The Tennessee General Assembly will be one of several state legislative bodies this year to consider requiring that, in order to graduate, high school students pass the same civics test that immigrants take to earn U.S citizenship.
Gerald McCormick, the state’s House majority leader, is sponsoring the bill. Too many kids are graduating high school who “don’t have a basic understanding of their government and of their country and of their state.”
“I think it’s important that high school students go out into the world somewhat informed about their government, so that they’ll be more likely to become active in the community,” the Chattanooga Republican told TNReport this week. He added it would be “a very basic requirement that reflects what our new immigrants coming into the country have to know.”
Oftentimes new immigrants seem more knowledgeable about American history and government than people born and raised here, McCormick said. “And probably a lot of them are more appreciative of the opportunities here, because they’ve seen places where they don’t have the types of opportunities that we have here, and we take them for granted sometimes.”
The legislation — HB0010/SB0010 — would require students who attend and graduate high school after January 1, 2016, to pass the 100 question civics exam by getting at least 60 questions right. Schools would be required to provide as many opportunities as needed for each student to pass.
According to the bill’s official summary, “No student may receive a regular high school diploma unless the student has passed the test.”
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is sponsoring the legislation as well.
An editorial from the right side of the Chattanooga Times Free Press opinion page lauded the legislation, pointing to the abysmal answers by average Americans to U.S. History trivia questions on the “Jaywalking” segment of Jay Leno’s TV show.
Additionally, at least seven other states will likely consider similar legislation this year. States where legislation was announced last fall include Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.
The legislation has been pushed by the Civics Education Initiative, a partnership between the Joe Foss Institute and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, which launched its effort to encourage better civics education for American students on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 2014.