Civics Exam For U.S. High Schoolers? Indiana Thinks So

Indiana students who want to graduate high school may have one more hurdle to jump to get their diploma. Education lawmakers in the Hoosier state believe that in order to graduate, students should have to take the same civics test immigrants must take to become U.S. citizens. According to the Civics Education Initiative campaign, Indiana is one of 15 states currently considering the new mandate.

New Jersey has a similar bill proposal on the books already, and Tennessee has just presented House Bill 10 to state legislature to make the civics exam a requirement to graduate.

Indiana’s Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse stated, “I believe that if we’re asking someone from a foreign country to know this information, that our own citizens ought to know it.”

While the bill is still being drafted, the proposal will be made at the next state legislative session on January 6. In it, Kruse plans to outline that this new bill would require all public and charter school students to correctly answer at least 60 of the 100 civics questions that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses to administer its naturalization test. Currently, immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship are asked 10 of those 100 questions and must answer 6 correctly to pass the civics exam. Students would be able to take the exam any time from 8th grade to 12th grade in order to meet the requirement.

What kind of information will students be expected to know? The U.S. civics exam contains questions such as, “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” and “How many U.S. Senators are there?” While some think that such information isn’t all that important to know, many are concerned that the current generation is seriously lacking in its understanding of the American government — something that affects their ability to make informed votes knowledgeably.

In a 2008 article written by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, she contends that “civic education has been in steady decline over the past generation, as high-stakes testing and an emphasis on literacy and math dominate school reforms. Too many young people today do not understand how our political system works.”

A study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania (APPC) agrees. Data collected from 1,230 U.S. adults confirms that civics education in America has taken a back seat. The report states that just 38 percent of participants could name all three branches of government, and 33 percent couldn’t correctly name any of them. Perhaps more disconcerting, only a third of adults thought that it was the intention of the Founding Fathers to have each branch hold a lot of power, but the president has the final say.

Director of the APPC, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, sheds light on why this is a problem.

“Since knowing how democracy works predicts civic participation and support for protecting our system of government, these results are worrisome.”

With Common Core taking much of the spotlight in U.S. education, subjects such as civics have certainly taken a backseat. With the data showing that the current voting generation has a lot to brush up on, do you believe that students should be required to take the civics exam to graduate high school?

A civics practice exam can be found here.

[Image courtesy of the Public Insight Network]

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