Know your Constitution, or don’t graduate

By Kayla Kollmann, editor in chief

If Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse, Republican, has his way, Indiana high school students would have to pass a citizenship test to graduate. It would be the same test immigrants have to pass to gain citizenship.

This bill would join Indiana with about 14 other states, including Arizona which has already passed the bill, in considering adding the citizenship test to diploma requirements

“The reception of the bill has been positive and well acclaimed nationally. Indiana is one out of about 15 states that have considered this same proposal, signifying the popularity of this idea throughout the nation,” Kruse wrote in an email interview with the MV Current.

According to The Indianapolis Star, between the eighth to 12 grades, public and charter school students would take the test with basic American government questions such as: “Who was the first President?” and “What are the Bill of Rights?” They would have to answer at least 60 of the 100 questions correctly.

“After a few years of requiring the test, we will have a better idea of when most students take the test, but I expect juniors and seniors to be tested most, since they will have time to prepare and are graduating soon,” said Sen. Kruse.

As for the formatting of the U.S. civics test itself, Sen. Kruse expressed that it will have the same requirements as the citizenship test, but schools will be in charge of the administration of it. To this, however, there has been some backlash. Teachers in Indiana and other states considering the bill have criticized it stating that it is simply piling more to teachers’ plates, or that schools will have to mandate a civics course in order to get students to pass.

The students and faculty at Mt. Vernon have some of their own opinions on the bill.

“It’s a good idea, but high school students simply don’t learn that information. Everyone would fail the test,” Lily Erlewein, 11.

Social studies Department chair Fred Granger said he agrees with Kruse.

Granger said, “Our form of government depends on citizens who are informed about how this government works and why it’s so crucial for them to be knowledgeable about issues. American citizens need to participate, beginning with voting. Right now, too few people care to vote because they don’t know how important it is. That’s not good.”

“I think it is a really good idea. It is a little ridiculous that so many students fail,” Nicole Casler, 12.

Sen. Kruse responded in his email: “When thinking about the best way to implement this type of test, it’s important to balance the positives and negatives. To me, the positives outweigh the negatives in this particular case. This test takes roughly one hour to complete and students will have five years to prepare between eighth and 12 grade. Teachers can set up schedules for students to take this test. It will encourage schools to commit more in citizenship.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services requires immigrant candidates to answer six of 10 of these questions verbally, and on average, 91 percent pass on the first try, as opposed to the studies in Arizona and Oklahoma that show only five percent of high school students can pass the test. However, should students fail the test, Senator Kruse assures they would get a chance at a retake.

“Similar to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ citizenship process, applicants may take the test again. Students may take the test as many times as needed in order to meet graduation requirements,” said Senator Kruse.

“I believe that if we’re asking someone from a foreign country to know this information, that our own citizens ought to know it,” Kruse told the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

The bill was introduced when the Senate convened Jan. 6, and will be discussed and decided upon with the next session.

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