STUDENTS WHO UNDERSTAND AMERICA? Citizenship Test to Graduate?

Written by Kevin Fobbs on September 25, 2014

Would you support denying high school students the right to graduate unless they are able to pass a U.S. citizenship test? According to Opposing Views, former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden and other former state leaders are pushing for a proposal that would mandate all high school students pass a test that is given to immigrants who are applying for U.S. citizenship.

Some parents and many students may regard this as unfair or even unwarranted, if the students have already completed the academic requirements. But for many, including those at an Oklahoma research group, academics alone is not enough. The organization conducted a recent study and found that only a scant three percent of high school students in that state could actually pass a citizenship test, reported Opposing Views.

For many education leaders this represents an alarming lack of student understanding of how the government works. The new Missouri Civics Education Initiative is being pushed as a solution to correct this deepening educational imbalance in understanding the inner workings of America’s democratic government system.

If the new initiative proposal became law, students would be required to answer at least 60 percent of the questions correctly in order to graduate from high school. Sam Stone, the campaign manager for the educational citizenship initiative stated, “When our citizens don’t understand basic American civics, they’re not likely to vote or take part in policy decision,” according to Opposing Views.

There is already a precedent for this citizenship proposal that mandates student knowledge of citizenship type information. The Springfield Public School System requires that students pass both U.S. Constitution and Missouri state tests in order to graduate and receive their diploma. Nancy Schneider, who is the SPS curriculum coordinator agrees that high school students need to be aware of how government works and why. Opposing Views reported, that she said, “When you look at the test we’ve developed, we’re not asking students to just memorize information about government, we’re asking them to read excerpts from the preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.”

One of the true measurements in any society is the ability of the electorate to have a basic understanding on how government works. This is typically learned in high school civics classes. Former Governor Holden agrees and feels that much of the decline in knowing and understanding the fundamentals of government lies at the feet of educational leaders. He stresses that the importance of civics education has been diminished in school curriculums.

Holden commented that, “This initiative incorporated into our educational system at the high school level, is the right place, at the right time to educate America’s youth on civic education before they become fully-fledged citizens with responsibility that voting entails,” reported Opposing Views.

There are efforts underway in at least six other states to mandate that students pass a citizenship test in order to walk across the stage and graduate from high school. The national Civics Education Initiative has set a 2017 goal for all 50 states to approve a mandatory requirement for high school students to pass a citizenship test in order to graduate.

If these citizenship tests initiatives do become law maybe the next time voters go to the polls in 2016 young voters will not be swept away by liberal pandering and mind-numbing election year hype. Informed voters may finally begin to understand and appreciate why conservatives have fought so hard to preserve the U.S. Constitution and it founding values and principles. What a remarkable and refreshing change the nation would be able to experience.



Kevin Fobbs
Kevin Fobbs has more than 35 years of wide-ranging experience as a community and tenant organizer, Legal Services outreach program director, public relations consultant, business executive, gubernatorial and presidential appointee, political advisor, widely published writer, and national lecturer. Kevin is co-chair and co-founder of AC-3 (American-Canadian Conservative Coalition) that focuses on issues on both sides of the border between the two countries.