The high school civics test every Minnesota student should take

If you think about it, every election is just another multiple choice quiz. We're not good at them.

If you think about it, every election is just another multiple choice quiz. We're not good at them.

At long last, Minnesota's elected officials have found something they agree on: High school kids are dumb.

Last week, the state's four legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton all signed off on an idea of students passing a mandatory "civics test" to receive a high school diploma. The test would be modeled on the exam given to immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship.

Immigrants pass that test at a rate of 97 percent. Natural-born Americans aren't nearly as good. About one-third fail. Three-quarters can't state the function of the judicial branch. (Correct answer: to subsidize the powerful robe seamstress and gavel-maker industries.)

Holding high schoolers to a minimum standard for understanding their government seems like a fine idea. But the immigrant test asks naive questions about lofty stuff, like the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. In other words, it asks about American government we wish existed. We'd be better off preparing our pupils for politics as it really is: ugly, unfair, and unstoppable.

Here's a test that every Minnesotan should be able to pass before getting a diploma. Or a vote:

True or False section

True or false: A key group of Senate Democrats have continued to block Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota. This is not about their allegiance to the Teamsters union, who don't want to work on Sundays. They know that sober and frustrated is the only true way to enjoy NFL football.

True or false: There are eight justices on the United States Supreme Court, and we should just get used to it.

True or false: The 1,100 Minnesotans with HIV/AIDS, cancer, Crohn's Disease, or less than one year to live who have enrolled in the state's medical cannabis program are actually just ne'er-do-well drug addicts who are having the time of their short lives.

True or false: A bill becomes a law only after it is rewritten by 24 lobbyists.

True or false: Minnesota's legislators specifically exempted themselves from the state's open records law because they are the only elected officials you can really trust.

True or false: Politicians are not influenced by money. The businesses and labor unions that spend millions to back campaigns in Minnesota are just doing that because they genuinely like duplicitous low-lives who would rob their own mothers.


House Speaker Kurt Daudt owes $3,800 in credit card debt. Messerli & Kramer, a law firm that also lobbies for wealthy clients, handles Daudt's case for the creditor, and drops the debt claim without any explanation. If that stipulation occurs in about 1 out of 325 debt cases, how many favors does Daudt owe Messerli & Kramer?

A Minnesota legislator makes a $31,140 annual salary, with a pension contribution of 5.5 percent, plus a 6 percent match from the state. How much will that legislator receive in annual compensation when he or she becomes a lobbyist?

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazzeppa, concerned about an influx of desperate Syrians, is seeking an official state audit of how much it costs to resettle refugees in Minnesota. What are the odds that a guy with a name like Drazkowski is Ojibwe?

Black Minnesotans are significantly more likely than white Minnesotans to not finish high school, live in poverty, be imprisoned, and suffer chronic health problems. How many task forces should be convened to express "concern" about this issue?

Last week, Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, asked of student tuition debt, "How bad, really, is it?" If McDonald asked this question with a straight face, how much student debt do you think he has?

At the end of the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers repeatedly scheduled, postponed, canceled, and rescheduled key hearings for weeks on end. Most hearings and floor sessions were eventually completed in the middle of the night. What percentage of this time did legislative staff spend looking for other jobs?

Essay questions

There are a combined 201 legislators in the Minnesota Legislature. Name the five that actually make all the decisions.

Using the modern examples of Canada, Norway, and Germany, explain how government-run healthcare inevitably leads to poverty, Nazism, communism, and summons the Dark Lord Cthulhu.

Last year, Republican House leaders tried to strip a combined $85 million in state funding from Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth, which vote heavily for Democrats, while sparing any cuts to Rochester, which leans Republican. Explain why you love Rochester best of all.

Minnesota is represented by 10 members in Congress. What do you suppose they do all day?

Heading into the new legislative session, Minnesota had a budget surplus of roughly $900 million. Explain what the state should do with this money. Then tear off your answer, staple it to a $10,000 check, and mail it to the political party you think might like it. (Your idea. Not the check. They all like checks. Know what? Just send a check to both.) 

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