A Modest Proposal

 

I propose that we re-institute civics tests, as a requirement for voting. I was led to consider this by a couple of independent sources over the past day or two. I’ve been listening to Douglas Murray’s latest book, The War on the West, and one of the points that he makes relates to the astonishing historical ignorance of most Americans (and Westerners). Perhaps coincidentally — though perhaps not — a video popped up in my phone’s YouTube feed, titled: “UNREAL: Do Young Americans Know ANYTHING?!” It was amusing, though possibly not a representative sample of young people:

This led me to recall a story that I saw about the inability of most Americans to pass a basic civics exam, specifically using the 100 questions asked as part of the qualification for prospective naturalized citizens. The initial report was in 2018 (here), with a follow-up in 2019 (here), and the results were dismal.

The 2018 result, of a survey of 1,000 Americans, showed that only 36% could pass the citizenship exam. It appears that there are 100 possible questions on the exam, of which 10 are asked of a prospective citizen, and 60% is a passing grade. You can take a practice test here, if you’re interested.  Personally, I found it to be almost laughably easy, without studying.

I can’t resist taking a stab at the authors of the report, which was commissioned by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. They stated:

Surprisingly, the poll found stark gaps in knowledge depending on age. Those 65 years and older scored the best, with 74 percent answering at least six in 10 questions correctly. For those under the age of 45, only 19 percent passed with the exam, with 81 percent scoring a 59 percent or lower.

The only thing surprising about this, I think, is that the folks at Woodrow Wilson found the relatively greater knowledge of the old, and relative ignorance of the young, to be surprising. I do wish that they’d provided further details about the age breakdown.

The 2019 report was a larger sample, 41,000 Americans, and the results were a bit better but still dismal. The overall pass rate was about 40% (the report said “four in 10”), with only 27% of Americans under age 45 passing the test. This result may not have been nationally representative, as they reported separate results for each state (and consequently, the sample may have been skewed in favor of lower-population states).

In any event, we have a standard civics exam, which we use for purposes of qualifying prospective citizens for naturalization. Why don’t we use this same test as a qualification for voting?

I do understand that there is (allegedly) a history of such tests being used unfairly to exclude black voters. (I accept these claims for the present discussion, though I’ve never witnessed it, and given the falsehoods spread recently by various and sundry race hustlers, I’m starting to doubt claims like this that were made during the Civil Rights movement.) But even assuming that in the past, voting tests were used unfairly to exclude blacks — by asking blacks hard questions, and asking whites easy questions — this should not invalidate the idea of testing. It should just invalidate the idea of unfair testing.

We can do such testing fairly, can’t we? In fact, we seem to be doing so, asking these questions of prospective naturalized citizens. Doing so in the voting context should be no problem.

The results reported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation folks don’t give any indication of whether such testing would have a “disparate impact” by race, or by political party for that matter. I don’t care about such a disparate impact. I do not wish to exclude black people from voting. I wish to prevent voting by people who are demonstrably, monumentally ignorant, whatever the color of their skin.

I can’t even predict whether such a system would be good for Republicans or good for Democrats. I just don’t know. The information that I have indicates that older folks would be substantially more likely to pass.

What do you think of my modest proposal?

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  1. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Just think about the kind of civics tests that would be thought up by the leftists who control things now.  Could conservatives pretend to be that stupid?

     

    • #1
  2. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    I didn’t like the answer to “what is the rule of law.”

    The answer was something like everyone must follow the law. It seemed inadequate.

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy got bored of the joke and Member
    Misthiocracy got bored of the joke and
    @Misthiocracy

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: The 2018 result, of a survey of 1,000 Americans, showed that only 36% could pass the citizenship exam.  It appears that there are 100 possible questions on the exam, of which 10 are asked of a prospective citizen, and 60% is a passing grade.  You can take a practice test here, if you’re interested.  Personally, I found it to be almost laughably easy, without studying.

    Good thing it was multiple choice or I would’ve answered that the first president was Peyton Randolph.

    ;-)

    • #3
  4. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Passing the us civics test should be the primary purpose of middle school civics courses.

    My oldest didn’t know who fought in the civil war (thought it was asking for specific people) or what year the US was founded. The rest he got with ease. He’s 13 and taking US History in the fall.

    • #4
  5. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Just think about the kind of civics tests that would be thought up by the leftists who control things now.

    Q: What year was the United States founded?

    A: 1776

    I’m sorry, the correct answer is 1619.  Your voter registration has been denied.

    • #5
  6. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Just think about the kind of civics tests that would be thought up by the leftists who control things now.

    Q: What year was the United States founded?

    A: 1776

    I’m sorry, the correct answer is 1619. Your voter registration has been denied.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (kinda surprised how often I get to use that one)

    • #6
  7. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Meanwhile, 1788/1789 might also be valid answers, since that’s when the Constitution was ratified and then put into effect.  Although 1776 is perhaps most accurate for “founded.”

    • #7
  8. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…: I propose that we re-institute civics tests, as a requirement for voting.

    I don’t want to impose a test on voting.  I want to spend $100 Billion jamming Americanism down everyone’s throats.  Back in 1976 we had tons of Bicentennial propaganda.  It was great.   We can get the money by adding a civics test to transfer payments and government subsidies. 

    • #8
  9. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Civics Test: Seems like a good idea.

    But if we patriots were still in power, we wouldn’t much need it.

    Now that America’s enemies are in power, it cannot help. They would predictably implement tests that advance their cause of Godless, class-based, materialistic, mendacious, violent totalitarian rule. 

    • #9
  10. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):
    Back in 1976 we had tons of Bicentennial propaganda.  It was great.

     

    • #10
  11. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):
    Back in 1976 we had tons of Bicentennial propaganda. It was great.

     

    It’s kinda funny, the “Play” button on that is almost perfectly positioned to be a Hitler mustache.

    • #11
  12. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    I’d be all in favor of making such a test a requirement for high school graduation, but tying it to voting seems cumbersome at best and easy to abuse at worst. Not to mention that the first time a non-white person was caught on camera being told by a white test administrator that he failed and couldn’t vote, well, that would be the end of that.

    • #12
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Not to mention that the first time a non-white person was caught on camera being told by a white test administrator that he failed and couldn’t vote, well, that would be the end of that.

    And we would be sure to blame the standards themselves, not the people who failed to educate that poor soul up to the standards.

    • #13
  14. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Not to mention that the first time a non-white person was caught on camera being told by a white test administrator that he failed and couldn’t vote, well, that would be the end of that.

    And we would be sure to blame the standards themselves, not the people who failed to educate that poor soul up to the standards.

    Because when “minorities” don’t meet standards, it’s always Because Racism.

    • #14
  15. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Just think about the kind of civics tests that would be thought up by the leftists who control things now.

    Exactly. Scary thought. 

    • #15
  16. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Anything compulsory is political. Anything political will become inherently statist. As the OP almost acknowledges, such tests have been used by Democrats to exclude people wanting to vote Republican in the past. They would be used as such in the future. 

    • #16
  17. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    genferei (View Comment):

    Anything compulsory is political. Anything political will become inherently statist. As the OP almost acknowledges, such tests have been used by Democrats to exclude people wanting to vote Republican in the past. They would be used as such in the future.

    This is absolutely a concern. Yet I feel that by not asking anything of people to vote we weaken our sense of civic responsibility. 

    Personally, I think we should have a multiple voting system. You get an extra vote if you own some property and pay a decent amount in taxes and you get an extra vote and you can pass the civics test you get another vote.

    • #17
  18. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Make it a requirement before receiving a high school diploma.

    • #18
  19. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Charlotte (View Comment):
    I’d be all in favor of making such a test a requirement for high school graduation,

    Yes.  This would pay dividends 365 days a year–year after year.

    • #19
  20. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    This is absolutely a concern. Yet I feel that by not asking anything of people to vote we weaken our sense of civic responsibility. 

    You can do things by laws and you do things by cultural expectations.   Let’s educate the majority and bring back shaming those that choose to be ignorant.  Shame is probably more powerful than legislation.

    • #20
  21. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    This is absolutely a concern. Yet I feel that by not asking anything of people to vote we weaken our sense of civic responsibility.

    You can do things by laws and you do things by cultural expectations. Let’s educate the majority and bring back shaming those that choose to be ignorant. Shame is probably more powerful than legislation.

    I love shame. But law affects culture just as culture affects law. Our laws encourage a culture of intellectual  and civic participation trophies.  

    • #21
  22. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Maybe.

    But before we do that we should spend whatever money is necessary to ensure absolutely that any and every vote cast for any election is cast by a living, age-qualified citizen. No effort should go unexpended to make sure the votes are all legit according to the rules.

    If we do this, we would only have to administer about half as many of your tests.

    If these [grrrrr!]’s think they can keep track of who has a gun legally, then they’re admitting that they could also keep track of whether voters are legit. They should be asked this question relentlessly.

    • #22
  23. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Maybe.

    But before we do that we should spend whatever money is necessary to ensure absolutely that any and every vote cast for any election is cast by a living, age-qualified citizen. No effort should go unexpended to make sure the votes are all legit according to the rules.

    If we do this, we would only have to administer about half as many of your tests.

    If these [grrrrr!]’s think they can keep track of who has a gun legally, then they’re admitting that they could also keep track of whether voters are legit. They should be asked this question relentlessly.

    They might answer something about having a registered serial number on each vote that is linked to you, same as serial numbers on guns.  So they could claim that they could insure voting integrity if we give up the secret ballot.  Which neither side wants to do, but for different reasons.

    • #23
  24. Cassandro Coolidge
    Cassandro
    @Flicker

    kedavis (View Comment):

    They might answer something about having a registered serial number on each vote that is linked to you, same as serial numbers on guns.  So they could claim that they could insure voting integrity if we give up the secret ballot.  Which neither side wants to do, but for different reasons.

    That’s it!  One vote per gun!

    • #24
  25. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    They might answer something about having a registered serial number on each vote that is linked to you, same as serial numbers on guns. So they could claim that they could insure voting integrity if we give up the secret ballot. Which neither side wants to do, but for different reasons.

    That’s it! One vote per gun!

    Ah, that means the return of the Saturday Night Special.  Cheap votes for sale here, folks!

    • #25
  26. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    They might answer something about having a registered serial number on each vote that is linked to you, same as serial numbers on guns. So they could claim that they could insure voting integrity if we give up the secret ballot. Which neither side wants to do, but for different reasons.

    That’s it! One vote per gun!

    Ah, that means the return of the Saturday Night Special. Cheap votes for sale here, folks!

    @kedavis — The Democrats are hostile to the secret ballot.  

    A mail ballot is not a secret ballot:  you don’t know who filled it out, or who was watching when it was filled out.  And then could decide whether to put the ballot in a drop box, or a garbage can.

    The Democrats proposed “card check” system of union elections would have people vote on postcards, with their vote visible, so they could be intimidated by union goons into voting the right way.

    • #26
  27. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Taras (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    They might answer something about having a registered serial number on each vote that is linked to you, same as serial numbers on guns. So they could claim that they could insure voting integrity if we give up the secret ballot. Which neither side wants to do, but for different reasons.

    That’s it! One vote per gun!

    Ah, that means the return of the Saturday Night Special. Cheap votes for sale here, folks!

    @ kedavis — The Democrats are hostile to the secret ballot.

    A mail ballot is not a secret ballot: you don’t know who filled it out, or who was watching when it was filled out. And then could decide whether to put the ballot in a drop box, or a garbage can.

    The Democrats proposed “card check” system of union elections would have people vote on postcards, with their vote visible, so they could be intimidated by union goons into voting the right way.

    Excellent points.

    • #27
  28. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I worry more about the highly educated than ordinary folks from all sides of life.  All we need is a simple way to assure voters are citizens and can vote only once.  We’re the only country I know that sets voting up to maximize fraud.  If the republic survives the next two elections we have to change it, along with lots of other things we’re seeing that are destroying the country.     

    • #28
  29. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Government Is How We Steal From Each Other™

    As long as it doesn’t get in the way of what we are actually trying to do here, I am for it. 

     

    • #29
  30. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Just think, we could have voted better. lol 

     

     

     

     

     

    • #30
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