Making it Popular to Increase your Constitution IQ
A friend recently asked me about tests that high school students take to prepare for college entrance. We spoke about several, among which was the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the SAT. He said we ought to have a CAT for public officials -- a Constitution Aptitude Test. He then asked about the PSAT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, that some high school students take in preparation for the SAT and suggested that we require that all persons thinking about running for congress take a PCAT or Preliminary Constitution Aptitude Test before they can have their names put on the ballot or at least before their party will endorse them. He then suggested that the material from NCCS would be a great basis for compiling such tests.
This conversation got me to thinking this idea could really take off in preparation for the 2012 elections. What if in every public meeting, candidates would be asked if they have taken the PCAT or the CAT yet? What if precinct committeemen would ask that question of potential candidates as a condition of carrying their petitions to be put on the ballot? What if it became the talk of the town to continue to ask all candidates or potential candidates what their Constitution IQ is? What if candidates were continually asked to tell when the last time was that they undertook a serious study of the U. S. Constitution and perhaps to name two or three areas they think may be grossly violated today?
U.S.I.Q. on the NCCS Website
For years NCCS has had on its website, www.nccs.net/constitution , the Constitution U.S.I.Q. Game which has been a source of learning, instruction, and fun for many of our supporters. As a teacher of Government classes in high school, I have seen students enjoy pitting their constitutional knowledge against each other in this fun activity in the classroom. It can be played anywhere there is the internet or even printed out in advance if no internet is available. The game consists of over 800 questions taken mostly from a study of The Making of America textbook. A person is given an option to either Take a Quiz by him or her self or Play a Game with teams. Click here to see the game.
The player then makes the selections required which include choosing a category from a list of ten options, selecting the level of difficulty which includes grades 5, 8, 11, and 12, and then indicating how many questions you want the computer to generate for your quiz or game.
Designed to Teach and Emphasize State Standards for Civics in the Classroom
U.S.I.Q. may be used as an introductory activity, a culminating activity, or both. Teachers may choose to use the game to evaluate the breadth of knowledge students have previously acquired as they commence a new Constitutional unit. Teachers could use this tool to identify and target areas of weakness, and tailor their instruction to those areas.
Teachers may also select questions from the test bank to formulate their own quizzes from any or all of the ten categories available through U.S.I.Q. The availability of an additional assessment mechanism methodically aligned with state and national standards will provide teachers with an invaluable tool.
Additionally, U.S.I.Q. can simply be used to augment existing curricula. Home school parents, for example, who may be looking for innovative means of disseminating constitutional knowledge, may opt for the more interactive format of U.S.I.Q., allowing their child to navigate the program and acquire knowledge at his or her pace. Regardless of the modus operandi, U.S.I.Q. gives additional options for parents and teachers looking for innovative ways to learn more about the formation of the American republic.
The questions that comprise U.S.I.Q. have been aligned with national and state standards for civics and have parenthetical references. A full bibliography of the texts being referenced is available at the end of the on-line Instructional Guide.
The possibilities for implementation of U.S.I.Q. are vast. After a classroom simulation in which students represent different factional interests present during the Federal Convention, or after a lesson over the meaning of a particular clause such as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, U.S.I.Q. may be used to augment the curriculum, or enable teachers to quiz the students on the newly acquired knowledge.
Teachers can also choose to let the students sit at computer terminals and "Take a Quiz on American Government." Teachers may direct students to choose a certain number of questions from the applicable category or categories, allow students to take the quiz on-line, and then print out the final page that indicates the level of success attained by the student.
A Sample PCAT
Here is a sample Preliminary Constitution Aptitude Test with questions taken directly from NCCS's U.S.I.Q Game found on our website. By the way, these are generated using the eighth grade level option.
- What is the one offense the president cannot pardon?
- Domestic terrorism
- Who has the final responsibility to see that the federal laws passed by Congress are faithfully executed?
- The president
- The vice president
- The Cabinet
- The Attorney General
- Can a person employed by the government serve as an elector to choose the president and vice president?
- When the Constitution was adopted, candidates for president had to be either natural-born citizens of the United States or naturalized citizens. True or false?
- Does it violate the separation of powers when the president recommends to Congress that it pass certain laws?
- Could the Congress transfer the position of commander in chief from the president to some experienced military leader in time of war?
- Which of the following may be reasons why the Founders were opposed to placing any limitation on the number of times a president could be reelected?
- A limitation might require a change of leadership in a time of crisis.
- A limitation might deprive the nation of an experienced leader at a crucial time.
- It should be left to the people to decide who they want as president, regardless of previous time served.
- All of the above
- Can the compensation of the president be increased or decreased while he or she is in office?
- Are there any government officials who cannot be impeached?
- Did the original Constitution limit the president to two terms?
- Can the president pardon a whole group of people at once?
- How old must a person be to become president of the United States ?
- Suppose the president arranges a treaty with some foreign government. What must happen before the treaty can go into effect?
- The president must sign the treaty
- It must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate who are present when the matter comes up for consideration
- The Supreme Court must approve the terms of the agreement
- It must be ratified by a majority of the Senate who are present when the matter comes up for consideration
- Originally, the Founders hoped the expenses of the national government would be so modest that the entire budget for the federal government would be covered by modest taxes. What form of taxes did they envision?
- Taxes on imports
- Taxes on exports
- Personal income tax
- Property taxes
- Are taxes uniform throughout the United States as required by the Constitution?
- The passing of laws can be slow and complicated. Why might this have been the intention of the Founders?
- They didn't want any more laws than were absolutely necessary.
- The goal was not ""efficiency"" in passing laws, but effectiveness in preserving freedom.
- They wanted to keep government as simple and uncomplicated as possible.
- All of the above
- Can the state militias be called up to help the federal government suppress insurrections in the states?
- If a person went to the Federal Reserve between 1914 and 1934, what could that person get in exchange for a Federal Reserve note?
- gold coins
- silver coins
- all of the above
- none of the above
- The House of Representatives currently consists of 435 voting members. How many members must be present to constitute a quorum and allow the House of Representatives to conduct its business?
- Can the Congress regulate interstate commerce in such a way that it requires a ship to stop at certain ports to pay duties for the "right" of passage?
Let's popularize the building of our Constitution IQs among both voters and public officials.
Earl Taylor, Jr.
Answers to the Sample PCAT: 1. c, 2. a, 3. b, 4. a, 5. b, 6. b, 7. d, 8. b, 9. a, 10. b, 11. a, 12. c, 13. b, 14. a, 15. b, 16. d, 17. a, 18. c, 19.b, 20. b.