Left Behinds

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Politicians' Pop Quiz



Michael Tomasky was amusingly, sniffily appalled that John Edwards didn't know who James Q. Wilson was (I really only knew him as the broken windows guy), so he came up with this quiz, "25 questions, of which I think any Democratic presidential candidate ought to be able to answer 15."

I didn't quite qualify, but they really skew toward people a generation or two older than I am.

Can we think of any other questions a Democratic political candidate should be able to answer? Mcjoan at Daily Kos has some entertaining suggestions.

12 Comments:

  • At 9:51 PM, Blogger Phoebe Evergreen said…

    I got a 12, or 13 if you count "that woman with the house" for "Jane Addams".

     
  • At 9:56 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    That's what I got, with a couple approximate answers. Nice.

     
  • At 9:57 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    And I of course made a couple educated guesses. But, like, does anyone really know the date Adams and Jefferson died? I just picked them because they were numbers two and three.

     
  • At 1:22 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Also, I really wonder how good those questions were as proxies for the body of knowledge needed to be president.

    They were so historian-heavy. For instance, not one econ or political philosophy question (where I would have totally owned). Much less math or science. Implicit in the quiz was that it would be OK to have a totally innumerate president who had no personal sense of the principles of the scientific method.

    It's true that this is hardly the era of the generalist. But even a highly specialized politician should know something about the social and physical sciences.

     
  • At 2:07 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I think implicit in the quiz was that you have to know the stuff Tomasky knows or you're dumb. I did terribly, though I got the single art history question, which he seemed to think was difficult. As you said, no science, no econ, both important, at least in a basic sense, to running a country. Also no law which I'd think you should have passing familiarity with, along with statistics and the large-order history, geography, and politics of other nations.

     
  • At 2:10 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Excuse me, there was one science question, the one about Nicola Tesla, which was way easy for anyone who's taken freshman physics.

    I think statistics should be a very basic test, though. If you can't explain what a standard deviation is and why it's important, how will you ever understand what your policies are actually doing?

     
  • At 2:42 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    I love when he's like "and if you're on the Prospect staff and got below 20, please don't tell me." He must be a real treat at the office.

    Yeah, his thinking the Fauvist question was the hardest showed how caught up in his own world he is.

    More substantively, you're right, a knowledge of statistics and very basic social science stuff is essential for the president or any other policy maker. Knowing early 20th century historians' greatest works is all fine and good, and probably would make them more fun in those weekend brain trust retreats, but the understanding of, say, statistics should be constitutionally mandated.

    Here's a sciencey quiz, which will make you feel better.

     
  • At 3:45 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I totally got at least 13 out of 15 of those, though there's no answer key. Maybe only 12. I didn't understand the second part of the one about polls, though.

     
  • At 5:11 PM, Blogger Phoebe Evergreen said…

    I thought I did OK. AHb, I'll send you my answers, let me know what you think.

     
  • At 7:44 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Yeah, how annoying that there's no answer key. I think I got 11 or 12 right, but who knows. I totally got the world population wrong, which was embarrassing. I thought there were 8 billion people on this stupid little rock. Oh and did you really know the distance to the sun? "Much, much farther away than the moon" was my answer.

     
  • At 7:48 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Also, my answer to the speed of light question was "one light year per year." Har har.

     
  • At 8:11 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    The distance to the sun and speed of light question was one of the ones I didn't get. Also, as I said, I just didn't get what the second half of the polls question was asking. And I got the % of the world's surface covered by water wrong. Other than that I got it all.

     

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