Arizona Passes Law Making Civics Test Mandatory In High Schools

Want your diploma? Better brush up on your civics says law passed Thursday.

Arizona, which rarely collides with “progressive” in the same sentence, passed legislation on Thursday that requires high school students to answer 60 of 100 questions correctly on the same test that new citizens must pass. The bill quickly made its way through both houses in rapid fashion and former ice cream man turned Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed it into law almost immediately.

“Not long from now, our children will be entrusted with protecting the principles on which this country was founded, and it is up to us to prepare them for that responsibility today,” said Gov. Doug Ducey, according to Reuters “[This measure will] help ensure all Arizona students understand basic American civics.”

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The Joe Foss Institute

In doing so, Arizona became the first state to sign this legislation, which is being championed by the Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute nationwide. The institute whose motto is “Patriotism Matters” has a goal of seeing each of the 50 states pass similar legislation by 2017, the 230 anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. constitution.

The North Dakota House of Representatives passed similar legislation in a landslide vote on Thursday but did not make it to the state senate yesterday. According to the Joe Foss Institute, around 15 states will bring comparable legislation forward this year. Other states are believed to be looking at the measure but are considering criticism that the test relies far too much on simple memorization.

“It’s genesis is basically an extension of our original mission in trying to ensure the delivery the very basics civics education that every high school graduate should have,” said institute president Frank Riggs, a former California congressman who ran against Gov. Ducey for the Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary last year.

Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, all students looking to graduate or obtain a high school equivalency (GED) will need to score 60 out of 100 on the test.

“We’re failing to impart the basic knowledge young people need to know to be effective citizens,” said former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Arizona native Sandra Day O’Connor in a September speech. “In too many schools, the subject of civics is considered an elective or peripheral subject.”

Limited opposition against Arizona’s new law

Few vocally opposed the bill but Democratic senator David Bradley did so with some aplomb before it passed the Senate 19-10. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that this does it, that this solves some bigger problem, because it doesn’t,” Bradley said on the Senate floor prior to the vote. “My point now is tests don’t make citizens, citizens are tested by their actions.”

He added, “this is not the end-all be-all to citizenship and it doesn’t get us any further down the road.”