Oregon schools trying to be more civic-minded

What does it mean to be an American? It seems if you ask 20 people that question, you’ll get 20 different answers.

This appears to be a matter that is up for debate for a lot of people, and it’s a topic that evokes in many people a passion as deep as any other.

People hold their patriotic beliefs alongside those of their religion, and morality, in that special place in their heart, which is what tends to make the topic so volatile.

Now, Oregon may be taking steps to make sure that everyone, whether they were born in the U.S. or not, has the base foundation of knowledge about America and its patriotism, to build their own beliefs.

Oregon legislators are currently debating the new bill 1038, which if passed in Salem, would require that each Oregon student, regardless of their nationality of birth, citizenship status, or immigration status, take a civics test in order to be eligible to receive a high school diploma.

Last year Colorado proposed a similar bill, but so far has met with little success.

The exam would consist of 20 multiple-choice questions, chosen at random, from the same list of questions given to immigrants who formally apply for U.S. citizenship.

This would mean that every student would be required to know at least basic information about the country before they are considered educated enough to obtain their high school diploma.

There are several things that this could mean for Oregon students.First, this would ensure that we don’t require anything from an incoming citizen that we don’t require from our own citizens. Just as you wouldn’t expect to start a new job knowing more than the current employees, new American citizens shouldn’t be expected to know more about this country than its homegrown citizens.

It’s unfair to ask anyone to do, know, say or believe anything and not hold ourselves as a society to the same standards.

Secondly, as a country we seem to have had a regrettable decline in our civics classes.

Many of us didn’t have a required civics, or even American history, class in high school, so we didn’t have a mandate to learn this basic and essential information. We need to make sure all of our students know where we come from, what our government means, and what our government consists of.

Otherwise, how are they supposed to grow into well-informed and productive members of society who can make proper choices? Such as when they go to the ballot box and cast votes, which is such an essential part of being an American, or a part of any democracy.

Thirdly, Oregon needs to do this to show the rest of the country and the world that America practices what we preach, and we make everyone know what we expect immigrants to know.

The most recent study done by PISA – The Program for International Student Assessment – has ranked the U.S. in a 38-country study as 17th in the world in reading skills, 22nd in science, and an abysmal 32nd in mathematics.

These heartbreaking statistics are showing that our children aren’t learning what they need, and any addition to their education should be encouraged and applauded. And, if it teaches them about their homeland and history, then it’s all the better. Granted civics is not one of those categories in the survey, but knowledge breeds knowledge, learning is never a bad thing.

Let’s actually make America great, and we can do that, at least in part, by making this the land of the free, home of the brave, and ideally, home of the well-informed and civic-minded young person.

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