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Must American Students Pass Immigrants' Citizenship Test?

February 4, 2015 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

To preserve who we are as Americans, nothing is more important for our students than to know how, as constitutionally protected citizens, they are distinct from people of other countries.

In an attempt to assure this will happen in our schools, The New York Times recently reported that, last month, “Arizona became the first state to pass a law requiring its high school students to pass the citizenship exam, stipulating that they must answer at least 60 of 100 questions correctly to receive a diploma” (“States Move to Make Citizenship Exams a Classroom Aid,” Rick Rojas and Motoko Rich, The New York Times, Jan. 27).

This is the citizenship test “that is given to immigrants who want to become United States citizens.”

Among the questions: “What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?”

Another: “What did Susan B. Anthony do?”

Do you know?

Furthermore, added the Times, “other states may follow suit: North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it” last week.

“Legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives.”

But Arizona educator Darcy White, explained the Times, “has reservations” about teaching students why and how they should become authentic Americans.

Reported the Times: “She already loses several days of instruction time to standardized testing.”

As White told the reporters, “Every teacher will tell you a test is not a measure of what a kid knows.”

In contrast, there are deeper, more lasting ways than tests to engage students in active, lifelong participation in this self-governing republic.

Sixteen-year-old Arizona student Noah Bond told the Times: “I think people are more focused on the test and passing, and not the meaning of it. It boils down to the fact that we need to start teaching to make a change, not just taking a test.”

Here is one of my suggestions on how to involve such students who want to make a change:

Let’s have classes debate the ways that Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as Democrat Barack Obama, deeply violated the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. (These amendments would be clearly explained beforehand.)

After students have learned that these amendments are at the very core of our Constitution, would they — as, say, future members of Congress — be moved to correct this savage damage done to our identity as Americans?

Consider this 1873 statement from Susan B. Anthony:

“I …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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