If an educational requirement makes us more responsible and informed citizens, wouldn't that be a good thing, even if it means a little extra effort? Isn't more always better than less when it comes to learning and knowledge?
Anyone reading this newspaper would have to say yes - and that's why House Bill 2030 could be a positive move for Oklahoma school children.
Despite their insistence that fewer laws and regulations are better, not a day passes that Oklahoma legislators don't do their best to set into place regressive, Draconian policies that restrict the freedoms of citizens, or force them to take actions they don't want or need. But it's not too much to ask that American citizens know a little about their Constitution, our system of government, and our way of life.
That's the impetus behind HB 2030, according to House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O'Donnell, R-Catoosa. He thinks high school students should have to pass the U.S. naturalization test to graduate, starting with the 2022-23 term. The idea is so simple, pragmatic and reasonable that one has to wonder why it hasn't been seriously considered before.
There's no question that Americans, as a whole, are woefully ignorant when it comes to U.S. history and how the country is governed. Anyone who doubts that need only look on social media, where countless people embarrass themselves by confusing references to our "democratic republic" as a label related to political parties. The "democratic" part is hated by uninformed Republicans, and the "republic" definition, resented by uninformed Democrats. An even better example would be the braying about the constitutionality, or lack thereof, of the second impeachment and potential conviction of former President Trump. The fact is, the armchair scholars can't know that, because the ultimate authority - the U.S. Supreme Court - hasn't ruled on it.
Fourteen other states have passed measures to require students to pass the civics part of the test. HB 2030, as described by O'Donnell, would add to the mix the study of key historical documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, Federalist Papers, and the Constitution itself. How many people do we know who couldn't define one or more of those without a Google search? The U.S. government portion would feature "simulations of the democratic process and lessons on the structure and relationship among national, state, county and local governments."
O'Donnell was quick to say teachers are doing the best they can, and we agree. But a more sharply defined requirement can't hurt. A cynic might question the underlying rationale for the measure, and wouldn't be wrong to do so. If the idea is to "weed out" from the voting process people deemed "undesirable" by those currently holding sway in state government, it would be sinister indeed. But as long as the absolute truth of history and our processes is taught, and legislators aren't allowed to rewrite history to serve their own political needs, the outcome could be positive.
Shouldn't people born and raised in this country be at least as enlightened as those who seek to immigrate here? We think they should - and we suspect if they were more informed, this country wouldn't be suffering from its political divide, because citizens couldn't be as easily fooled by the "fake news" perpetuated on social media by those with ulterior motives. That might not be the reason behind the legislation, but it could be the result.