Wisconsin Legislature’s High School Civics Requirement

Alan Borsuk:

The content of the 100-question quiz I found on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is not like a college admission test. Some of the questions were easy.

(Who was the first president? What ocean is on the west coast of the United States?)

Others were not so easy.

(Name the chief justice. What did Susan B. Anthony do? What are the first three words of the Constitution? (“We the people…”) Quite a few involved provisions in the Constitution.

But, hey, you’d only need to get 60 out of 100 correct. And Edming said students could take the test as many times as they needed to.

Is the test so easy as to be no real problem? Or is the lack of civics knowledge so compelling that it calls for a graduation requirement? Advocates seem to argue both.

There is ample evidence of ignorance of civics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress released fresh results a few days ago from testing of samples of eighth-graders nationwide, concluding that only 23% were proficient or better in civics and 18% proficient or better in American history.

Wisconsin now has a set of requirements for graduation from public high schools, mostly relating to what courses are taken and total credits. But there is no requirement that students pass any test to graduate. There was a big controversy over a broader high school graduation test 15 years ago, but the idea died.

As far as private schools, this would be the first time there would be a state-imposed graduation requirement.

As much as any of us would like students to know about American government, would you want to stop someone from going to college or getting a job because they didn’t have a diploma due to a shaky grasp on the Constitution?