Dakota students need more than Lady Gaga to graduate Most teenagers can identify Lady Gaga, but only a disappointing few could name one of the nation's founding fathers (Reuters / ThinkStock)
Dakota students need more than Lady Gaga to graduate
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If you don't know how many voting members are in the U.S. House of Representatives, or answers to numerous other questions asked of immigrants trying to become American citizens, then you may not get through high school in North Dakota.

The state's first lady has joined educators and lawmakers to unveil legislation that would require high school students to pass a 100-question civics test starting in 2016. Immigrants applying to become citizens must correctly answer six of 10 questions that are chosen at random from the same exam, which 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 when they reconvene in January. Similar efforts are also underway in South Dakota, Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah, according to Sam Stone, spokeswoman for the nonprofit pushing the effort, the Joe Foss Institute.

Stone said most teenagers can identify Lady Gaga or a judge on "American Idol," but only a disappointing 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.

"We want this test to be a first step in the rebirth of civics education," she added. "The more young people know, the more they vote, engage in government and take responsibility about their future."

The questions on the citizenship test include simple civics: naming the current U.S. president (answer: Barack Obama), the number of voting members in the U.S. House (answer: 435) or the year the Constitution was written (answer: 1787).

There's also geography, such as naming the ocean bordering the nation's West Coast (the Pacific), and some history. Why does the American flag have 13 stripes? (That's the number of original colonies.) And the test even has tips for staying out of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (the deadline for filing your federal income tax form is April 15).

The goal is to enact similar laws in all U.S. states by 2017, when the Constitution turns 230 years old, said Stone. Her Arizona-based organization is named after the late South Dakota governor who won the Congressional Medal of Honor during WWII.

The proposal wouldn't impose extra costs for schools because the questions are available on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, and individual schools would decide how to implement the test, said North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are immigrants more successful on the test than students?

Assigned 23 times


COMMENTS (10)
  • clairedoucet
    12/08/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    Kids should know these questions because it is part of our country and our history. When they get older and have jobs they will need to learn the answers to these questions. I think immigrants can get the answers correct because if I were an immigrant and wanted to come to america I would make sure I knew the questions to pass the test.

  • DD2000BASEBALL
    12/08/2014 - 01:08 p.m.

    They are more successful because immigrants could possibly study more than United States students do. They could also possibly have to take a test to get into the country which might have some of these questions on them.

  • IM2000food
    12/08/2014 - 01:11 p.m.

    immigrant are more successful on the test because immigrants study for a test similar to get in the united states. also immigrants are smart so they are successful.

  • cp2000nirvana
    12/09/2014 - 08:37 a.m.

    they are right kids these days know a lot about pop culture and If they could put in work like your school work more than pop culture then u would pass

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    12/10/2014 - 05:29 p.m.

    I don't like the idea of having to take another test, along with the many students all through the United States already have to take to get through high school. It's mostly because more tests just means more stress and when I am stressed out nothing gets done. I think that educating students more about our country would be a good idea, but that is already happening in our schools. It is the students choice not to pay attention during their Civics or American History classes and do poorly in that class, adding another test would only do harm.

    • Son_Of_Zeus
      2/27/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

      I think what you are saying is so true. When people get stressed they don't want to do anything or get anything done, this is called depression. There are already enough tests and students don't need to take any more. I read the average student takes 113 standardized tests in grades K-12.

  • SoleilE-5
    12/10/2014 - 06:40 p.m.

    High school students in North Dakota must take a test on U.S. government and history and pass it to graduate high school. Due to efforts led by Michelle Obama, more states are reacquiring that students pass the test. All immigrants that come to the U.S.A must take the same test, some educators believe students should know the same amount as immigrants about their home country.
    In Social Studies class, next Monday, all HVS eighth graders are taking the Naturalization test, so this is something relevant to all HVS eighth graders. Today, actually, we took a cold test, I think I did relatively well. Most of the questions, I can say, are fairly simple, but some are harder. I think it is reasonable that students would be expected to pass it. How are students who know nothing about their country supposed to vote in the future if they don't understand the affect of changes on their government?

  • AJolene-Sti
    12/22/2014 - 09:38 a.m.

    They need a lot more knowledge then lady gaga to graduate! That is insane! I would never go to school then! 100 questions that they need to remember in order to graduate.

  • CharismaM
    12/28/2014 - 05:28 p.m.

    I'm a pretty good student when it comes to school but even I have to say that this is ridiculous. I would hate to have to take this test. No matter what you do, you can't force someone to remember all of the presidents or why we have 13 stripes on our flag.

  • 3HeidiS
    2/25/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    Pros and cons- There are many pros and cons to passing this law. It would be ideal that Americans know basic information that immigrants are required to know. Also add Americans we should know all the information we can know about our government to have a better understanding of our country, and understand certain circumstances in the U.S.. Some examples of cons are, most Americans don't know this information so if they failed, where would they go? Most American citizens know more important things that effect their personal.lives more, like minimum wage or who's running for president. In the end, passing the law to have this test could be harmful for the American citizens.

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