State finally doing something about society’s lack of civics knowledge

There was a time when most people had at least a basic understanding about how our government works and knowledge of important events in our nation’s history.

But these days — and we know it because we’ve heard it almost daily from people calling the Open Line — the lack of that knowledge among adults regarding who does what and how in our government, especially at the local level, is concerning at best and alarming at worst.

We’ve heard people ranting about their local township supervisors when they’re actually unhappy with something the county commissioners did. We’ve heard people scold the commissioners for something that the school board did. Around budget season, school boards are often inundated with complaints about spending money on X, Y or Z when the reality is they have no choice because the state or federal governments tell them they must, then fail to provide adequate funding for the mandates, leaving school districts (and the taxpayers within them) to foot the bill.

Elections are another example of people lacking the understanding of how something important functions — especially party primaries. Many people mistakenly think people are elected in the spring.

They are not. They are merely nominated. And while they may wind up unopposed in November, they still aren’t officially elected until then.

It’s amazing how many adults — even well-educated ones — do not grasp that concept.

And we haven’t even gotten into how our state legislature works, how our federal government works or anything about basic U.S. history or its founding documents.

It’s an issue that has needed to be addressed for a long time.

So, we’re glad to see the state legislature and the governor come together to try and combat this problem in future generations of adults.

The General Assembly just overwhelmingly passed a bill — which Gov. Tom Wolf has already announced he plans to sign — that would require all Pennsylvania students, beginning in the seventh grade, to take a test on civics, government and U.S. history. School districts would then be required to report the results to the state. Any students who earn a perfect score on the test would qualify for a certificate from the state’s Department of Education.

The tests would be developed locally and passage of the test would not be a requirement for graduation, thereby eliminating many of the perils of standardized testing.

What the exam should do is cause a renewed focus on civics, government and U.S. history — something that has fallen by the wayside in recent years.

Informed citizens are those equipped to make the best choices. That knowledge is most often built upon a solid foundation that is laid by teachers in our local schools and prioritizing learning about civics, government and U.S. history will pay dividends for years to come.

In what is becoming an increasingly rare occurrance, our state government has made a decision about education that makes sense.

We give gold star stickers to all those who supported this bill.