Mandatory civic test for graduation?

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Why HSLDA Opposes a Bill Filed by a Homeschool Dad


Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in South Dakota. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

HSLDA applauds homeschool parents who seek to enter the public arena by running for office. They can bring a unique perspective on many important issues. They have experienced first-hand the importance of protecting the right to homeschool.

So why would HSLDA oppose a bill designed to promote knowledge of our nation’s history and government filed by Senator Phil Jensen, a homeschool dad in South Dakota?

Senate Bill 164 was no doubt motivated by laudable intentions. But the bill should not become law for these reasons.

1. The bill says that no one can get a high school diploma without passing a citizenship test the U.S. government uses in the process of naturalizing citizens. People don’t like being motivated by penalties, but this bill is all stick and no carrot. There is no reward for passing, but a severe penalty for failing. Why not instead set up a competition, maybe for a college scholarship, where students who love this stuff can earn recognition and awards?

2. For the first time in South Dakota history, this bill would impose a mandate on homeschool families before they could issue a diploma to their children. Up until now, parents have been in charge of awarding diplomas to their children. This bill takes a huge amount of authority away from parents and sends it to the government. And it offers encouragement to every other lawmaker who wants to push his own agenda in restricting when homeschool parents can issue diplomas.

3. The bill requires that students answer all 100 questions on the test. But when non-citizens are seeking citizenship, they are only required to answer 10 of the questions. Why should citizens have to answer 10 times more questions than non-citizens?

4. The bill requires that students get 70% correct. But non-citizens only need to get 6 of 10 (60%) right to pass. Why should citizens be held to a higher passing score than non-citizens?

5. The government is in charge of operating the public schools. The government can therefore decide who graduates from their own schools and what tests to require. But the government is not in charge of homeschooling, and it has no legitimacy in deciding who graduates from alternative instruction.

6. If there is a group of students who is a bit weak in citizenship knowledge, it’s not homeschoolers! They already attend more public meetings, work for candidates more, contribute more time and money for civic causes, and vote with twice the frequency of any other group!

7. The United States president or someone under his control decides exactly what is on the test and what answers are correct. Why should these bureaucrats in Washington control who graduates in South Dakota?

8. Do you think your child should be required to know when men must register for the selective service (draft) and when one’s income tax return is due before they are allowed to graduate? These are two of the questions on the test.

9. The Declaration of Independence declares what has already happened—that our creator has already given men certain rights. But Question 9 refers to rights as being “in” the Declaration. It is profoundly wrong to refer to rights as being “in” the Declaration as if that is where the rights came from or now reside. The simple truth is that the Declaration announces to the world what God has already done. The test is tone deaf to this foundational truth.

10. While some of the questions are simple and objective (“Who is the President right now?”), other questions—or the glaring lack of questions—reflect a left-wing bias or agenda. For example:

  • Question 1 asks what the “supreme law of the land is.” The official answer omits the important fact that treaties are part of the supreme law of the land. By disregarding how powerful treaties really are, this omission supports an agenda of advancing UN treaties, which are currently one of the most serious threats to our freedom.
  • One of the most important sources of protection from government intrusion into our lives is the 4th Amendment. But it is never mentioned on the test. This supports an agenda of expanding government control over our lives.
  • Question 42 grossly understates the authority and sovereignty of states. The 10th Amendment says that all powers belong to the states (or the people) except powers the Constitution delegates to the federal government or prohibits from the states. Question 42 on the test says “Some powers belong to the states.” This gross understatement serves an agenda of expanding the power of federal government.

For all of these reasons and more, HSLDA firmly opposes SB 164.

You can view the test here >>

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Protect Your Family

If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support for our work enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

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