Civics competency

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Minimum competency.  In some cases we spend a LOT of time ensuring that people and organizations are qualified to do something.  Doctors, lawyers, even Master Gardeners have long and rigorous training regimens before we, as a society, decide they are qualified to practice their profession.

Yet, we allow people to cast a vote for the most powerful office in the country in what is arguably still the most powerful country in the world with ZERO prerequisites.

Scott Neuman ( @ScottNeumanNPR ) wrote a story on NPR’s Two-Way blog entitled, “Arizona 1st In Nation To Require High Schoolers To Pass Civics Test.”

From the article:

On Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill making a high school diploma in the state contingent upon students passing the same test given to candidates for U.S. citizenship. The class of 2017 will be the first to have the new requirement.

This is a great idea.  Our politics are complicated.  It’s possible for a legislator to, in a single vote, support the environment and reduce taxes for the super-rich.  An understanding of this and the other mechanics of our system makes a more responsible citizen.

The social rhetoric that “Every vote counts” is becoming true.  The 2013 election of the Virginia Attorney General was decided by 907 votes.  Put another way, if 454 people voted the other way, we’d have a different Attorney General in Virginia and he would have brought a substantially different philosophy to the office.  With a total of 2,209,183 counted the swing vote was:

0.021%

I checked my math twice on that.  That’s a scary percentage and, in my opinion, underscores the need for modest but minimum competency in civics delivered as a course with proficiency testing in high school.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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