Iread this article from the AP entitled “Most Americans can’t name one Supreme Court justice”. I always find these interesting (there are always articles about how dumb we are around geography, civics, etc.). Anyway, the article (pasted below) says that 2/3 of Americans couldn’t name a single Supreme Court Justice. At the end of the article, there is a series of other questions that people were asked about US History and the responses were sobering. Anyway, how many Supreme Court Justices can you name?
Wed Jun 2, 1:33 pm ET
As Congress gears up to do battle over Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Americans are struggling to identify the names of her would-be colleagues, according to a new survey released by the legal information website Findlaw.com. Two-thirds of the 1,000 American adults polled couldn’t name a single current justice, and just 1 percent were able to name all nine sitting justices. Many respondents believed that retired justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter continue to sit on the court.
The largest proportion of respondents were able to name Clarence Thomas, at 19 percent; Chief Justice John Roberts was next with 16 percent. Bringing up the rear were Anthony Kennedy — the pivotal swing vote in many high court decisions — with 6 percent, and Stephen Breyer, who rang a bell with just 3 percent of respondents, despite sitting on the court for 16 years now.
Findlaw columnist Michael C. Dorf, who once clerked on the high court, cautioned in FindLaw’s news release that too much can be made of such low numbers, since the court usually acts “as a collective body” in altering the terms of legal and public debate. “After their 15 minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee are up, Supreme Court justices rarely appear on television,” he noted. “What is a source for concern are polls consistently showing that many Americans are unfamiliar with basic features of our constitutional system.”
He has a point. A recent poll gauging U.S. knowledge of civics and Revolutionary-era history pointed up all sorts of sobering gaps. The American Revolution Center sponsored a national survey of 1,001 U.S. adults who took a multiple choice test. Before the test, 89 percent of respondents expressed confidence they could pass it; 83 percent went on to fail. Among the findings:
• More Americans could identify Michael Jackson as the composer of “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” than could identify the Bill of Rights as a body of amendments to the Constitution.
• More than 50 percent of respondents attributed the quote “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs” to either Thomas Paine, George Washington or President Obama. The quote is from Karl Marx, author of “The Communist Manifesto.”
• More than a third did not know the century in which the American Revolution took place, and half of respondents believed that either the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation or the War of 1812 occurred before the American Revolution.
• With a political movement now claiming the mantle of the Revolutionary-era Tea Party, more than half of respondents misidentified the outcome of the 18th-century agitation as a repeal of taxes, rather than as a key mobilization of popular resistance to British colonial rule.
• A third mistakenly believed that the Bill of Rights does not guarantee a right to a trial by jury, while 40 percent mistakenly thought that it did secure the right to vote.
• More than half misidentified the system of government established in the Constitution as a direct democracy, rather than a republic-a question that must be answered correctly by immigrants qualifying for U.S. citizenship.
You can take the quiz yourself on the American Revolution Center website.
The one bit of good news in the poll was that more than 90 percent of the respondents agreed that it’s important to know the history and principles of the American Revolution.
[Photos: See more moments with nominee Elena Kagan]
Maybe Stephen Breyer can raise his public profile by anointing himself the nation’s civic commissar, and mandating that everyone passing a basic knowledge test be rewarded with a puppy. After all, as matters stand, no one’s going to be able to dispute that he has the authority to do it under the Constitution.
— Chris Lehmann is deputy editor of the Yahoo! News blog.