismarck did the same thing in Germany which led directly to the Nazis gaining power a few generations later. I and other teachers saw the rot of education setting in a long time ago. For example, by 1981, neither World History nor American History were required subjects for graduation in most Midwest states–only state history. Duh! And, I had Civics and Logic as requirements in my first years of high school, in 1963-64, but by the time my youngest brothers were in high-school, 9 and 11 years later, neither Civics nor Logic were required subjects.

    A long slide into stupidity….

    We have to admit we have lost the culture war and that America is not only in decline, but being manipulated by those who are not elected officials. Democracy implies at least an interest in politics.

    One of the greatest books was required reading when I was in high school, de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and in 1835, the publication of the book, this genius predicted the “tyranny of the masses” for this country. John Stuart Mill in his On Liberty in 1859, also predicted this happening.

    Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Here is one more quotation, referring to what we see today.

    “The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” Lord Action, 1877…

    One may add, “or by mediocrity or sloth”.

    Hedonists, btw, care nothing about democracy, and as America is a pagan nation of hedonists, or deluded self-proclaimed apostles, what can one expect? A nation of pleasure seekers do not need a real leader, but only the opportunity to carry on in sin.

    And, another view of what is happening may be found here–the great American heresy of Manifest Destiny has arisen again in an Evangelical format.


  30. The Cobbler says:

    Kerry, I find vincible ignorance painful.

    iamlucky13, An interesting idea certainly. His comments about rights, e.g. “what right to life does a man have who is drowning in the ocean?” are also pretty interesting if seen as a response to the modern notion of rights as something that everybody else has to hand you on a platter (not so much with any more classical or decent notion of rights that has a relationship to objective good, since, obviously, drowning in the ocean is a perfect example of something that is, to use analogous terms, not right; but if the argument makes sense in one context and not another, use it in the one in which it makes sense, I suppose). Also, favorite line from Starship Troopers: “Men are not potatoes.” So obvious and yet so brilliant in or out of context.

  31. Jenson71 says:

    Emphatically no. If it helps bring comfort, according to Census data, only 38% of eligible voters 18-24 years old voted in the presidential election in 2012. The last time that group was over 50% was 1964.

  32. Absit invidia says:

    Voting should be treated like driving. Learn the manual, pay some money and pass the written test to join the club, then you are in. Fail the test and you get a chance to hit the books and try it again. Voting is a right yes, but it is MOREOVER a responsibility of informed citizens. We must know our form of government, its branches and their functions, the founding principles of our country, and other basic facts to demonstrate some rudimentary knowledge of that all loyal and informed citizens should possesss.

  33. Absit invidia says:

    So many no votes. Seriously, if Americans gave as much dutiful attention to their country’s heritage, it’s laws, and governing bodies, and founding principles, as much as they gave to get their drivers licenses we wouldn’t have a capital government officials today full of opinions, but rather a body of noble, wise (not just lawyer smarts), and honorable men with better formed consciences as our governing leaders. Instead we have numbskulls pushing this social experiment and that sexual deviant agenda. We wouldn’t have a White House lit up in rainbow lights the day gay marriage was legalized by the courts. We would have a governing body more interested in the GENUINE welfare of its countrymen. An assemblage of men interested in the conducting their administration with righteousness, a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy, and restraining vice and immorality.

    Every Catholic voter should be familiar with Archbishop Carroll’s Prayer for Civil Authorities and this should give them a good starting point on how to approach the ballot box.

  34. Chrisc says:

    I have thought about how to make this answer truly fair and not discriminatory. The best solution I have is this: for anyone running for statewide office or higher there is simply a right in blank. If you don’t know or remember who is running for governor, well your vote shouldn’t count. It’s not a test of civics, but a test of commitment….. Can’t bother to care enough to spell, too bad.

  35. Adeodata says:

    Their ignorance is appalling, but I’m guessing they are not interested in government or history. I would be shocked if the same non-response came from political science or history majors. Is popular entertainment dumbing down the populace? Unfortunately, I am not surprised. I work with teenagers of normal intelligence many of whom struggle with subjects and skills they ought to have mastered in grade school.

    I wish we had an informed and qualified electorate, but to quiz people before they vote or register to vote would become a huge political fight. It would be too reminiscent of the Jim Crow era i.e. poll taxes and literacy tests. What questions do you ask? Who gets to decide what is included in the quiz? What would one have to score? How do you make it non-partisan? Fairness? The Democrats in my state oppose a voter photo identification law because it might disenfranchise someone. Their heads would spin over such a proposal.

    BTW: I had to pass a Constitution and civics test before eighth grade graduation.

  36. GrumpyYoungMan says:

    No, because I don’t trust those that would be responsible for writing the test.

  37. mschu528 says:

    In my experience, the Boomer generation would not do any better at a civics/ history quiz. These things are nothing new. I remember about 15 years ago there was an Australian comedy show where they took an unlabelled world map and wrote “Canada” with ballpoint pen over Australia. They asked Americans on the streets to point to Canada. Most of them pointed to Australia, one pointed to South Korea, and one actually knew where Canada is.

  38. jdm says:

    Imagine how frightening it would be if these people were electing their bishops!

  39. Imrahil says:

    There should not; there is too much potential of abuse and, worse, too much of historical haut-gout connected with it.

    However, there could, and should, be a remedy someplace else, and that is at the levels of the schools.

    Let me get this straight: a U. S. American who is not able two write without preparation a 150-words-minimum essay, with correct information and reasonably readable style of language, about – say – the choices the American electorate faced in the 1860 presidential election, such a one is not qualified to sell books or furniture, to be silent of such things like “receiving a high-school diploma” or “seeing a college from the inside”.

    [Note: I personally had to look up when the election precisely was, and I still don’t know who was Lincoln’s main opponent, though I know who was his predecessor, and what was the overall issue. But then I’m not American.]

    If people have to be educated to get a school diploma, maybe they will be happen to be educated for voting.

    Ceterum censeo: In educatione primaria & secundaria, examina “electionis ex multitudine responsorum” modi esse abroganda.

  40. bookworm says:

    “The ballot would list all the real candidates, and mixed in with them would be the names of important American historic figures – Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, etc. If someone puts an X beside one of the “fake” candidates, it simply shows they don’t know history, and their ballot’s invalid”

    Sounds good, but what if you want to cast a protest vote against all the actual candidates in ONE contest (e.g. POTUS) and “real” votes in other contests farther down the ballot (Congress, state and local offices?) I suppose abstention would have to take the place of protest votes for dead or imaginary persons in that case.

    The “literacy tests” for voting that were used to exclude black voters in the Jim Crow era South were selectively enforced at the discretion of the election officials and had little or nothing to do with the actual voting process. IIRC, a typical “literacy test” would consist of the judge asking a white voter to read some simple passage on an elementary school reading level, while a black voter would be asked to read and interpret a college or advanced-degree level passage of legalese.

    Although this would obviously never get by the courts, I would see no problem with requiring passage of a U.S. and state Constitution test (many states require these for high school graduation), or of the same test required of immigrants applying for citizenship, as a prerequisite to becoming registered to vote. It would not have to be any more burdensome than a driver’s license written test — in states that have “motor voter” registration they could combine the two, I would think. The key is that the test would be objective, would apply to everyone and would be relevant to the voting process.

  41. John Grammaticus says:

    I’m a Brit, and not only could I answer all of these questions, but I could give you the background to all of the historical events mentioned and a brief biography of your current vice moran.

    Personally I would support raising the voting age to 35 (and thus taking myself out of the voting pool for another 7 years), imposing some sort of educational test as well as other qualifications such as property ownership, or in lieu of that some form of military service (I’m currently applying to join the British version of the National Guard).

    God help America, because nothing else will.

  42. We were in line to vote on Super Tuesday. The line snaked throughout the courthouse and it took almost 2 hours before we were able to cast our votes. A man would come through and ask if there were any democrats in line so they could step right up to their voting booth; no one was in line. I saw at the max, 5 people get out of line and go to the democrat side to vote. Everyone else in that very long line were Republicans. The man in front of me and I were talking about situations you have shown in the video and how sad it is that these young people have no clue. Some adults haven’t a clue either.

    Homeschool your kids! My 17 year old grand daughter can answer all the political questions but she would have no clue about the actors and actresses.

  43. Eric says:

    See, I learned something.

    I thought Snookie was married to Brad Pitt.

  44. bookworm says:

    As for the notion that only property owners should vote, I see the general point, but as a renter I object to that. Just because I choose not to saddle myself with a mortgage or can’t afford one doesn’t mean I have no stake in what happens in my community.

    That said… I would not have a problem with extending the residency requirements for voting in state and local elections to at least 1 year, maybe 2 years at most, with the proviso that the residency period is shortened or waived if you buy property, start a registered business, or enroll a child in a local school (public or private) before that period ends. The residency period would be applied separately at the state and local levels — for example, if you’ve lived in your state all your life but just recently moved to a new city in that state, you can vote in the state and federal elections but would have to wait out the residency period for the local elections. As for the school enrollment provision — yes, it would discriminate against homeschoolers, but if they’d purchased a home or started a business they would already be exempt from the waiting period. If you’re a homeschooler who rents, you’d be out of luck, unless some kind of means of applying for exemptions directly to the local election authority were provided.

  45. APX says:

    Only if it includes the question, “In the War of 1812, who burned down the White House?”

    I voted no because as someone who has a very poor memory for recalling factual information, and whose mind goes blank quite easily under what it perceives to be stress, yet has intellect that is sharp enough to reason through complexities such as moral and ethical issues, I think such a test would do more harm than good. There are plenty of Jeopardy types out there who could answer such questions quickly, yet are so engrossed in sin that they’ve lost the ability to use moral reasoning properly that they would vote for Obama.

    That being said, as a Canadian who lives in a country run by someone who was voted in by people who think he’s a piece of eye candy with great hair and promised to legalize pot, and do all kinds of wonderful things to help immigrants and refugees, yet do nothing for the working poor citizens and is now ruining our Country faster than you can keep up with his online vacation updates (the man can bilocate according to his official itinerary and be in skiing in Whistler, BC while simultaneously be in Ottawa in “private meetings”), I think the voting age should be raised to 25 and one should be required to actually prove they’re a Canadian citizen before given a ballot. Enough with this Canadian Honor system. Ooh, so they signed a declaration stating they’re legally entitled to vote. Signed declarations aren’t worth the $0.05 Bic pen they’re signed with. Honesty means nothing to most people now.

  46. moconnor says:

    Absolutely not. Too much opportunity for political/racial/other nonsense in the “basic” questions. Teach the children and hope for the best.

  47. MrsMacD says:

    I voted no, because as far as Government goes, less is more. God doesn’t give us an IQ test before letting us into heaven. Holy people can be unintelligent about dates but brilliant about who is good and who is evil.

    Although, you could maybe convince me that only men should vote. (Teasing, teasing)

    America is in decline, she is soft and decadent. She has not one real leader. Who will replace her as the next superpower? China?

    Nonetheless, we need to pray for that leader! Even the worst leader is a human with a soul in need of conversion. God can, and will, work miracles, if we ask.

  48. nhoward says:

    How about we get rid of voting, elected officials and bring back hereditary monarchies?

  49. The Masked Chicken says:

    Fr, Thompson wrote:

    “Hmm. Years ago a study of the SAT test concluded that high outcomes on this standardized test did not predict success in college very well.”

    From what I have read, the SAT, before it was re-normed in the 1980’s was not bad at predicting college success, however, what we now know is that anyone who scores above a 650 on one of the tests knows, essentially, as much as the test creator, so any score above that is irrelevant. So, Douggie Howser, who scores a perfect 800 is no better than Fred Jones, who might have scored a 650. They both know as much as the test preparer – the rest is statistics.

    Agra wrote:

    ” None of my students, ever, have been able to name in order the major wars that the US has fought. Hardly any can ever answer ANY question you can think of about the American Revolution, the Civil War or any other major conflict, including who was fighting or when. Some don’t know what century they were born in.”

    Unfortunately, there is pretty widespread evidence that this is correct. In 2008, Mark Bauerlein, from the one of the New York state universities (which one, escapes me), wrote a book entitled,
    The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don ‘t Trust Anyone Under 30). He has over 300 studies showing that the level of basic knowledge among young people for such things as history, science, and the arts is abysmal. Now, Bauerlein is wrong in asserting that it is the digital age that is doing this. What is doing it is the non-static and non sequitur nature of current mass communication, which goes back to the 1960’s.

    It takes time to form networks in the brain that store facts and studies are now showing that the myth of the multi-tasker is exactly that – a myth. In all multi-taskers (except a few rare, so-called, super-taskers), it has been found that when the brain tries to do more than one thing to which the will must attend, the cognitive load drastically slows down processing. In essence, since the 1960’s kids have become busier and busier, without the time for mental consolidation of facts nor contextual understanding of those facts. The result is that facts are not retained.

    This is not true for all kids, however. What we are seeing in society, today, is a, “creaming,” effect where a small subsection of kids have, “Tiger Moms,” who will push them to academically overachieve (like some dads do with Little League baseball kids) to the point where they show great analytical skill, but very little emotional intelligence – they are easy fodder for any really good con man.

    Of course, statistically, as the sample size gets bigger, the deviation from the norm increases in absolute numbers, so, as the population gets larger, one expects to see smarter and less smarter people in absolute numbers, but in elections, it should be the common man who has the deciding votes. Is the common man really dumber than in times past? No. Any more or less awake human being is processing information all of the time and this causes portions of the brain to grow larger and other portions to dwindle from use. Long-time cab drivers have brains with unusually large regions involving spatial navigation simply because that is what they use, all day. Actors, probably (I haven’t seen any data), probably have enlarged connections between Wornike’s region and the hippocampus, where words and memory interact. Kids are learning – they have to be – it is just that they are learning things that aren’t particularly useful in living a productive moral life.

    Is there any way to remedy this? Given the current American education scene, the answer is, sadly, no. As long as modern education is stuck in a post-Modernist mode, where feelings and group consensus is taken as proof of education, where expedience is the guide, where students are little more than widgets in a corporate profit scheme, then, no, we will continue to see a separation in the cultural knowledge levels of society as disastrous as the splitting of society, economically, into the 1%ers and the 99%ers.

    It can change, but not without pitchforks, tar, and feathers. Parents have to demand that teachers be given the right to teach the subjects they know without the fetters of idiotic state-structured education curricula. They have to demand that their kids actually learn something. Of course, this requires communication at home – oh, wait, homes are no longer stable. Marriages are falling apart. I wonder if any, here, see the connection – not just that the lack of stable marriages are harming our kids, but that the people getting married are as much idiots about marriage as their kids will be about history. Stupidity starts at home.

    You want to know why this is happening? Ask yourself why there is no longer a drive to preserve the culture? History, the arts, are all culture-preserving phenomena – until a war comes along that is fought by the young. Look at what happened after both WWI and WWII – there was an immediate, radical shift of the culture towards a laissez-faire attitude with regards to morals and the preservation of culture. In many ways, WWII has had a long tail, statistically speaking, and we are still suffering from its aftermath.

    …and the Church isn’t helping…

    In the darkest of periods, it has always been the Catholic Church that has maintained culture. Not any more. Ironically, the Nouvelle Theologie trend of Resourcement, of going back to original sources, which should have had the effect of preserving culture, has had exactly the opposite effect of making the Church more disconnected from its past than at any point in history. The reason is that Nouvelle Theologie cannot find the past in the present – no, let me make that clearer – they think the past is no longer connected to the present – their view of history is a discontinuous one – it is they who are the architects of a hermeneutics of rupture, not those who seek to maintain the past’s continuing influence in the present. They maintain that theology is always being constructed in the, “now,” but they can’t deal with the implications of that idea – which would be akin to white water rafting in the theological landscape – so, in their fear, they return to the stable sources, but they never plan on really using them as anchors for the present, only as rocks to rest the rafts on while they rest before the next new thing comes along. Appealing to the past while wanting to destroy the present with the next new thing, the latest experience of, “the people,” is contradictory and bound to destroy any stable reverence for the past.

    Are any intellectual areas preserving culture, today? Surprisingly, the sciences are picking up the slack. Ask any kid which side won the War Between the States and 80% will have no clue (in the U. S.), but ask them who Einstein was and they will have a vague idea. Ask them who Bill Gates is and they will know and, yet, science builds on the past in a fashion much as the Church and Western society used to. Why? Because science still stands on the shoulders of giants, whereas the Church and modern Western society has abandoned the giants for pogo sticks – constantly hopping from one new thing to another.

    There are few informed voters and by that I mean voters with wisdom, not merely knowing the positions of the candidates. You get that experience by standing still, by engaging in reflective thought, by being silent and watching. Kids, today are the jumping beans of politics – they got Obama elected, after all and he was as vague a politician as they come – but he was hip, he was new. The old, the soiled, the poor – those who have to live without an imaginary future and only a harsh present, have a much more realistic notion of people and politics than the young. No one under 40, in my opinion, should be allowed to vote. Who rebelled against the Nouvelle Theology in the Church and post-Modernism in society? It was the old, who having lived a little, learned to see the okey-dokey of con men when they tried to ply their ways.

    The Chicken

  50. Supertradmum says:

    Henry VIII? Elizabeth III? Even God warned the Israelites about monarchies.

    1 Samuel 8:10-22 Douay-Rheims

    10 Then Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people that had desired a king of him,
    11 And said: This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and put them in his chariots, and will make them his horsemen, and his running footmen to run before his chariots,
    12 And he will appoint of them to be his tribunes, and centurions, and to plough his fields, and to reap his corn, and to make him arms and chariots.
    13 Your daughters also he will take to make him ointments, and to be his cooks, and bakers.
    14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your best oliveyards, and give them to his servants.
    15 Moreover he will take the tenth of your corn, and of the revenues of your vineyards, to give his eunuchs and servants.
    16 Your servants also and handmaids, and your goodliest young men, and your asses he will take away, and put them to his work.
    17 Your flocks also he will tithe, and you shall be his servants.
    18 And you shall cry out in that day from the face of the king, whom you have chosen to yourselves. and the Lord will not hear you in that day, because you desired unto yourselves a king.
    19 But the people would not hear the voice of Samuel, and they said: Nay: but there shall be a king over us.

  51. Supertradmum says:

    oopsie, Elizabeth I—lol…

  52. Luvadoxi says:

    Didn’t we win Texas from Mexico in battle in 1836?

  53. Luvadoxi says:

    I could do better in civics, but at least I don’t know who Snookie is….

  54. Luvadoxi says:

    JacobWall that’s funny! It reminds me of how they do surveys; when they survey high school students about their sexual experience, even anonymously, back in the late 60s/early 70s–in my husband’s high school–do you think any of those boys told the actual truth???

  55. Luvadoxi says:

    Supertradmum has it right. The answer is requiring passing American History and World History in high school. Maybe I’ve been living in a cave for 20 years (I’m 62), but I’m genuinely shocked these aren’t required subjects!!! I had no idea. No idea. This is the problem. Younger people may not see it, because we get used to the status quo, but the problem is people who don’t know who won the Civil War. Who don’t know who we fought for our independence. Oh. My. Gosh. That doesn’t excuse my not knowing civics and how our government works very well, but at least I had to take these subjects in school. And I don’t know if it’s still around, but there used to be a very helpful voter’s guide from the League of Women Voters. There are plenty of resources. I’m against any tests for enfranchisement. The answer is in education. (BTW–just an observation–did Supertradmum go to Catholic school? Do they teach Logic? I’ve never heard of a course called Logic, but I think it’s a *great* idea. I need something like that!)

  56. David Zampino says:

    It’s an interesting question . . . and I’ve read enough Heinlein to know that he had a couple of creative solutions to this problem.

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t like the idea of direct primaries. They are a relatively new idea in the US, and they seem little more than popularity contests. We are a republic — not a democracy — and it seems that most people forget that. Caucuses seem to be better . . . the voters then to be somewhat more informed about candidates and issues. Frankly, I long for the day when the nominating Conventions actually were nominating Conventions, and not coronations. The idea that states would nominate “favorite sons” — typically governors or senators who had already proven themselves — didn’t guarantee the best possible candidates, but significantly increased the odds!

  57. majuscule says:

    I had a little experience with the “get X wrong and your ballot isn’t counted” some years ago when taking the test for a job with the U. S. Postal Service. (It didn’t affect me because I followed the instructions.)

    We were told, when filling in our personal information, not to abbreviate the name of our city or town. You know, like LA for Los Angeles or NYC for New York City. This test was being given in a large city where people often use the abbreviation. We were told outright that such use meant immediate fail. This is before we even got to the test questions.

    Something like this could certainly weed out the people who aren’t paying attention!

  58. GrumpyYoungMan says:

    Well that depends on who you mean by “we.” I assume from your icon that you’re from my native place. Us Texans won Texas from Mexico in 1836; it didn’t become a part of these United States until 1845.

  59. Supertradmum says:


    Yes, was a Catholic school, and I taught Logic and Debate for years and loved every minute of it, being an INTJ. Logic should be required, but not the new logic, the good old Aristotelian logic. But, sadly, we are beyond all of this and in decay in Western Civilization, with only ourselves to blame.

  60. MrsMacD says:

    Supertradmom did God propose a democracy instead?

  61. APX says:

    Something like this could certainly weed out the people who aren’t paying attention!

    Reminds me of an exam I took in school. We were told, “Before you begin answering all the questions, read through the entire exam and make sure you understand the directions.” The last set of instructions on the exam was, “Do not answer any exam questions except #5 and #10″. Most of the class failed that exam and answered all the questions without reading through the exam.”

  62. nhoward says:

    supertradmum: How about St Louis of France, St Henry of the HRE or Bl Karl of Austria? Can’t think of any presidents or prime ministers who are saints or blesseds.

  63. The Cobbler says:

    You can count me among those who figure that business ownership today is probably closer in spirit to real-estate ownership in times past, for what that’s worth.

  64. The Cobbler says:

    Disenfranchise anyone who does the Hitler salute, I’d say would probably be pretty helpful and pretty uncontroversial.

  65. markomalley says:

    For many years, I have thought that there should be some sort of test to weed out what is popularly called these days the “low-information voter.”

    But can you imagine the poll test devised by the Department of Just-us under Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton?

  66. Imrahil says:

    Dear Supertradmum,

    1. the situation of Israel, the particular people of whom God the Lord is King himself, is special.

    2. Scripture does also have the words: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg 21,25) in manifest tone of disapproval, and: “Give to the king thy office of judgment, o God, and thy righteousness onto the king’s son.”

  67. Imrahil says:

    Dear Chicken,

    and there was I thinking that SAT is nothing but a logical problem…

  68. Seamus says:

    Literacy tests got a bad name because of how they were misused in the South, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. (They were employed in states like New York, without any hint that they were discriminatory in purpose.) We require foreigners to pass a simple knowledge test (the citizenship test) before we give them the vote, and I can’t see anything unjust in requiring a similar test that the native-born must follow in order to vote.

  69. Chon says:

    Supertradmum: I have read some articles saying Cruz is into dominionism–however, these articles have no quotes by Ted Cruz, no footnotes, nothing. I have looked into this claim about Cruz, but I have never seen any reputable proof. If you have proof, I would be grateful to see it. Just because his father and a pastor believe certain things, doesn’t mean Cruz believes those things (saying he is guilty by association, like these articles do, is not proof). Have you more to offer us in the way of factual proof? Thank you. That would be a service.

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