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.