The Vast Majority of Arizona High School Students Couldn't Pass a Citizenship Test

If they weren't born here, 96.5 percent of Arizona high school students would not qualify to be United States citizens, according to a study released last week by the Goldwater Institute.

The "Freedom From Responsibility" survey shows that only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students would pass a basic citizenship test - in contrast to more than 92 percent of immigrants, who pass the test on the first try.

The survey took ten randomly selected questions from the United States Citizenship test and posed them to 1,350 Arizona high school students. The results make you want to hide under a flag.

Only 26.5 percent of the students polled knew George Washington was the first president. Even fewer could identify the two houses of Congress.

Fewer than 10 percent of the students surveyed knew how many justices sit on the United States Supreme Court. Just 58.8 percent knew which ocean is on the country's east coast.

Matthew Ladner, vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute, says the survey demonstrates just how distressing the education system in Arizona actually is.

"I expected the results to be bad," he says, "but I didn't think they'd do nearly this poorly."

Supposedly, Arizona's high school history curriculum is one of the strictest in the country. Clearly, it's not being taught.

"I think it confirms what I've been trying to get the Legislature to do every single year," Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Tom Horne says of the Goldwater survey. "We need to test history and social studies on the AIMS test."

Or here's a crazy idea: Figure out how to motivate students to want to learn. Do something, and quickly!

The Goldwater Institute's Ladner adds, "We also tested several second and third grade students, and for a lot of them they could answer at least three questions, which means they have tied or beat most high school students."

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James King
Contact: James King