I’m aghast that WI students have to take and pass a civics test in order to graduate from high school.  Sure,  it sounds like a good idea… but there is a huge problem. First a little background from a fellow who thinks it is a good thing.

via @willness.me

“The leadership in the GOP-dominated Wisconsin legislature has pushed forward a measure (AB 194) that would require high schools in the state to administer a civics test before handing them a diploma. The tests most often proposed are 100 questions long, and are virtually identical to tests taken by immigrants pursuing citizenship.”

He continues…

Education groups are aghast. No, petrified. They’re lobbying against such draconian expectations as though it is dangerous to our education system. Requiring a score of at least 60% of high school graduates  – who are given the freedom to vote, smoke, drive cars, get married, have children, buy homes and perform jobs, often while juggling intense college studies three months later – is considered unreasonable to them.

Its unreasonable to me too, as it’s dangerous to assume that passing said test with a 60% or greater score is going to do much of anything other than eat up time. Most kids get exposed to this stuff in jr high, a decent number will remember it later on, that is if they took it seriously in 8th grade. The rest, well, since its a grad requirement, thy will need to be prepped for it… Which in most cases will equate to memorizing a bunch of canned answers, which are just as likely to be forgotten as anything else.

The problem is the US Citizen test is a mere 10,000ft check to ensure that potential US citizens studied the basics of civics, and for that solitary purpose, its probablly, albeit marginally ok. See http://news.msu.edu/media/documents/2012/03/0826ba32-c760-42d0-83ca-ac323c21eaa2.pdf for a critique of the test design.

 Using it as a means of cross checking a future voters knowledge of civics is far beyond its scope. Ie, used in this manner, its low expectations on steroids and then some… and yet, there will be some who won’t pass. Who knows, there might even be some politicians who wouldn’t pass.

Perhaps there is some value in this as a first step, but like a lot of things, its more symbolic than something fostering meaningful change. Alas, like a lot of things in today’s govt, maybe symbolism is all we can hope for.

That being said… rather than adding more BS education hoop jumping from on high, why not provide incentives for civic engagement instruction at the classroom level. Maybe this test is part of it, maybe its a field trip to local or state govt, maybe its having a politician spend some time in the classroom. The thing is, one size doesn’t fit all… and the person who knows this best is the teacher in the classroom. Its not the politician, the bureaudolt,  the union, nor even the school board.

Here is the test in a computer generated format for easy results.

Maybe every politician needs to be randomly tested every year or two, and have their lowest score during their previous term published next to their name on the ballot. Fwiw, I got a 98… alas, such happens when you get in a hurry.

Reference material: