What is the name of the national anthem? What is freedom of religion? Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? Why does the American flag have 13 stripes?
Students across Arizona must now correctly answer these not-very-tough questions and others in the same basic vein if they want to graduate from high school.
On Thursday, the Arizona state House and Senate enacted legislation requiring high school students who seek diplomas to pass the U.S. citizenship test on civics, reports U.S. News & World Report.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the law the very same night — demonstrating the efficiency of American government when politicians actually want to get something done.
“Every single student in Arizona and across the United States of America should have basic knowledge and understanding of American government,” Arizona state representative Steve Montenegro said back in September, according to The Arizona Republic. “Civics is just common sense.”
The civics portion of America’s official naturalization test is not particularly hard. There is a set of 100 possible questions relating to civics as well as government and basic American history.
Students in Arizona will be required to answer 60 out of the entire 100 question set correctly.
The actual U.S. citizenship test for immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens is just 10 questions. The test is given orally to groups of nearly-naturalized citizens. Each applicant must get just six of those 10 questions right to pass.
Some Democrats and teachers in Arizona oppose the new state law.
Democratic state senator David Bradley said he stands athwart the mandatory civics test because, he argued, passing a test about how American citizenship works does not make anyone a good citizen.
“My point now is tests don’t make citizens,” Bradley said, according to U.S. News. “Citizens are tested by their actions.”
Meanwhile, Joe Thomas, a high school government teacher in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa said he is worried because a 100-question civics test will take an entire class period. Thomas won’t be able to use that day to get students excited about government. He said he would prefer to promote critical thinking skills, anyway.
“The interest is promoting civics and we want to see students engaged,” Thomas said, according to U.S. News. “I don’t know if a test engages students.”
The Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute (motto: “Patriotism Matters”) has pushed a civics test initiative nationally. The Foss Institute has also declared its objective to have every state require a high school civics test by 2017, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution (thoughthe document was not actually ratified until 1788).
While Arizona is the first state to require a civics test for high school graduation, the idea for such a test has generated interest in several states. Other states mulling a mandatory civics test for would-be high school graduates include North Dakota, Utah, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri and South Carolina. (RELATED: North Dakota Proposes Mandatory US Citizenship Test For All High School Graduates)
Some 15 states in total are expected to consider a mandatory high school civics test law later this year.