When people from other parts of the world become US citizens, they have to pass a test that includes questions about how our system of government works. Why shouldn’t native-born Americans have to know the same?
Many Americans grew up with civics classes. But today, civics instruction has largely been abandoned — former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor calls this “the quiet crisis in education.”
The good news is that a dozen states are trying to make civics a requirement for high-school seniors.
These include New Jersey, where Assemblyman Troy Singleton has introduced a bill that would require students to take a 10-question quiz, drawn from a list of 100 possible questions. They only need to get six right to pass.
Other states have proposed a more rigorous test, requiring all 100 questions to be asked, with 60 correct answers needed.
We’re not talking about obscure historical trivia or constitutional arguments. The questions involve basic knowledge of how the US government works. For example, students would be asked to name America’s economic system or to identify one of the three branches of government.
This last is apparently more difficult than it might appear: A recent survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that 35 percent of the 1,416 adults questioned couldn’t do it.
We wish the movement to restore civics well.
Because it’s hard to see how our young people will preserve our system of free government if they are never taught the basic principles on which it is founded.