Boots & Sabers

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1718, 04 May 15

Civics Tests for High School Graduates

Good idea?

Rep. James “Jimmy Boy” Edming’s bill calls for students to correctly answer at least 60 of 100 questions on the civics test that’s given to people seeking U.S. citizenship. The requirement would apply to students at public, choice and charter schools.

Edming wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors that he believes Wisconsin high schools should instill responsibilities of citizenship and his bill will help ensure students understand U.S. government.

The Assembly’s state affairs committee is set to hold a public hearing on the measure Wednesday.

I’m reminded of this perspective on the purpose of public education by Thomas Jefferson:

To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business; To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing; To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties; To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment; And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

On the one hand, the addition of a civics test is another test and state mandate. On the other hand, every survey confirms that people are woefully ignorant of some of the most basic aspects of our government and how it works. All in all, I lean in favor of this measure. Since it would use the national citizenship test, there isn’t any expense to develop the test. It’s just a little cost to administer the test and that could be managed locally. If the schools are doing even a marginal job of civics education, the measure shouldn’t require any changes or additions in curriculum.


1718, 04 May 2015


  1. Jadedly Unbiased

    The school district I live in does not offer any civics in junior high and in high school it’s not required. A political science class is offered. They rely more on history to cover this material. I think it would be a good idea to require a civics and political science class but I’m not sure about another mandated test. I absolutely agree “people are woefully ignorant of some of the basic aspects of our government and how it works” . In my experience the results of tests come to late for those left behind.

  2. Kevin scheunemann


    We agree!

  3. Jadedly Unbiased

    Awesome! Common ground.

  4. Owen

    I’d be OK with that, JU. Then, presumably, if they don’t pass the class they would also not likely graduate. It accomplishes the same goal of ensuring that our kids get a basic civics education without another state test.

  5. Jadedly Unbiased

    No passing grade in a required class no diploma. This should also be included as a category on the G.E.D.

  6. Dan

    When Owen says there is little cost, that’s not exactly true.
    The teachers will teach to the test and put more focus on this test to graduate.
    If a District does not teach Civics, they will have to hire some more teachers, depending on the District or they will have to drop other subjects.
    And the civics test will become expensive. They have to go out and purchase the tests from a supplier and then have independent people correct the test and then provide results of the test to the Dept. of Ed., who will have to hire people go over the results and issue new rules.
    Then, those in Special Education will have to modify the test and that will cost money as well.
    Having said all of this, I think it is a very good idea for the test. Kids have no idea about civics and they need to learn civics.
    My experience in this is that I am a teacher and worked in high schools both in the inner city and rural areas and in elementary school in an extremely poor section of town.

  7. Jadedly Unbiased

    Civics is a subject that could be taught by a staff history teacher. No need to drop classes just add civics to the rotating a, b, c, days that already exists in most districts. These rotating (alternating) schedules allow for less teachers to accomadate more students. Everything costs money but if the outcome is productive, educated and civically minded young adults it’s a worth while investment. Giving money private testing companies defeats the purpose of public education.

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