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Historical Illiteracy

Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

The US Constitution reminds us that the responsibility for our government rests with “we the people.” In order for us to be effective, we need to know something about our government and our history. Citizens in countries ruled by dictators don’t need to know much since the major decisions are made for them. But we Americans should be educated and informed.

Unfortunately, we are not well educated and informed. A study done by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation discovered that only one in three (36%) Americans could actually pass the US citizenship test. And I might add that you only have to get 60 percent of the questions right in order to pass the test.

For example, a majority (57%) did not know how many justices serve on the Supreme Court. Nearly three-fourths (72%) could not accurately identify which states comprised the 13 colonies. And only a quarter (24%) even knew why the American colonists fought the British in the Revolutionary War.

Most disturbing was the fact that young people performed worst on the test. You might excuse an elderly person for forgetting some facts about government or history. But less than one in five (19%) under the age of 45 could pass this test.

In previous commentaries, I have proposed a solution that some states have considered. Require students to pass the citizenship test before they graduate from high school. Consider the fact that a naturalized citizen probably knows more about America’s history and structure of government than someone who was born in this country.

Young people in America cannot pass a citizenship test for one of two reasons: either they weren’t paying attention in class or they weren’t taught this material in the first place. Let’s require students to pass a citizenship test before graduation. We require it of people who want to be American citizens. Why not require it of students who are already citizens because they were born here?

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Historical Illiteracy

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