Civics Testing: The Next Common Core?

There is a new common core approaching. It is civics testing. There is talk among some in the Missouri House of Representatives to require High School students to pass a civics test prior to graduation. As reported in the Southeast Missourian,


Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, sponsor of the “Missouri Civics Education Initiative” bill, said “active, engaged citizenship starts with civics education.” She also said high-school graduates should have the same basic knowledge of the nation’s government and history as naturalized citizens.

Don’t get me wrong, teaching civics is important. I was required to pass a civics test prior to graduation, and it was helpful. But those were different times. Educational standards are good. But our problem is that our policymakers refuse to take a definitive stand on truth. They will require a test on civics but will permit the education intelligentsia to write the standards. This will create another common core moment. If our policymakers are going to demand educational standards, they better be willing to set the standard. And they better be willing to make the standard the Bible.

Why teach civics? There is an inherent understanding among our policymakers that we live in a society with standards. Our leaders want an “active, engaged citizenship.” And that starts with “civics education.” It is almost as if Ms. Swan has been reading the This site, since its inception, has made the claim that education is not simply about what you know and what you can do. It is about what you love. And it is most importantly about transferring a culture from one generation to the next. In this, our government schools are failing. It is our schools that are producing the civil unrest that we see today.

[See also, “Common Core, One Symptom of a Terminal Disease.”]

So why is the Bible the standard for civics education? The first reason is that Jesus says so. Jesus says,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28, ESV)

Second, our Founding Fathers accepted it as the foundation of good government. The words of John Adams are well known.

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

But, third, and most importantly, our American legal system is founded upon it. Sir William Blackstone characterized the English common law as follows: “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.” At the time of the nation’s founding, it is well reputed that Biblical instruction was as important to a lawyer and to the society in general as instruction in anything else. Theology was known as queen of the sciences. We have lost this and need to recover it.

Civics training is good. But if our policymakers are interested in setting the right course, they better be willing to set the policy that will guide that course. And they better have the courage to stay the course. If our policymakers want civics training, bring it on. I only demand that it start with the Bible.


David Linton writes at the Blackstone Initiative.