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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Citizenship could be tied to civics in school

    Last week, state representative Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park) proposed a plan that would require every high school student in Arizona to pass a 100-question civics test before graduation. The test would be the same test one must pass in order to become a U.S. citizen.

    Supporters of the proposal have said “the legislation would not add to teachers’ burden or take time away from teaching other subjects.” They further claim that the plan would create no additional costs because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services test “is already available for free online.”

    At first, I wrote off Montenegro’s plan as simple grandstanding by an Arizona legislator. On its face, the plan seems like a blatant attempt to win votes by appealing to voters’ sense of patriotism. Furthermore, there are costs associated with printing and administering any standardized test, even one that already exists online. It is naïve to think that Arizona’s overworked and underpaid teachers would not feel the burden of another testing requirement.

    But then, I considered the proposal more seriously.

    Certainly, as Montenegro said in a press conference on Sept. 17, every student in Arizona should “have basic knowledge and understanding of American government.” It is also true that Arizona’s K-12 Social Studies Standards already cover the topics on the naturalization exam, but there is no current testing requirement for social studies. Maybe a mandated assessment would, in fact, emphasize the importance of civics education.

    After admitting to myself that Montenegro’s proposal holds some merit, I had an interesting thought: If a student living in the country illegally meets Arizona’s educational standards for graduation, which under Montenegro’s plan would include the very same test required for U.S. citizenship, should that student not be granted citizenship rights?

    According to the College Board, 65,000 students living in the U.S. illegally graduate from high school in the U.S. each year. These students, often brought to the U.S. as children, face barriers to entering both higher education and the workforce. Although thousands of these students have been granted temporary legal status under President Barack Obama’s “Deferred Action Plan,” they still lack a clear path to citizenship.

    Over the last several years, the Arizona Republican Party has established itself as blatantly anti-immigrant by passing bills like Senate Bill 1070, prohibiting undocumented students from paying in-state tuition at in-state universities, and attempting to prevent legal noncitizens from acquiring drivers’ licenses. There exists little possibility that Montenegro would receive any GOP support for his proposed bill if it included even the merest mention of citizenship for students living in the country illegally.

    Nevertheless, passing a naturalization test created by the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to receiving a high school diploma, would seem to entail citizenship rights. Perhaps Montenegro should consider the implications of his proposal.

    If students can pass the citizenship test, should they not have the opportunity to earn citizenship? It certainly seems like a better use of curricula and state standards than the patriotic posturing Montenegro intended.

    Elizabeth Hannah is a neuroscience and cognitive science sophomore. Follow her on Twitter @ehannah10

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