How good is civics education in your country?

I’ve been thinking for some time about how little my fellow Americans seem to know about basic US history, current events, civics, geography, etc. I don’t mean this in a condescending way; I know there are a lot of folks out there who could put me in my place when it comes to basic knowledge on some of these subjects. Yet, if these studies are any guide, I’m pretty confident I’m way ahead of the curve.

I’m curious about how this pans out in other countries, especially other industrialized/developed countries. Are there similar studies that suggest the US isn’t much different in this sense than, say, France or the UK? The National Geographic study suggests otherwise, seeing as more students from outside the US (if I remember correctly) were able to better answer questions about US geography and population than American students, which leads me to believe that were also more proficient on average when it came to their home countries. But that could certainly be wrong.

As popular as it is to say Americans are ignorant, I’ll bet dollars to donuts Canadians are no smarter.

I’ve met quite a few Canadians, ones with high school educations and driver’s licenses and the whole shebang, who did not know how many provinces Canada has. Since the answer is ten, a wonderfully round number, you’d think it amazing anyone would forget something like that, and yet they do. I sincerely doubt most of my acquaintances could name five cabinet ministers or could name the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And most of my friends are perfectly smart, educated people; these are not fools. I once met four guys from Alberta who were absolutely convinced the capital of Alberta is Calgary, not Edmonton, an error roughly equivalent in stupidity to a resident of North Carolina believing the state capital is Charlotte.

Civics just isn’t high on many people’s lists of Things To Remember.

I would have thought whatever else the US education system is, civics would be one area where they are notably and laudably ahead of the the rest of the western hemisphere.

Civic is not taught in Australian primary schools, and I would have thought few secondary schools. I’d guess that the average Aussie kid might be as fluent in US civics as ours. (hmm is the antonym of fluent, afluent?)

The question “Who was Australia’s first Prime Minister” (Edmund Barton) could probably be answered by 20% or less of Australians. Was at a function where that was asked as a trivia question.

Being able to name the first 3 qualifies you as a political junkie (There are 26 since Federation in 1901, including 3 Deputies who held the position for less than a month after the PM died in office).

Would doubt the average joe could name which party was currently in government in all the 6 states and two territories (all Labor except Western Australia).

My 12yo daughter played her cricket semi-final on Saturday. One of the fathers on the other side was Premier15 months ago. None of the girls recognised him. Everybody who did called him Morris and kept telling him to turn his bloody mobile phone off. :smiley:

I think the question needs to be split up into two different sections:

How good is the civics education in school? For that you need a test like PISA that measures school children’s knowledge across countries, and look at the civics results. (Though it seems they measure mostly math and natural sciences, which are easier to quiz than history or structure of government).

How good is the knowledge of the average 20 / 30 / 40 year old citizen of country X on the street? For that, a web test is only part the answer, too, because of the self-selection of people who answer web tests.

If you ask me personally, or some people I know, most will not know detailed questions of “Who was the first President / second chancellor/ all current ministers; name all countries on a map”, because I suck at remembering these kind of details and don’t need them daily.
But in a similar vein, I did study integral math and stochastics in 11th, 12th and 13th grade and knew how to perform all the calculations and understood the basic principle. Ask me today to do an integral or a limit function, and I have no clue at all. It’s the “Use it or loose it” principle at work, which means that 90% of what somebody learns at school is forgotten 5 or 10 years later because it’s not used regularly. Meanwhile, areas of interest and job-specific knowledge and skills have been gained which have pushed out the other knowledge.

Along those lines, one of my father’s mantras (which I happen to agree with) was “It’s not what you know, it’s knowing how to find it”. Why do I have to remember all the countries in detail, if I can crack open an Atlas and look at it? Why do I have to remember the exact date of the French revolution year, if I can look it up? Understanding the consequences of it, or knowing how the borders between European countries shifted around over centuries of history, and how that influences things today, are far more important. Why learn by heart the principal minerals in country X if the main source of income for country X is tourism, so any mining would damage that, or if Tungsten is discovered 10 years later?

There is no course in British schools devoted to civics. Things like the history of the office of PM, the fight for suffrage etc. are taught in history classes. Remembering counties is something for geography lessons, etc.

It varies remarkably from place to place. I had the benefit of a pretty intense education in civics (we called it Canadian Studies) and it’s partially responsible for my being the political nerd I am today. Under other circumstances, it’s as Rickjay describes – some of the situations I’ve encountered in my work have been truly jaw-dropping.

What do you mean by “civics”, exactly? Back in the Dark Ages, I had a compulsory course in 11th grade which was an “Intro to the Spanish legal system” (and boy, did we burn the teacher’s ear about the lack of information on the local legal system, which is different), we also studied the political system in Geography, in History of Philosophy, in Philosophy and in Modern History (all compulsory); nowadays “Education for Citizenship” is part of the curriculum starting in 1st grade, but judging from the responses I see and from the linked articles, y’all seem to be talking about a mixture of “political geography” (borders, provinces) and “knowledge of the political system.” They’re two different things.

One of the pushes behind the recent glut of “movie cops set in Spain - hospital shows set in Spain - etc but damnit set in Spain” has been that cops, judges, etc. were getting sick of running into people who expected their Mirandas read; many non-Americans know a lot of US trivia just from watching US-set TV shows, but we don’t know that same information about any other country, and often about our own. And often, the information that non-Americans get out of the shows is inaccurate; often the parts people think invented are realistic (middle and upper-middle class people living frm paycheck to paycheck, huge student debt); the parts people think “fringe” are normal (being paid by check); the parts people believe are the ones that the writer actually came up with, or which are being exaggerated or distorted (I swear to Og and Ogette that no, you bloody well can’t run a DNA match in 20 minutes, specially if the DNA came from a mosquito squashed on a windshield - no, not even if you have Laurence Fishburne in the set).

It was very comprehensive when I was at school in NSW in in the 1970s. We learnt all about the federal/state system, the parliaments (lower and upper houses), elections, voting etc. I suspect it’s no longer as well taught, based on my perception of the lack of knowledge of the next generation.

There was actually quite a campaign back in 2000 or so to teach people various trivia about Australian history, including the existence of Edmund Barton, in the leadup to the centenary of Federation. So the number of people who know who he is (and I’m not disagreeing with 20% as an estimate) is rather artificially high at the moment.

Give it another ten years and we’ll probably be back to the default of “less than 1% of the population would have a clue”. Which would be my current estimate of the number of people who could reliably name any other politician active at the creation of this country.

ETA: I was at school in Victoria in the 70’s and 80’s. I don’t remember learning a thing about parliament at all. To be fair, maybe they covered it in the years I was overseas.

There is, it’s called Citizenship.

I can’t say about other countries, but I’d have to say education is very good in the United States. Learning is not, and is probably the same as any other people. Sadly, more appropriate education (smaller classes, more focused teaching, integration with philosophical studies at a younger age) could improve matters, but there’s little hope of anyone doing something sensible at your average school.

Having friends in Aussie and NZ, one thing that always surprises me is how much more about America the Kiwis and Aussies know than vice versa.

And this was the days before Internet. Yeah I know they get a lot of American TV even in the 70s but still it always amazes me how much about the US foreingers know versus what Americans know about other nations.

The one thing NZ’ers seem to think odd is our federalism. My Kiwi friends are like, “Seems like an awful lot of waste and duplication.” Which I think a lot of it in modern society is, but had it’s place in yesteryear

My public school in New Hampshire gave me an excellent civics education. We didn’t just have standard (and later, AP) US History - we had economics, political science, and an utterly excellent combined English Lit/Western Civilization honors course that helped put our institutions and norms in a broader context. I graduated high school nearly eight years ago, and I still find the things I learned there help make me a more engaged, better-informed citizen. This is despite the fact I was a giant slacker in high school, and in fact I was in real danger of not graduating on time.

That said, I was on the Honors track - technically open to everyone, but lower-performing students (like me!) were discouraged from taking these courses. And the kids in the lower-level courses, by all accounts, got pablum. But so far as the education I actually received goes - I’d put it up against any private-school education in the States, and I’m confident it could give most European schools a run for their money as well.