Sunday, November 23, 2008


I was a computer programmer in the very early 1970s. Remember the mainframe Univac? Fortran and Cobol? Keypunch cards? I think the computer room in this photo is actually the one I used back then.

My first home computer in the 1980s, set up on a card table, gave me easy access to a little wordprocessing and a lot of Pac Man. In the 1990s I plunged into the internet with AOL and a dial-up connection (where I'm pretty much stuck.) My teenage daughter and a friend quickly figured out IRC chatrooms. But I stumbled around thinking, "There must be something interesting here somewhere."

Voila! Along came web logs. Very early web logs were literally simple lists of new web sites as they came on line. As the number of sites exploded, lists of favorites were born and the terms "web log" was shortened to weblog and blog. I still think the best feature of blogs is the links. (And one of these days, I really must update my sidebar.)

So, here's today's link. Last week Intercollegiate Studies Institute released the results of this year's America Civic Literacy Program quiz. Last year the quiz was given to 14,000 college students and the average score was about 53%. Pretty dismal. This year, for comparison, the quiz was given to 2,500 adults of various backgrounds. The average score was 49%. Even more troublesome, the average score of the 164 people who reported having held an elected government office at some time, was 44%.

As I took the quiz, I wasn't sure whether or not I'd share my result. But I'm happy to say I scored 91% (and apparently I need to know more about Puritans.) I will say that some of the questions are deliberately tricky. But how can it be that 83 of those people who said they'd held an elected office can't identify the three branches of government even in a multiple choice quiz?

My experience as an elected official and the 2008 campaign for president have shaped my thinking about qualifications for elected office. There was the Sarah Palin interview in which she said she'd consider becoming McCain's running mate if someone would tell her what the Vice President actually does. There is no job description for President of the United States and the only qualifications are age and birthplace and the ability to survive a two year campaign. No job description for Vice President. Or Congressman and on down the list. So, if we're making our choices based on, "Well, this person seems to know what (s)he's talking about..." no wonder we're sometimes disappointed.

1 comment:

Leendaluu said...

I need to know more about Socrates, but I got a 91% as well. Guess that's why we are friends.