Constitutional literacy is essential for a self-governing society. That's why we were excited to read this report from the Associated Press that describes the ever-increasing number of states that have committed to teaching high school students about the Constitution.
Check it out!
Should U.S. high school students know at least as much about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist papers as immigrants passing an American citizenship test?
In a growing number of school systems, having such a basic knowledge is now a graduation requirement. But states are taking different approaches to combating what's seen as a widespread lack of knowledge about how government works.
Kentucky last week and Arkansas on March 16 became the latest of more than a dozen states since 2015 that have required the high school social studies curriculum to include material covered by the 100 questions asked on the naturalization exam. Lawmakers in other states, including Minnesota, are hoping to foster even deeper understanding of the fundamentals of American democracy by adding a full course to study its most important documents.
"Rights might be inherent, but ideas need to be taught," said Maida Buckley, a retired classroom teacher in Fairbanks, Alaska, who testified last year to an Alaskan legislative task force on civics education. "When you have a system of government that's based on ideas, espoused in the Declaration of Independence and carried out with a working document in the Constitution, those ideas need to be taught."
It's a bipartisan cause, and in many states such bills are jointly introduced by Republicans and Democrats. But proponents' motivations vary from dismay about the lack of participation in local school boards and town halls to concerns about how Republican President Donald Trump and his supporters view the power of the executive branch.
"We clearly have seen there is a serious civics deficiency in this country, all the way up to the top, the very top," said Rhode Island Democratic state Rep. Gregg Amore, a longtime high school history teacher who is co-sponsoring legislation that contends the "survival of the republic" depends on Americans understanding its principles and history.
A campaign by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute has led many states to pass laws requiring students to know what's on the citizenship test.
"It's not a panacea or silver bullet, but it's a step forward," said the group's Lucian Spataro, who said 17 states have adopted the model or something similar. "You have to learn the basics before you can have the higher-level discussions."
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If you really want to learn about the Constitution, be sure to check out the Learn tab on our website. We explain everything you need to know about Article V and a Convention of States, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.