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Dennis Ross, Gwen Graham Join Up on Civics Education

November 4, 2015 - 2:45pm
Dennis Ross and Gwen Graham
Dennis Ross and Gwen Graham

Two Florida representatives reached across the aisle on Wednesday to urge high schools to offer more civics education, giving seniors the same test the Department of Homeland Security uses for naturalizing citizens. 

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the Republican leadership as senior deputy majority whip, and U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., proposed the resolution which they insist will “promote civic education and engagement by emphasizing teaching U.S. history and civics.” 

The resolution encourages but does not mandate high schools to administer the test which is 100 questions. The representatives noted they did not want to change curriculum to include the test. However, they both insisted the test would lead young Americans to have a greater understanding of government and American history. 

“Over the years, unfortunately, I have noticed an alarming decrease in civic participation, particularly among our youth,” Ross said. “Because of this increase in apathy and a lack of understanding of the political process on a local, state, and federal level, I am concerned about our next generation. It is my belief that the largest contributing factor to this apathy is a lack of understanding of basic Civics, brought about by a void in civic education throughout the United States. Additionally, there is a general lack of a sense of civic duty, responsibility and civility.

“An increased emphasis on civic education must be made,” Ross added. “I believe this test will help teach and inform the next generation in our communities about their role as citizens, increase students’ civic and constitutional knowledge, and improve the overall health of our republic. This test is not mandatory and does not affect students’ graduation or passing criteria. However, I strongly encourage schools and teachers to take advantage of this great test.

“I was taught early in life to be an active citizen, both in school and throughout the community,” Ross said in conclusion. “These lessons were instilled in me by my parents and teachers, and provided the foundation for my love for and appreciation of our community and country. We can instill in our young people the same passion for involvement that will help to bring forward new opportunities and successes for our nation. The next generation can learn firsthand that early, thoughtful and diligent involvement can affect real change. Let us provide the platform for solid citizenship so that the next generation can be the next greatest generation.”

“We’re blessed to live in a country that lets each and every one of us actively participate in government,” said Graham. “We need to make sure the next generation of Americans are taught they have an opportunity and responsibility to use their voice and vote to shape our country’s future.

“When I speak with young people across North Florida I’m encouraged by how smart they are and their excitement for a better future,” Graham added. “We need to make sure they’re educated in civics and ready to participate in governing our great nation, whether that means using their First Amendment rights, their vote or by running for office themselves.”

Graham also noted her father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., was a supporter of civic education during his time on the political stage. 
“Encouraging greater civic engagement has been a lifelong passion of my father’s since he performed his first workday teaching a high school class in 1974,” Graham said. “More recently, he’s authored a book on the subject and founded the Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. I’m proud to help carry on his legacy and work to get young people more involved in civics.”
Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN


I attended so-called "backwoods" Florida public schools K - 12 and we were taught and tested on the government and history of our own community/city, our county, our state of Florida, and the Federal government. We got all the geography too as well as how the USA geography relates to world geography. We also studied the Canadian and British parliament since the USA system is close to those through history. We learned about folkways and mores related to our local, county, state, and Federal governments. This wasn't merely a one-shot class or two. We started in the 1st grade and we were banged with it thru the 12th grade. I'm grateful. Our public school classes were right serious as to learning and we did have recess and exercise and laughed along the way. The atmosphere was generally competitive without being advertised as such. I think the plan as written-up above is poor and a joke to make headlines. Children and adults too need to get serious about knowing about government and the array of related matters. I think that if you don't know about government, you shouldn't be allowed to vote.

I would like see greater civic engagement, but this plan is onvious fluff. Doesnt count towards graduation, voluntary for schools, and and no change. In curriculum? Who has time for that and why should anyone care? With all the things requored for graduation this would be on the backburner for any student.

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