Dakota students need more than Lady Gaga to graduate
Do you know how many voting members are in the U.S. House of Representatives? If you don't, you may not get through high school in North Dakota.
The state is considering a new law. It would require high school students to pass a 100-question civics test. The test would begin in 2016.
Immigrants applying to become citizens must correctly answer six of 10 questions that are chosen at random from the same exam. It is given verbally.
"Ninety percent of new Americans pass it on their first try," first lady Betsy Dalrymple said. But she noted studies have shown that many students don't know that George Washington was the first U.S. president. "The goal is to know basic facts about our Republic."
Lawmakers will consider the bill in January. Similar efforts also are underway in South Dakota, Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.
Sam Stone is spokeswoman for the Joe Foss Institute, which is pushing the test. She said most teenagers can identify Lady Gaga or a judge on "American Idol." But only a few could name one of the nation's founding fathers. Or a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Kids have an amazing knowledge of pop culture. We just wish some of this critical information also is what's being absorbed by students," Stone said.
The questions on the citizenship test include simple civics. Name the current U.S. president (answer: Barack Obama). How many voting members are in the U.S. House? (answer: 435). What year was the Constitution written? (answer: 1787).
There's also geography. Name the ocean bordering the nation's West Coast (answer: the Pacific). And some history. Why does the American flag have 13 stripes? (answer: it's the number of original colonies).
The goal is to enact similar laws in all U.S. states by 2017. That's when the Constitution turns 230 years old.
Did you know the answers to those questions?
Critical thinking challenge: Why are immigrants more successful than students?