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One-third of American 8th graders think Canada is a dictatorship

05/21/2015 06:17 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 05:59 EDT
The days of politically frustrated Americans declaring "That's it, I'm moving to Canada!" could soon be coming to an end — at least among teenagers who value freedom and equality.

According to the U.S. government's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33 per cent of American eight graders currently believe that Canada is a dictatorship.

This finding was one of many revealed by the NCES in its 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress report when it was released late last month.

Alternately called "The Nation's Report Card," the publication presents the results of standardized tests given to more than 29,000 eighth-grade students across the U.S. last year.

The students who participated in the assessment were given multiple-choice and open-ended questions pertaining to the subjects of U.S. history, geography and civics.

"National results for representative samples of students are reported as average scale scores and as percentages of students performing at three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced," reads the publication's description on the NCES website. "Additional results are reported based on students' demographic characteristics and educational experiences... Trend results are reported for previous assessment years in these three subjects."

Sample questions (and information about how students performed on them) can be viewed within an interactive online version of the report at www.nationsreportcard.gov.

It was here that reporters learned of how many young Americans may actually think Canada has more in common with North Korea, politically, than with our neighbours to the South.

"What do the current governments of Canada, France, and Australia have in common?" reads the multiple choice question.

Of the four potential answers, "They have leaders with absolute power" was selected by 23 per cent of respondents.

Another 10 per cent of students said that "They are controlled by the military," while 12 per cent chose "They discourage participation by citizens in public affairs."

It seems as though our socially progressive reputation has yet to reach the youth of America.

That, or they simply don't care about Canada much at all.

"I think there's a broader problem and that is that Americans know very little about Canada," said Kenneth Holland, Executive Director of the Center for International Development at Ball State University in Indiana in an interview with the National Post this week.

"Canada is a very important ally of the United States. You can see that all over the world right now. Ukraine, Iraq, Syria: Canada is right there fighting alongside the United States," he said, noting that the results might be indicative of a larger failure to educate American youth about a key trading partner. 

It's worth noting that, while a startling number of the students assessed got the question wrong, the majority — 54 per cent — did accurately answer that the commonality between Canada, France and Australia is that "They have constitutions that limit their power."

One would hope that the rest of these eight-grade students learn that Canadians are not, in fact, controlled by the military before they're old enough to vote. 

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