Senator Howard Stephenson’s (Republican – Draper) civics education bill got one step closer to becoming law Monday when the House Education Committee unanimously passed the legislation out with a favorable recommendation. It now heads to the House for debate.
Under SB 60 – American Civics Education Initiative, public school students will be required to pass a basic civics test in order to receive a high school diploma. The law would also also apply to adult education program students.
SB 60 was amended to specify that the bill applies to public school students whereas the previous version was vague on the matter. The number of questions students would be asked on the test has also been reduced from 100 to 50 after being amended.
Stephenson said that a civics test is needed because not enough people know even basic facts about their own country. “This is important because we have a lot of people in our country who are not aware of how this nation was formed, what it is for, and what the liberties are that we enjoy.”
Stephenson pointed to polls as well as Jay Leno’s popular segment “Jaywalking” on The Tonight Show as proof that such a bill is needed. “We find in public opinion surveys that people often do not know simple things such as who is the vice president of the United States. You’ve all seen Jay Leno when he was on TV, and would do “Jaywalking” and ask people questions. Very simple questions that Americans simply do not know.” Stephenson contends that our nation’s future will be in peril if we continue to have voters who are civically illiterate.
State Superintendent Brad Smith commended the bill. “When performance is measured, performance improves. We know that students graduating from high school participate in our political process at the lowest rate of any age cohort in the entire system. That is, in my mind, an indictment of all that we’re doing in this regard. It is appropriate to have a measurement, albeit a modest one, of what we’re doing.” Smith believes it is essential that students develop at least a basic level of fluency with regard to the U.S. political system. “I would be among those who feel that perhaps this bill does not go far enough, but it is a modest step in the direction that we need to move.”
Rebecca Both, a student at Cyprus High School in Magna, believes that the test contains basic information about our government that every high school student needs to know. “Immigrants who come here take the test and they pass the test. I think it’s a good idea for high schoolers to take this test.”