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Civics and You: More Misinformation at AHS

Adam Aleksic, Jack Berry, and Jeff Lembo

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The City School District of Albany has continued to transgress in the education of high school students on the topics of politics and government.

Last year, we took a survey on civics at the high (see Civics and You: Misinformation at AHS) and discovered some alarming statistics. Only two percent of respondents could identify both of our senators, forty percent could not name the Democrats as the dominant political party in New York State, and a shocking twelve percent of students could not identify the capital of New York, despite living in it.

This year, we decided to go back and see how the results have changed. We interviewed 67 individuals, up from 62 last year, and the grade-by-grade results were about equally distributed.

First, we asked students to name their senators. Only 11.9% could name Kirsten Gillibrand, and only 13.4% could identify Chuck Schumer. While these numbers may seem low, they are definitely up from last year.

Previously, only 73% could name both of the countries bordering the United States, but this year, the figure passed 80%. About the same as last year, 61.2% correctly told us that the Democrats were the dominant political party in the New York State legislature. A surprising 19.4% answered Republicans, and the rest didn’t know. Two-fifths couldn’t name Kathy Sheehan as the mayor of Albany.

We asked another new question this year: what states border New York? Percentages were low, hovering around fifty percent. Most people could answer Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, but results for New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont were slumping closer to forty percent.

When asked about the three branches of government, an entire third could not tell us the correct answers (those being legislative, executive, and judicial), despite us being taught that since primary school.

Lastly, we asked students how many Supreme Court Justices they could name. While 15% and 10.4% could identify Sotomayor and Ginsburg, respectively, the rest of the judges were all under 5% in recognition.

Our democracy is founded on voters making good decisions, which they can’t do if they are not informed. As with last year, we recommend the City School District create mandatory civics and geography classes to remedy this problem.

Here are some of the unique responses that we’ve had. Apparently, Alaska, New Jersey, Guatemala, and Africa are all countries that border the U.S., the Third Estate is a political party, we have twelve mayors, Albany and Long Island are both states that border New York, and Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.

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