Although state Rep. Bill Zedler seems to be trying to swim upstream against a pretty strong current of public opinion, he has filed a bill to require Texas students to pass a civics test in order to receive a high school diploma. I know. Another test. Just what we don’t want, right?
Remember, two years ago the Legislature, rather than be stampeded out of town by outraged parents, reduced from 15 to five the number of end-of-course exams high school students already have to pass to graduate. And, many of those same parents wouldn’t take kindly to seeing the number begin to creep back up. They prefer, instead, more reductions in testing, beginning with grade school.
So, what does Zedler, an ultraconservative from Arlington, have in mind? Maybe he thinks a new civics test would encourage more students to participate in politics or, at least, vote. I doubt that. Another test would just annoy more kids and their parents, encourage more teaching to the test and steal even more valuable learning time from classrooms. Besides, students in Texas public schools already have completed many lessons and tests in U.S. and Texas government and history, from elementary school through high school.
Zedler’s bill (HB829) would require the civics test to be “composed of all or a portion of the questions on the civics test administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the naturalization process under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.”
By copying the federal citizenship naturalization test, Zedler’s proposal could save taxpayers the multi-million-dollar cost of hiring a private contractor to develop a new test. Many students who would be tested, of course, would be immigrants.
Interestingly, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, more than 97 percent of immigrants applying for citizenship pass the Naturalization Civics Test. That suggests many immigrants know more about how our government is supposed to work than many native-born Texans do. But that, still, is no reason to increase an already excessive test burden on Texas students.