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Bill would require high school graduates to know basic government bedrock principles

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Dave Thompson
/
Prairie Public

The 2015 Legislature will consider a bill requiring high school graduates to know the bedrock principles of the American form of government.

The bill is based on the citizenship tests new Americans have to pass. It would require a test – or series of tests – that add up to 100 questions. A passing grade would be 60 percent.

"The people who favor this bill have widely differing political beliefs," said First Lady Betsy Dalrymple at a Bismarck news conference. "But they share the belief that it is important for all Americans to know about the first principles of our Constitutional government."

The bill is sponsored by four legislators -- two Republicans and two Democrats, evenly split between House and Senate.

"This isn't a feel-good bill," said Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck). "This is a small part of an effort to make sure that our republic survives, endures and prospers. Nothing is more important than that."

Nathe says a 2012 survey of college graduates showed 20 percent knew James Madison as the “Father of the Constitution;” 38 percent knew the correct length of terms of US Congressman and Senators;  42 percent  correctly said the “Battle of the Bulge” was in the Second World War…and 96 percent could identify Lady Gaga.

If passed, the bill would be in effect starting in the 2016-2017 school year.

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler says the methods on how to integrate these facts will be left to the local school districts.