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Our Opinion: Pass legislation requiring students to pass civics test

News Tribune editorial January 27, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. | Updated January 27, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.

Do Missouri high school students need another mandatory test?

If the requirement is a fundamental knowledge of civics, the answer is yes.

Lawmakers have filed at least five proposals during this legislative session to require students to pass a basic civics test to graduate from high school or obtain a GED.

Under all of the proposals, students would need to answer at least 60 questions on a 100-question test prepared by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The exam is the same one every immigrant must pass to become a U.S. citizen.

Why force students to pass another test, particularly one based on material taught in schools that students already should know?

Two reasons: for students who have learned the material, the test is no problem; for students who have not, however, graduating without a basic of knowledge of government is a big problem.

Ignorance of civics indicates a deficiency in education and threatens active, informed participation in representative government.

A particularly disturbing aspect of this deficiency becomes apparent by comparing test scores between students and immigrants.

Citing numbers from the national Civics Education Initiative, state Rep. Kathryn Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, asked: "With a pass rate of 92 percent among immigrants who take the citizenship test - as of December 2013 - should we be content with as low a score as 3 to 4 percent of our high school graduates?"

Our answer is no. We should be, and are, embarrassed by those numbers.

We hear constant complaints about government and the officials we elect to represent us. Yet, elections often are attracting fewer candidates and voter turnout remains dismal.

To become engaged in the operations of our government, we first must understand how government works.

Lawmakers have a chance this session to address this deficiency at the state level.

We urge them to pass legislation requiring students to pass the test.


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