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On Passing, And Failing, Civics (Editorial)

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Despite the current dysfunction, the United States remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for many, and the structure of its government — separation of powers, for example — is a thing of genius developed by men of genius. (Yes, the founders were men, but we should remain ever grateful to women like Abigail Adams, who reminded her husband, John, that “all men would be tyrants if they could.”)

Serving in this government should be an honor, and understanding this government should be a requirement.

So we were sorry last week to see another Arkansas legislator acknowledge the dishonor he had done to the government and its citizens. State Sen. Jake C. Files, R-Fort Smith, pleaded guilty to three federal felonies: wire fraud and money laundering in connection with money routed to him from the state General Improvement Fund and an unrelated charge of bank fraud. He also resigned from the Legislature, effective Feb. 9.

Abuse of GIF money, a program tailor-made to be abused, has also led to a guilty plea by former state Rep. Micah Neal, R-Springdale, and the indictment of former state Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale.

But we were pleased to be reminded by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of Act 478 of 2017, by Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs. It requires Arkansas students to pass a civics test, the same test immigrants must pass to become naturalized American citizens, to be eligible for high school diplomas or General Educational Development certificates.

The bar is low; students must correctly answer only 60 of the 100 questions. But Google the test. You might be surprised to find yourself getting a couple of answers wrong.

(When the bill was being debated, Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, suggested legislators should impose the same testing requirements on themselves. That suggestion, unsurprisingly and unfortunately, went nowhere.)

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