Name One Branch of the U.S. Government
For an immigrant seeking U.S. citizenship, this might be just one of the 100 questions he or she would be required to answer correctly. Shockingly, one-third of Americans can’t pass the citizenship exam, and a majority of high school students would not be able to pass the test. In response, a group has launched an effort to make passing the citizenship test mandatory for Missouri students.
The effort is expected to receive bipartisan support, as research shows there is an increasing lack of civic responsibility in American citizens. Mandatory testing may sound like the answer to instilling values in Missouri students, but it’s not, and here’s why:
Storing information in long-term memory does not happen overnight. It’s not uncommon for students to engage in “binge studying,” as opposed to studying for shorter amounts of time over a longer period, which is more likely to lead to long-term memory storage. Thus, a 10-question multiple choice test in which students study for one hour prior to the test will not necessarily produce value-driven Americans.
This is not to say that civics education is not important, but there are other outlets to reform that may have more of an effect. In fact, research indicates that schools of choice increase civic values and responsibility. Students who attend private schools tend to be more politically tolerant and have increased political participation, knowledge, and voluntarism.
The United States implemented No Child Left Behind mandatory testing more than a dozen years ago. It is clear that simply testing students does not magically improve student learning. Why would we expect it to work for civics? Let’s consider alternatives like school choice programs before we implement more mandated tests.
If we want students to value liberty, why not start with liberty in education?