High school students in Tennessee have to take a civics test to graduate from high school. Now they also have to pass it.
Under a 2018 law, as long as they took the test, they were good. The Constitution blah, blah, blah. Blah blah is the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Declaration of Independence blah, blah, blah. Whip through it and be done with it.
Now, with the 2019-2020 school year, in order to graduate, students must get 70% of the answers on the test right.
Fortunately for many of them, the 50-question online test can be taken as many times as needed. The way we figure it, even if some students have to take it 37 times before passing, some of the material may become ingrained.
That's a good thing.
The questions on the test students must pass are taken from the 100 potential questions on the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test. Oddly, the legislation specifies the test must have at least 29 questions on American government, 16 on American history and seven on integrated civics. If you're counting, that's 52 questions for a 50-question test.
Applicants to be U.S. citizens only must answer six out of 10 questions correctly — a failure on the high school test — in order to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test. Of course, they don't know what 10 they'll be.
Knoxville television station WBIR recently posted 10 of the multiple-choice questions on its website. Among them: 1) What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance? 2) What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence? 3) What is the "rule of law"? 4) What is one power of the federal government?
These days, without instruction in civics, it's easy for students and adults to believe the above questions have correct answers that are not included in the provided right and wrong answers on the quiz.
The Pledge of Allegiance? Some would say we don't have to show loyalty to anything or anyone, much less the United States (the right answer). We'll just stay seated and keep our mouth closed, thank you.
Two rights in the Declaration of Independence? It may as well be the right to free health care and the right to a free college education, if you ask the Democrats in last night's presidential primary debate. Life and the pursuit of happiness (the right answer)? Those are just words, some would say. They don't buy votes nearly as effectively as offers of free stuff.
The "rule of law"? It's whatever Democrats and their national media partners say it is, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution be darned. The thought of the "rule of law" actually being the fact everyone must follow the law (the right answer), some would say, is outdated. Indeed, where the border is concerned, it's a concept that has almost disappeared.
One power of the federal government? In recent years, it's meant to use the bureaucracy to, among other things, harass conservatives (the Obama-era IRS scandal) and harass President Donald Trump (the Russia collusion investigation). To declare war (the right answer)? According to talk in the last week or so, that is the purview of only Democrats in Congress.
There are no questions about impeachment on the naturalization test, so apparently none will be on the test students will be required to take to graduate. But it's been interesting to hear chatter about the current kerfuffle in the House and Senate from those who have forgotten their civics or never learned it.
No, being impeached in the U.S. House does not mean you leave office.
No, being impeached does not mean convicted; it, more accurately, means charged.
No, it does not take a simple majority to convict a president in the U.S. Senate. It take a two-thirds majority.
When random "man-on-the-street" quizzes find Americans guessing 12, five and four for the number of justices on the Supreme Court, 16 and 64 for the number of amendments to the Constitution, 54 for the number of U.S. senators, "Benjamin Franklin" as the author of the Declaration of Independence, "Kennedy" as the president during World War I, "Clinton's wife" as the chief justice of the United States and Susan B. Anthony as the creator of the first U.S. flag, a course correction is needed.
Tennessee, fortunately, has made that correction, meaning at least the information found on the civics test should be part of our high school curriculum. Fewer than half the states require such a test to graduate, but we hope other states will follow in the Volunteer State's path. A populace better educated about its laws, history and government is a populace likely to make better decisions in many areas.