I applaud the Citizens Voice Editorial Board for its Dec. 27 editorial titled “People today need civics education.” I could not agree more.
Pennsylvania is already one of only 20 states in the nation which currently has no measurements for civics proficiency. This lack of focus on civics in our education system is particularly concerning, as national studies show that only 24 percent of U.S. high school students are proficient in civics, and that a third of U.S. citizens cannot even name the three branches of government. Moreover, national polling results show that 74 percent of Americans believe students should be required to take the U.S. civics exam.
That’s why I, along with my colleague Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny), introduced House Bill 564
, known as the Civics Education Initiative undertaken by the Joe Foss Institute in Arizona. Since 2014, 23 states have adopted comparable legislation (civicseducationinitiative.org
). These measures would require all students to take the civics portion of the U.S. Citizenship Test, the same test required by all persons who wish to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Under the bill, students would be required to pass the test by the same percentage of an individual seeking naturalization. Schools would be given maximum flexibility in implementing the test, which fits nicely within the existing state social studies curriculum and requires little to no implementation costs, as the civics tests and materials are already available for free online. We have heard that many social studies teachers already use the civics test in their classes, as a tool measuring students’ progress in key subject areas.
I feel it is ironic that we require immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship to pass a civics exam, yet the vast majority of our students are not required to know the same basic information. For me, this dichotomy is unacceptable.
I understand that requiring PA students to take the U.S. civics exam is not a panacea, nor an alternative to classroom instruction. However, just like the alphabet and multiplication tables, it provides the basic framework for students to learn about our history and form of government to help them become informed and responsible citizens. This should not be interpreted as a mandate – rather, a basic understating of U.S. civics and government should be an expectation. I will work tirelessly with House leadership and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this important legislation this year.
I encourage all Pennsylvanians to take the U.S. civics exam, which can be found by visiting scis.gov/citizenship
Representative Karen Boback
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Morgan Dux