Letter to Editor Published

December 14, 2014

The News Leader this morning ran my letter to the editor about civics tests for high school students. Here’s what I said:

Del. Dickie Bell has proffered a civics education bill to hold back high school diplomas until students can pass an American civics test similar to that required of naturalized citizens. It sounds like a good idea, but it has troubling implications.

Why does this particular area of knowledge, but not others, warrant the special hostage-and-ransom treatment? Is it because the ability to read and write well, for example, isn’t as emotionally charged as a topic connected to immigration?

The answer to ignorance isn’t to burden high school seniors with yet another standardized test. Bell’s bill is a Band-Aid solution to a larger disease, which is the overall decline in public education caused by a lack of proper support for teachers. If you want graduates prepared to assume their civic responsibilities, then make their education a central budgetary priority rather than using it as yet another ideological tool.

Instead of wasting resources erecting barriers in front of students, let’s try nurturing them the right way. Give educators more money and not test requirements.

Matthew Warner
Staunton

The house editorial is on the same subject. The editorial board didn’t really take a position (i.e., copped-out) on the separate civics test and just said civics is a topic worth learning, one way or the other.