Should a civics test be required to graduate from MN schools?

A bill at the Capitol would require schools to give a civics test like the ones new citizens take.

Should Minnesota schoolchildren have to pass a civics test similar to the ones that immigrants to the U.S. take to become citizens?

The suggestion is floating around the State Capitol this year, though it's not close to being adopted right now.

There is a bill in the House that would add citizenship to the list of subjects Minnesota students have to learn about.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, a Grove City Republican who supports the measure, told Session Daily before a hearing this week: “We believe it’s important for students to know how our country works ... The goal is to be able to list more presidents than Kardashians.”

Proposal was tabled but could be revived

The bill's author, Rep. Sondra Erickson of Princeton, wants a civics test that would include some of the same questions used by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to see if people applying for citizenship have a basic understanding of American history and government.

A briefing from House Research says starting next fall students in 9th grade will have to take a test like that but districts cannot deny them a diploma if they fail to get 30 out of 50 questions right.

At this week's hearing of the Education Innovation Policy Committee (watch it here) no vote was taken on Erickson's bill, but the measure could still be slipped into a larger bill later in the session.

Session Daily notes the only concerns raised about the bill had to do with whether it needs to be a requirement. "This is adding another test to students’ loads that isn’t necessarily an issue in Minnesota,” an Education Department official said.

What sorts of questions?

To give you a sense of the difficulty level, there are practice tests here. It's a multiple choice test and we saw questions like "Who is the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?" and "What happened at the Constitutional Convention?"

Or you can see questions together with answers here.

When a handful of GoMN staffers tried their hand at some of the questions last summer, the results were mixed.

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