New Hampshire senators this week will vote on a bill to mandate that every public high school student take a civics course before receiving his or her diploma.
At a time our state and nation are experiencing vastly differing opinions on politics and the role of government, it is more important now to ensure the next generation of voters are more informed and knowledgeable about how our complex system works.
Current education statutes say New Hampshire schools must offer a test on U.S. government and civics in a history or government class. This new legislation would require a half-year course in civics for each high school student in the Granite State, but the districts would have the opportunity to design a course focusing on citizens’ duties, as well as the structure and interaction among local, state and federal governments.
Perhaps any course geared toward students should also be offered to a few parents.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found only 36 percent of Americans knew the three branches of government in 2014. By 2016, the center found that number dipped to 26 percent.
“Those unfamiliar with our three branches of government can’t understand the importance of checks and balances and an independent judiciary,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said in September. “Lack of basic civics knowledge is worrisome and an argument for an increased focus on civics education in the schools.”
The current lack of civic knowledge is alarming, and dangerous. If voters are to make informed decisions on their future, they need a background in how government works. New Hampshire has long prided itself as a state with a well-informed electorate.
Presidential candidates constantly play up the fact our first-in-the-nation primary voters “do their homework” on candidates and weed out those unworthy of the White House. The state Legislature is one of the largest lawmaking bodies in the world.
Providing our students with more wisdom on how government operates and a guide to remain civically engaged will give New Hampshire students an edge as voters, and as residents of our communities.
It would put our state in a better position if lawmakers support this legislation for required civic lessons in New Hampshire high schools.
The Senate will vote on the bill on Thursday. It was placed on the consent calendar, meaning that it will be bundled with other non-controversial bills as a single vote.
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