Friday, May 22, 2015

Who Needs To Know That Stuff?

As you might expect, educators are up in arms over a requirement up for consideration in the State Legislature that kids pass a citizenship test before they are allowed to graduate high school in Wisconsin.  The test would mirror that given to immigrant seeking citizenship and would feature 100 questions--of which 60 would have to be answered correctly to " pass".  (That by the way is another example of the dumbing down of America when 60% is considered to be "passing".)

The questions would include things like "How many justices sit on the US Supreme Court?" and "Who vetoes a bill?"  Not necessarily the most complex political and governmental issues--but stuff you kind of need to know to get along in this country.  (Although, many Americans who have lived here their entire lives would probably struggle to get 60% right--based on some sampling I have done in the past few days.)  And it seems like the kind of information that children are provided with starting in grade school in all of their Social Studies courses.

But teachers and administrators say it is just another "test they have to teach to" and that what the kids would be asked is nothing more than "trivia questions" and don't really determine what a student has "really learned" in their classes.  Perhaps they would be more amenable to the test if the questions were phrased to match what is actually being taught in Social Studies and History courses today.  Instead of "How many justices sit on the US Supreme Court?" the question could be "The Conservative majority of which branch of government has forever tilted political power to the 1% by allowing corporations to make political donations to Republican candidates?"  "Who vetoes a bill?" could be re-worded to read "President Obama is forced to use what power to kill bills approved by the Republican Congress that seek to further create income inequality and reward their 1% political donors?"  I bet today's public school students would have no problem answering those questions.

The only problem there is that the Constitutional section of the test might get a bit awkward.  For example: "The right to a 'living wage' is spelled out in which Amendment to the Constitution? A--The First, B--The Fourteenth, C--It's not in the Constitution but that doesn't matter because making $15 an hour is a basic Human Right that doesn't need to be codified in our laws."  Another tricky one would be "Which Constitutional Amendments really shouldn't be enforced in today's 'more enlightened society'? A--The First when free speech or the practice of religion pertains to something that doesn't fully support people of color, non-male gender, non-heterosexual orientation, non-Christian beliefs or makes anyone feel bad because no one should have to feel bad about anything.  B--The Second because nobody needs to have a gun--especially police officers trying to arrest young African-American men who are attacking them.  C--Both of the above."

Personally, I've grown tired of all the tests that kids have to pass to graduate now.  Don't we have a "right to be ignorant"?  I'm pretty sure it's in one of those Amendment things.

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