In a bold move last week, seven states launched proposals to offer citizenship tests for graduating American-born teenagers. Short of requiring it, the proposal offers American high school seniors a boost in their grade point average for passing the test with six out of ten correct answers. In South Carolina, three former governors have now publicly endorsed the measure:
Former Gov. Dick Riley said civics education must become a higher priority, calling it critical for the country’s future that teenagers gain a basic knowledge of American civics. The citizenship test is a practical way of stressing its importance, said Riley, who served as President Bill Clinton’s U.S. education secretary after his second term ended in 1987.
“This is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue,” Riley said.
He helped launch the “South Carolina Civics Education Initiative” on Wednesday, the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Other co-chairmen of the effort include former Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges (1999-2003) and former Gov. James Edwards, who in 1975 took office as the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction…
While the overwhelming majority of immigrants pass the test on their first try, “unfortunately, American students aren’t prepared for the answers,” [Initiative Spokesman Shell] Suber said.
He pointed to a survey released Wednesday that found 1 in 3 adults can’t name any of the three branches of government. Just over a third correctly named all three, according to the national survey by The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
We ask naturalized citizens to pass such a test. Is it unreasonable to promote the idea that our natural-born citizens have the same knowledge and respect for the constitution?
The Center for Civic Literacy is a multi-disciplinary research center established, with support from an IUPUI Signature Center grant, to examine the causes of Americans’ low levels of civic knowledge, and to investigate the consequences of this troubling phenomenon.
Photo credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Erica R. Gardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons