Schools for citizenship

Can you pass the U.S. civics exam?  Ninety-seven percent of applicants for naturalization pass the exam, according to CitizenshipFirst, which is campaigning to “restore the civic mission of education.” Most native-born Americans can’t answer six of 10 questions correctly.

CitizenshipFirst’s mission:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that American democracy cannot endure without an educated citizenry; that all students deserve to become informed and proud participants in American self-government; and that every generation must prepare the next to understand, protect and perfect the institutions of American freedom. These truths motivated the establishment of America’s school system long ago, and they must be an urgent national priority today.

We send kids to school to become citizens, not just employees, writes Robert Pondiscio, who left Core Knowledge to run CitizenshipFirst.

Our earliest thinkers about education weren’t thinking about college and career readiness.  They understood well that democracy, historically speaking, was something of a long shot.  There’s a famous story about Benjamin Franklin leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  A woman asked him what kind of government he and the other delegates had decided on.  “A republic, madam—if you can keep it,” Franklin replied.  As Franklin knew, republics have a nasty habit of falling apart.  Of being overwhelmed by factions.  Citizens who can be relied upon to understand and peacefully exercise their rights and responsibilities—to keep the republic—are indispensable to a democracy.

School should be the place where we learn to become Americans, Pondiscio writes.

CitizenshipFirst is building a network of schools committed to “preparing students for a lifetime of active, engaged citizenship, and full participation in our democracy.”  It’s also launched the Only in America Project to send “public speakers into classrooms to tell vivid, personal stories of immigration, political freedom, entrepreneurial success, military service” and other stories. The Band of Brothers Program will pair high schools with U.S. military units.

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  1. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that American democracy cannot endure without an educated citizenry;

    Well we can start by teaching them that we are a republic, not a democracy, and that the Founding Father’s opposed and feared democracy and deliberately designed a republic to protect it from democracy. We should also teach them that our republic has become increasingly disfunctional as it has become more democratic, just as the Founders predicted.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      “Well we can start by teaching them that we are a republic…”


      As more and more law gets created and decided by the courts (mostly full of unelected judges), I’m not even sure that republic is correct.

    • Apparently though an American democracy can spring into existence without an educated citizenry that “educated citizenry” formula being invoked endlessly to justify the existence of the public education system which didn’t exist at the time of the founding of this nation.

      There is however a marvelous, if largely unappreciated irony, in claiming the need to coerce the populace to a sufficient level of education so that the populace can see the importance of curbing the use of coercion.

  2. I do believe that most new immigrants/citizens would put most of us to shame with a comparison of test results. We do not learn (or care to remember) enough of the identifying information that makes us active citizens.

  3. Since tests for voters is clearly unconstitutional and the Work of the Devil Incarnate, it stands to reason that tests for citizenship should also be disallowed..

    Weren’t there classes in schools – Civics or some such – that were supposed to transmit these cultural values?

    I passed – barely. From the online test: “Unfortunately most native-born students fail. “

  4. I signed the pledge. I am frightened of the number of people who have never read the first amendment, and believed that I was abridging their freedom of speech when I moderated their comments at our newspaper. I thought every student learned and read the Bill of Rights; it’s startling that they don’t.

    For the record I scored 18 out of 20 on that quiz–I thought the town halls were a form of self-government, and I was off by two years on the actual dating of the constitution. I will go sit in the corner for a while.

  5. Crimson Wife says:

    I got 100%, while my 10 y.o. just barely passed at 65%. She got all the history ones but bombed the current events ones.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    This whole thing presumes there is some value in being a citizen.
    Show of hands????

  7. The ed schools and many teachers/admins don’t believe in American citizenship – or even in the “American way”. Too many are mired in the “one world” and multiculti nonsense. Of course, they are also likely to be opposed to teaching/learning any specific content, let alone anything smelling of national allegiance or patriotism.