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Ovation: Citizenship Requirements For High School Graduation Make More Sense Than Chin-Ups.

12/22/2014

citizenshipIt’s been almost thirty-five years since I graduated from high school and I have yet to use any of the “math skills” that I learned in Algebra I, Algebra II or Calculus.  Nor have I climbed a rope or done twenty chin-ups … a Physical Education requirement prior to graduation.  Even in college I had to pass a swimming test before I was handed a diploma!  At no time, however, throughout my education was I taught how to balance a checkbook, pay taxes, buy insurance or fix a car … each a necessary life skill.  I sat through some U.S. History courses but I was never required to understand the basics surrounding the responsibilities of being a United States citizen.

Recently, a group of educators and lawmakers in North Dakota have taken note and a bipartisan group is sponsoring a bill that would make high school students pass a test about government and history in order to graduate … the same test that immigrants take to become citizens.  I think this makes perfect sense and should have been a requirement all along.

I’d like to suggest a few other requirements for high school graduation …

  • drivers educationDrivers’ Education.  In some U.S. states, completion of a Drivers’ Education course is not even required to obtain a drivers’ license let alone a high school diploma.  It seems clear to me that if everyone were required to know and understand the same “rules of the road”, the nation’s highways would be much safer and few automobile accidents would occur.
  • imagesCA38VZ32Understanding Credit Card Debt.  Each spring, new graduates are bombarded with offers from credit card companies hoping to take advantage of their newfound independence and lack of understanding regarding credit card debt.  As of October 2014, total credit card debt in the U.S. was more than $882.6 billion!  Only the mortgage and student loan debt markets are larger.  Clearly, a few classes in high school wouldn’t hurt.
  • starbucksNutrition.  While there is no denying the importance of exercise, Physical Education requirements in the nation’s high schools often provide little if any instruction on the preparation or consumption of foods that compose a healthy diet.  Children would benefit greatly later in life if they knew more about how to make a salad and less about play sports.  They’re all going to eat but very few will join the NFL.

Voting on the North Dakota citizenship bill will take place during the upcoming legislative session and, if passed, the new law will become effective during the 2016 school year.  The bill’s sponsors hope the new law will be applied country-wide a year later.  If successful, the United States will become a nation of equally informed and educated voters who understand how their government and approach the ballot box accordingly.

I did the chin-ups and swam the laps required for me to get a diploma but was left to my own devices when I needed to assess candidates in a general election, invest in a mutual fund or plan a healthy menu.  Don’t get me started on the years I spent learning to speak French.

What do you think?  Should passing a citizenship test be required to graduate from a high school in the United States?  What other requirements should be considered?

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2 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    Yes, absolutely. We know so little about our country and its governance. I think it should include the swearing in as well along with giving a voter id card, with an admonition to use this as your voice.

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