How would you do? Does it matter?

The following 10 citizenship questions were randomly selected from the US Citizenship test and given to 1,350 public high school students by the Goldwater Institute. Only 3.5% of those students passed by getting 6 or more of the answers correct. Look over the questions and see how well you do. Let me know how many you know. I have provided a link to a news article on the results.

In a few days I will add a comment that considers why and if these results matter. I am interested in your thoughts and questions particularly those that relate to how these results inform or hinder  a discussion about standards and enduring and essential learning.


1. What is the supreme law of the land?

2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?

4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?

5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?

8. We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?

9. Who was the first president?

10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

Answers and % of students who got them correct.

1. Answer: The Constitution. correct 29.5 percent

2. Answer: The Bill of Rights. correct 25 percent

3. Answer: The Senate and the House. correct 23 percent

4. Answer: Nine. correct 9.4 percent

5. Answer: Thomas Jefferson. correct 25.3 percent

6. Answer: Atlantic. correct 58.8 percent

7. Answer: Democratic and Republican. correct 49.6 percent

8. Answer: Six. correct 14.5 percent

9 Answer: Washington. correct 26.5 percent

10. Answer: The president. correct 26 percent


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9 Responses to “How would you do? Does it matter?”

  1. slamdunk Says:

    Interesting–I missed one (q 8). Thought it was four years.


  2. strategicteaching Says:

    Slamdunk, I am impressed that you knew so many…well done.


  3. Mr. Rhys, TMS Says:

    I got them all! What a citizen 😉

    I’m sure I would have missed the supreme court and probably the senate term questions when I was in high school.

    Whether or not I memorized the answers to questions like this along the way, I did not internalize how they affected me until after college with the contesting of the 2000 election, congress’ passing the Iraq war resolution of 2002, and my sitting in on a Supreme Court case around the same time. I was interested in US history, but did not understand my citizenship as more than adhering to the golden rule until I was moved to thoughtfully participate in some tough decisions my government was making.

    I think the article you linked to brings up some good points. I agree that students need foundational standards to build on, but when and how they will engage and internalize them is at least as important. The standards give you a framework to build meaning, but if you do not connect those facts with some real-world application (for the type of learner I am at least) those facts start to fade and have little applicable meaning. I don’t want to blame my teachers for this, but that type of connection never happened for me in school — not even as a history major in college! Maybe it was more about my own slow development in this area. It took me a while to develop my identity, what I believe, and what I want our country to be — and these things are still flexible and changing. Once I started to feel more secure in that way, the structures of government and how they developed became a lot more meaningful.

    In other words, I wouldn’t consider myself a “well informed citizen” for memorizing these answers, but for informing myself on issues that are meaningful to me, then applying my understanding of how my system of government works through my right and responsibility of participation. This is something I didn’t embrace until I felt I knew enough about the world to have a say.

    Ideally, a good teachers can handle both standards, and some project-based application of those standards, in any order, right? Knowing only the standards might lead to dogmatism. Passionate activism without understanding of how things work can lead to wasted time.

    It’s fun to think and ramble about this! Thanks for the post. I look forward to hearing why you think these standards are important for our citizens (and our system of education).

    PS – Nice blog!


    • strategicteaching Says:

      The interesting balance between knowledge and understanding is clearly demonstrated by this topic. Your post gives substance to this dichotomy. While a good understanding of our government is essential to the endurance of our democracy, witihout the ability to analyze and apply those facts, that democracy is doomed. I feel very strongly about this. Your growing personal awareness of this symbiotic relationship clearly demonstrates the power of knowledge that is used. Only when knowledge (or facts) are applied, analyzed, compared… do they become relevant and only then will a knowledge of those facts become enduring. As I work with teachers one of my greatest challenges is to convince them that once they get to the thinking the facts will become enduring. Indeed the results of this test do matter…because they are an indication that the thinking about the facts is not occuring and that lack of thinking is a danger.


      • Mr. Rhys, TMS Says:

        Nicely put! I am going to use this quote:

        As I work with teachers one of my greatest challenges is to convince them that once they get to the thinking the facts will become enduring. Indeed the results of this test do matter…because they are an indication that the thinking about the facts is not occuring and that lack of thinking is a danger.



  4. Mr. Rhys, TMS Says:

    Thought of this post, and the relationship between standards and applied knowledge reading this blog post by Steve Hargadon on web 2.0’s effects on education.

    “…we move from thinking of knowledge as a “substance” that we transfer from student to teacher, to a social view of learning. Not “I think, therefore I am,” but “We participate, therefore we are.” …From “learning about” to “learning to be.

    …It’s the model of students as contributors that really grabs me, and leads to the next trend.”

    This new participatory access we have through the Internet could have the potential to engage kids in putting the standards to work!


  5. Michelle Says:

    This test is one of my final exams. The kids make the 100 flashcards, practice and then take an oral test of 20 questions. I always let them know they now won’t look dumb on Jay Leno, and will win at Street Cash.

    This frees me up to actually have them use this information to make connections, comparisons, and other higher level thinking skills.


    • strategicteaching Says:

      Michelle have you ever tried one of the online flashcard makers… is one I will look up the other one I us and get back to you. It should be under my delicious links. Thanks for visiting!


    • strategicteaching Says:

      HaHa! I also use the Jay Leno threat… excellent approach.


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