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Federal awareness alarmingly low in high school seniors
by Emma Ebert
Oct 03, 2016 | 2911 views | 0 0 comments | 237 237 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Are You Smarter than a 12th Grader?

Last year, a bill was passed requiring Utah’s high school seniors to pass a 50-question civics test to graduate. One would think this would be an easy enough feat for people who have lived here their entire lives, considering immigrants are expected to answer the exact same questions on the Civics and Immigration Exam. However, a pretest given to the U.S. Government students at Woods Cross High School says otherwise. 

Out of the 245 students given the test, only four achieved the 70 percent score necessary to pass. If last year’s trend continues, this 1.6 percent pass rate will be raised to 95 percent by the end of the year. This alarmingly low level of federal awareness in teens raises the question of how well adults know their government.

Comfortingly, adults performed much better. Fifty adults ranging from 18 to 83 years of age were given 50 questions from the civics exam. Only nine of these individuals didn’t reach the 70 percent cutoff. The overall average for the adults was 79.6 percent. Though this is a marked improvement from the high schoolers who haven’t yet had the chance to be educated on the government, in a typical high school class the average would convert to a C+. What changes might occur in our nation if this average were raised to 100 percent?

Mark Mccleery, Woods Cross’ government teacher, said, “I believe the U.S. Government and Citizenship class is one of the most important a high school student can take. The State Legislature was wise in mandating that all students pass this class for graduation. It is important for all of us to know what is in the Constitution and to make sure our government officials follow its guidelines.”

People often complain about the way the nation is being run; however, the founding ideal of this country is that the power lies in the hands of the people. People seemed to have resigned to a life of dissatisfaction with the world around them, when the reality is they have the ability to change it. With this year being an election year, now is the perfect time to become more educated about how the government works and how the nation is being run. 

Francis Bacon once taught that “knowledge is power.” By knowing more about the workings of the government, power truly is returned to the people. As Utah’s seniors become more aware and involved in government this year, take the initiative to do the same. 

To find out more about the Civics Education Initiative and to take a version of the test yourself, visit 

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