Requiring U.S. Citizenship Test to Graduate from High School

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The State of Arizona recently passed a law requiring all high school students who intend to graduate to take the U.S. citizenship test in order to graduate. This requirement has been put into place so that students will know and be tested on what those immigrants who apply for U.S. citizenship are tested on. This includes American history, how the political system works, the different branches of government, and on parts of the U.S. Constitution. Normally I do not agree with what happens in Arizona, but in this particular case I believe that requiring such a test is both good and necessary. Young peoples’ knowledge about the country they were born and raised in or had immigrated to when they were very small is patchy and questionable. There is much that so many of our young people do not know about. Many do not know who the first four presidents of the United States were. Many do not know who we fought in the War of 1812. Many do not know who we fought against in World War I.

Just as equally bad are so many young peoples’ lack of knowledge of how many senators and house representatives are in the U.S. Congress, how long they serve, and what the Cold War was. Many cannot name what the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution are called, and who takes over the office of president if both the president and the vice-president are either killed or incapacitated. These basics should be known to every American in order to understand not only our most basic constitutional rights and how government works but also who we are and how we became the land and people we are now. Many other countries teach their history and laws far better than we do, and they have far more history shows, history soap operas, and history dramas than I have ever seen on American TV. If anything, American TV is a wasteland of culture, history and basic information on how our government works.

It is true that one test cannot determine how we carry out our civic duties. These are things Americans should do to make our society and political system work better. However, Americans taking a U.S. citizenship test will help to reinforce what we should know. Under this circumstance I agree that requiring all high school students to take a U.S. citizenship test will make them study and hopefully think about what they should know. If Americans do not know about our history, how our government works, and the basic rights we take for granted, then how will future generations have a clue how to exercise our basic civic duties?

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