Last week, the House Education Committee had a public hearing on SB 43, a bill that would require high schoolers to take a half-credit course dedicated to civics as a graduation requirement. Senator Lou D’Allesandro, the bill’s sponsor, was there to defend it, according to the Concord Monitor:
“The appreciation of knowledge in government is at an all-time low in this country,” D’Allesandro told the Education Committee. “It seems to me we have really been remiss in our obligation to make sure people know about our government.”
“I can’t understand it,” D’Allesandro told the committee. “It’s an oxymoron to me, to beat back a bill that tells people how the government runs. I thought it was appropriate that I bring it back.”
Others also testified in support of the bill, including bill co-sponsor Senator David Watters:
“This is about the survival of our Democracy, this is why we have public schools. Citizenship, participation. You can go on all you want about geography, but if you are not a participating citizen, then democracy can be threatened, and I think that’s the argument.”
Elizabeth Dubrulle, the director of education and policy programs for the NH Historical Society, sees 70 percent of the state’s fourth graders. She says that kids don’t know basic facts, like that we fought the British in the American Revolution. She says that it’s important that students are “citizen-ready” when they graduate:
“We often talk about making sure our kids are career-ready and college-ready when they leave high school, but just as important – maybe even more important – is that they are citizen-ready,” Dubrulle said. “And we haven’t been doing that for a long time.”
Education Committee Chairman Rick Ladd pushed back, questioning why the state should focus solely on civics:
“We emphasize from 8th grade up that we do something in the area of United States history and government, New Hampshire history and government,” Ladd said. “We have 20 credits which are required for graduation from high school, which half a credit is required in civics. How does this bill then change making what is currently being done?”
“This bill says that civics will be the centerpoint of that half credit,” D’Allesandro answered.
“Should we adopt the same thing with geography, seeing that kids think New Mexico is a separate country?” Ladd asksed. “Do we not address all these other subjects in the same manner you’re trying to address civics.”
SB 43 passed the Senate and is now in the House. The Education Committee will recommend whether to pass or kill the bill before it goes to the full chamber.
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