A proposal to require Minnesota students to pass a civics exam prior to high school graduation won a key round of support Thursday, netting the backing of all four legislative leaders.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Minority Leader Paul Thissen as well as Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Minority Leader David Hann all endorsed the legislation as proponents aim to pass it this session.
As a condition of gaining a diploma, prospective graduates would have to pass a 100-question exam covering fundamental portions of U.S. history and government, getting at least 60 correct. The exam covers the same the same topics that immigrants pursuing U.S. citizenship must adequately answer.
For example, citizen applicants are asked to name a branch of government and the current president. They are also asked about key figures in history, such as Martin Luther King Jr., and events, such as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The civics requirement would be embedded with other subjects that now comprise the required high school academic standards, which range of mastery of mathematics to language arts.
In a news release, all four leaders stressed the importance of the civics initiative.
“Making sure young people leave high school with a basic understanding of our system of government and who we are as a country will help foster that civic awareness in future generations,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said an understanding of basic civics is “vital to the survival of our republic.”
“Unfortunately, over 200 years after the signing of the Constitution, many students in Minnesota and throughout the country don’t understand basic facts about our government, its creation, or how it works,” Daudt said.
Nine states have approved similar legislation, including Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Many others are weighing the requirement.
The initiative has been driven by the Joe Foss Institute.