Last week the state of Arizona became the first state in the nation to require all high school seniors to pass a civics test in order to graduate. The test would be based on the same test new immigrants are required to take in order to become a citizen. Indiana and several other states are also considering making this a graduation requirement. I hope the state of Alabama will make it a top priority as well.
The test is being pushed by an Arizona-based group named the Joe Foss Institute. The Institutes stated goals if for all 50 states to require the test by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the Constitution. There slogan is, “Patriotism Matters.”
If you’ve never seen this test it is incredibly easy. It asks very basic questions about our history and our government. Here are some examples:
- What are the colors of our flag? Red, White & Blue
- When do we celebrate our independence? 4th of July
- Who was the first president of the United States? George Washington
- Who is president of the United States? Barack Obama
- Who is the governor of Alabama?Robert Bentley
- How many senators are there in the United States Senate? 100
- What are the first ten amendments to the Constitution called? Bill of Rights
- What are the three branches of government? Legislative, Executive, Judicial
Incidentally, that last question made the news recently when the Pew Center for Research found that 35% of adults could not ONE branch of the government. That tells you all you need to know about the state of history and civics education in this country. It is beyond sad. It is scary! To be bluntly honest, if one can’t pass this test they don’t deserve to graduate from high school.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
If you have ever seen Jay Leno’s “Man on the Street” interviews or Water’s World on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News you will understand just how little some people know about the basics of history, government and current events. Those segments are so funny but, in a way, so sad.
We want voters to know history, government and basic economics so they are not swayed by politicians during election season. If we don’t know the basics it is easy to be manipulated by every promise and every sound bite and every commercial.
Knowing and understanding history is important because history is constantly be written and rewritten. I always my students history is written by people and people have biases and prejudices. Unfortunately, much of the bias in high school and college textbooks leans to the very liberal, multicultural end of the spectrum.
For instance, we know the American Revolution, Civil War and the Great Depression happened. Those are historical facts. When textbooks and historians start trying to explain why they happened that is where their biases start to show. It is important to read and understand both sides of the story of historical events to be able to understand points of view and make informed decisions for oneself rather than take what a textbook or an “expert” says as the truth.
To understand the hows and the whys we must first understand the very basics. That is why I believe this test being implemented is a good start to reemphasizing the importance of history and civics in the classroom.
Education Stat of the Week: According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, in 1969, 48% of American kids walked or biked to school. Today, only 13% walk or bike to school.
Education Quote of the Week: “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” - Winston Churchill