The Vast Majority of Arizona High School Students Couldn't Pass a Citizenship Test

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Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Tom Horne

If they weren't born here, 96.5 percent of Arizona high school students would not qualify to be United States citizens, according to a study released last week by the Goldwater Institute.

The "Freedom From Responsibility" survey shows that only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students would pass a basic citizenship test - in contrast to more than 92 percent of immigrants, who pass the test on the first try.

The survey took ten randomly selected questions from the United States Citizenship test and posed them to 1,350 Arizona high school students. The results make you want to hide under a flag.

Only 26.5 percent of the students polled knew George Washington was the first president. Even fewer could identify the two houses of Congress.


Fewer than 10 percent of the students surveyed knew how many justices sit on the United States Supreme Court. Just 58.8 percent knew which ocean is on the country's east coast.

Matthew Ladner, vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute, says the survey demonstrates just how distressing the education system in Arizona actually is.

"I expected the results to be bad," he says, "but I didn't think they'd do nearly this poorly."

Supposedly, Arizona's high school history curriculum is one of the strictest in the country. Clearly, it's not being taught.

"I think it confirms what I've been trying to get the Legislature to do every single year," Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Tom Horne says of the Goldwater survey. "We need to test history and social studies on the AIMS test."

Or here's a crazy idea: Figure out how to motivate students to want to learn. Do something, and quickly!

The Goldwater Institute's Ladner adds, "We also tested several second and third grade students, and for a lot of them they could answer at least three questions, which means they have tied or beat most high school students."

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4 comments
Write2theeditor
Write2theeditor

Forget Arizona! How about requiring anyone elected to Congress to pass the "citizenship" test before being allowed to take the oath of office. Judging from recent public performances of representative Michele Bachmann, she would most certainly flunk since she believes the founding fathers freed the slaves and Concord and Lexington are in New Hampshire. I wonder whether she understands that the revolution was fought against the British? Seriously, I shudder to think of how many of our elected officials would flunka nd that is scary.

Pam
Pam

I think if all of the states would use the same books and format in k-12 it would make a big difference.The unity would force the level to come up.For example, if all kindergarden classes taught the same thing in every city and state the kids wouldn't fall behind when they moved.We must set the standards for education as an extremely high priority,the future of this country depends on it! We should have equal funding for every district so they all have the same chances of success.

Write2theeditor
Write2theeditor

Sounds like a great solution--every state teach the same thing. The question is which thing is it to be? The Texas thing that has kids believing that Reagan was a more importnat figure in American history than Thomas Jefferson? Perhaps the Alabama thing that would have students look at the Civil War in a vastly different light than how it is being currently taught in most Northern states. Or, my goodness, Arkansas, where there are classes teaching creationism (whatever the hell THAT is) in place of real science, or should we whisper the name---Darwin? Most of the students getting a good education are in particular schools that often can't be duplicated even in their own states. My own humble suggestion is that we make up ouyr minds that education is truly important to survival and future of this country and in order to educate our children we need the best teachers in the classroom. That means we pay them, and we pay them well, as befits people who need a master's degree in order to be certified (at least in many states where education is considered above average). When young people see they can make a living teaching, we will be able to attract more of the top students to go into teaching. This could make for a radically different education system within ten years.

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