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Ensuring high school grads are equipped for US citizenship

By Tom Purcell

Photo illustration
Photo illustration Courtesy photo

“I may have to do WHAT to receive my high school diploma?”

“Pass a U.S. citizenship exam. The Civics Education Initiative is hoping state legislatures will require high school students in all 50 states to pass the exam in order to graduate. Some states, such as Arizona, have already passed such a law.”

“If it becomes a requirement for high school graduation, how will this citizenship test work?”

“You’ll have to pass a test on 100 basic facts of U. S. history and civics taken from the United States Citizenship Civics Test — the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass. You’ll have to answer at least 60 percent of the questions correctly to pass.”

“Can you help me prepare for these questions, sir?”

“Sure, young fellow. What is the Declaration of Independence?”

“It is an amazing document, sir. Thomas Jefferson wrote to King George III, telling him to stuff it. The Declaration said that all men are created equal, that the power of government comes from the people, that people can change the government if they don’t like it, and that individuals have unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“OK, why were the colonists so upset with the Brits that they declared independence?”

“Well, sir, this was because of the Stamp Act, the high taxes imposed on every piece of paper they used. This ‘taxation without representation’ infuriated the colonists and motivated their desire for independence.”

“OK, what is the First Amendment?”

“It is from the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution that were designed to protect individual rights. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, religion and assembly, the right to petition the government, and freedom of the press.”

“OK, name two or more ways that Americans can participate in their republic.”

“Americans should participate in their republic if they want it to survive. Americans should vote. They should contact elected officials and say what they think about the issues. They should write letters to the editor. And why not consider running for elected office themselves?”

“Young fellow, you know more about American civics than most people. It’s too bad all Americans aren’t required to pass the citizenship exam every now and then to understand basic facts about our government and its unique history.”

“Perhaps so, sir, but that would be unconstitutional.”

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

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