Leg. Journal: Civic Test

For those of you who are just catching up, I want to explain why I just voted against the fast-tracked bill that would require all students to pass the same civics test that all immigrants must pass when becoming a citizen.

While I liked the idea, in concept, and I would work to find ways to improve general understanding of civics and history, I could not support this bill.

As I said on the floor, the more people learn about history, the more I believe they will learn that the founding fathers would have agreed that corporations are not people and that Citizen’s United is a contortion of our democracy.

However, there are a list of problems with this bill:

— There is nothing in the test that covers Arizona government (which has a more direct impact on our lives than federal laws) and there is nothing that covers Native American history.

— This is not learning. This is rote memorization. I actually took this test and I know that immigrants are given the test and the test answers to study. That is why that old TV gag works so well. You know, the one where they challenge somebody on the street to remember some bit of American history? Of course most people will do worse than they might if given a written test. If you test somebody on almost anything (on camera) that they learned through rote memory years ago, you will get the same result. One of my favorite pod-casters Dan Carlin (Hardcore History) makes a great point: we should teach history in terms of what the student is interested in, not rote memorization. 

— It costs time and money in the classroom to teach to a test. 

— We are passing a bill about civics, by truncating the civic process of lawmaking. 

— Will we measure whether this rote memory learning exercise works?

In the end, the message this bill will convey is not that we want more civics. It might convey that the legislature’s priorities are in political messages, not in true education.