CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 30, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Tuesday, May 1, George R. Nethercutt, Jr., Harvard Institute of Politics Resident Fellow and former U.S. Representative (WA-5, R; 1995–2005) will join Harvard undergraduates on a media conference call to announce a questionnaire testing the civic knowledge of candidates seeking federal elected office.
The exam will be available this summer at www.americanaptitude.com and is modeled after the immigrant citizenship exam applicants must pass to become American citizens. The George Nethercutt Foundation will contact and encourage candidates for federal office to participate. Candidate exam scores recorded before the November elections will also be made available online. In order to assure test accuracy, the Foundation will require candidates to certify they personally took the test without looking up answers or receiving help from others.
"Since most Americans routinely fail basic citizenship education surveys, my Harvard students and I believe it is important for the public to determine candidates' civic literacy before November's elections," said Harvard Institute of Politics Resident Fellow and former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt. "American political leaders should be well-informed about American history, economics, foreign policy and government before taking office. Our test will assure that they meet minimum standards and may help raise the low public approval ratings Congress now enjoys."
Media Conference Call – new questionnaire testing the civic knowledge of candidates seeking federal elected office
CALL-IN NUMBER: 866-889-3913; PASSWORD: CIVICS
George Nethercutt, U.S. Representative (WA-5, R; 1995–2005) and Resident Fellow, Harvard's Institute of Politics
Harvard students involved with the civics questionnaire
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 – 2 p.m.
Members of the media who wish to participate in the call can RSVP by contacting IOP Communications Director Esten Perez at 617-496-4009 or [email protected].
Recent research studies by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Pew Center, Newsweek and the George Nethercutt Foundation have revealed most Americans are under-educated on basic civics information, including a 2008 Intercollegiate Studies Institute report noting public officials scored lower on civic literacy than the average American. A March 2012 Nethercutt Foundation national survey (n=800) found seventy-four percent (74%) of Americans saying federal candidates should be able to pass a standardized citizenship education test, with eighty-six percent (86%) supporting more civics education in public schools, colleges and universities.
William Marks, a Harvard senior from Florida who configured the test online and helped devise the questionnaire, said: "As a graduating senior this year, I expect my elected officials to be well-informed about American history and government so they can make good policy decisions. If they can't pass the test, are they really qualified to serve?"
Nethercutt said, "Since the public expects elected federal office holders to be honest while serving in office, this certification is meant to assure the honesty of candidates taking the exam." The Nethercutt Foundation is also contacting "live" debate sponsors requesting that debate moderators include civics questions from the exam to ask federal candidates during televised candidate debates during the 2012 election season.
"Harvard students take civic learning seriously, and we expect elected officials to be well-informed about American history and how government works if they are to effectively lead our country and solve public policy problems," said Caitlyn Pang, a Harvard freshman from New York.
The George Nethercutt Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation dedicated to helping college students receive a better civics education, through academic learning, experience in Washington, DC and service in the cause of helping others.
Harvard University's Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, was established in 1966 as a memorial to President Kennedy. The IOP's mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service. The Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs. More information is available online at www.iop.harvard.edu/.
SOURCE Harvard's Institute of Politics