Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What problem is addressed by the Civics Education Initiative?

A. Too few citizens know and understand basic American civics – how our government works and who we are as a nation. For example, according to the Pew Research Center, only about one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government, much less say what each does.

Q. What is the impact of this lack of civics knowledge?

A. If you don’t know how our government works, you’re not likely to be an active and engaged citizen. It’s no wonder so few citizens vote, given this lack of basic civics knowledge.

Q. Why isn’t civics being better taught in our schools today?

A. Education funding is increasingly tied to high-stakes testing on reading, math and science, with a particular focus on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math. While important, this emphasis is leaving civics as a secondary subject or in some cases, not being taught at all.

Q. How does the Civics Education Initiative address this problem?

A. The Civics Education Initiative is simple in concept. It requires high school students, as a condition for graduation, to pass a test on 100 basic facts of U. S. history and civics taken from the United States Citizenship Civics Test – the test all immigrants applying for US citizenship must pass.

Q. How do immigrants taking the test compare to our own High School students?

A. According to the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 92% of immigrants who take the required civics test for citizenship pass. Yet, studies of Oklahoma and Arizona High School students showed less than 4% of students passing the same test. (Source: Daily Kos http://tinyurl.com/pphtqke)

Q. Why use this specific USCIS US Citizenship Civics Test?

A. We already require by Federal law that new citizens must learn these 100 facts so they can be prepared to be active and engaged citizens. By using this well-established test, there is no cost to develop a new test, and next to no cost involved to administer the test. Moreover, a myriad of study materials for this test already exist.

Q. What does the Civics Education Initiative legislative language specifically say?

A. All (State) High School students, attending any public or charter school, or a student seeking a general educational development (GED) equivalency, shall, as a condition of High School graduation or its equivalency, take and receive a passing grade on the United States Citizenship Civics Test, produced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS). The test shall be the specific 100 questions used by the USCIS and administered to all applicants for U. S. citizenship. High School students shall be tested on all 100 questions, with a minimum score of 60% being required for passage. High School Students may take the test as many times as necessary for passage, but must pass the test prior to receiving a certificate of High School graduation or a GED equivalency. All (State) schools shall certify that a student has taken the test and received a passing grade on the test, in a way it deems as adequate to ensure the requirements of this Act are followed.

Q. Is the Civics Education Initiative a popular idea?

A. Overwhelmingly so! A recent national survey showed 74 percent of likely voters support or strongly support the Civics Education Initiative, including overwhelming support among Men – 78%, Women – 71%, Republicans – 84%, Independents – 75%, Democrats – 68%, Anglos – 76%, Hispanics – 76%, and African American – 60%.

Q. Who is promoting the Civics Education Initiative effort?

A. The Civics Initiative www.CivicsEducationInitiative.com is project of the Joe Foss Institute www.JoeFossInstitute.org as part of its continuing efforts to promote an appreciation for America’s freedoms, public service, patriotism and integrity. The Civics Education Initiative National Board of Advisors includes former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, Pulitzer winning journalist Carl Bernstein, and award winning actor Joe Mantegna.

Q. What are the goals and timing of the Civics Education Initiative?

A. The Civics Education Initiative has as its goal the enactment of legislation in all 50 states by  September 17th 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the US Constitution.

WHO'S Involved - National Board of Advisors

  • Unfortunately today, too few students are learning basic civics. In Arizona and Oklahoma studies, for example, the vast majority of high school students failed the same basic civics test that 91% of those applying for U.S. citizenship passed. That's why we need to pass the Civics Education Initiative in all 50 states. Joe Mantegna
    Award-Winning Actor
  • If we want our political process more open and free, with a truly informed citizenry, our young people need to learn real-time civics and real history....that way they can take pride in our country based on the complexities, and the richness, and the real contradictions in the American story. Carl Bernstein
    Pulitzer-Prize Winning Journalist and Author
  • The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and a basic understanding of it is essential. Understanding the core principles that were enshrined by the Founders, helps to keep the American Dream alive today. Eric Greitens
    Former U.S. Navy Seal & Author
  • The people who favor this have widely differing political beliefs, but they share the belief that it is important for all Americans to know about the first principals of our constitutional government. Betsy Dalrymple
    First Lady of the State of North Dakota
  • Let's make this something that all Americans can get behind, because it's about our country's future, and our children's knowledge of the past to lead them to the future that's important. Bob Holden
    Former Governor of Missouri
  • Think of it: People from all over the world legally immigrating to the United States, many speaking different languages, are passing this basic American history and civics test – in English – while too few of our own students can. Dennis DeConcini
    Former U.S. Senator from Arizona
  • The success of our republic depends on an informed and engaged citizenry Jon Kyl
    Former U.S. Senator from Arizona
  • ... Rudolph W. Giuliani
    Former Mayor of New York City
  • ... Richard Riley
    Former U.S. Secretary of Education


The Civics Education Initiative is a program of the Civics Proficiency Institute a 501(c)(4) organization affiliated with the Joe Foss Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to creating informed, engaged citizens through civics education and awareness.

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