Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? Who is one of your state’s U.S. senators right now? What is freedom of religion? Why does the American flag have 13 stripes?
These questions and others like them are pointless and even “counterproductive,” according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), an academic outfit based at Tufts University.
The Tufts center’s grave concern about the dangers of young Americans learning political and civic facts comes in light of new laws in Arizona and North Dakota requiring high school students who seek diplomas to pass tests similar to the U.S. citizenship test.
“[W]e believe that these new policies are not just insufficient, but could actually be counterproductive to educating our young people to be knowledgeable and engaged citizens,” the self-proclaimed studiers of civic education declared in a press release sent to The Daily Caller this week (and in an unsigned blog post).
“Excellent civic education involves more than the rote memorization of facts about the history and structure of our democracy; it requires engaging with that democracy by acquiring and applying skills like deliberation, critical thinking, and media literacy,” the group also said. “Assessments, test-based or otherwise, should explicitly value and evaluate those competencies.”
Arizona’s new law requires high school students to answer 60 out of the entire 100 question set correctly on the U.S. citizenship test in order to receive diplomas. (RELATED: Arizona Becomes First State To Require US Citizenship Test For High School Diploma)
The civics portion of America’s official naturalization test is not particularly hard. You can see all 100 possible questions here.
Nevertheless, the Civic Learning & Engagement group at Tufts is deeply concerned that high school students have to face the stress of such a test, have to study for such a test and may not pass.
The group’s reasoning is standard cant about how discrete facts are just too darn “disconnected.”
“The problem of civic education in America is one of quality and depth,” the group has pronounced to America. “Mandating the U.S. citizenship exam does nothing to address that problem, and may exacerbate it. Students, teachers, and administrators faced with a very simple but high-stakes test may neglect deeper and more meaningful civic skills.”
The actual U.S. citizenship test for immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens is just 10 questions. Each applicant must get just six of those 10 questions right to pass.
The idea for a mandatory civics test has generated interest in several other states as well including Utah, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri and South Carolina.
Meanwhile, Tufts is, of course, most famous for showing up on a list of a dozen colleges which have attacked freedom of speech with the most impressive zeal. (RELATED: The Top 12 Worst Colleges For Free Speech)
Also, this fall, the semi-prestigious university announced plans to offer a course called “Demystifying the Hipster.” “We will focus on film, fiction, fashion, and music (among other genres and media) produced in the last twenty years, connecting these contemporary examples to a longer history of the hipster that dates back to Norman Mailer’s seminal 1957 essay, ‘The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,'” the description for the one-credit course explained. (RELATED: Tufts University To Offer Course Called “Demystifying the Hipster”)