Healey: ‘Understanding One’s Citizenship Responsibilities’ Critical

June 16, 2022

High School Curriculum that Provides Civics Instruction Promotes Unity

For Immediate Release
Contact: Theresa Velardi
(732) 682-8923

MOORESTOWN, NJ — Congressional candidate Bob Healey today asked state’s chief executive to use the power of his office to promote greater public unity through enhanced educational efforts to teach ‘civics’ to New Jersey students.

In a letter to Governor Murphy, that Healey’s campaigned released, the Burlington businessman wrote the attached:

Honorable Phil Murphy
State House
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor:

As a lifelong resident of New Jersey and a business owner, but a first-time candidate for public office, I have observed how the state of civility in public affairs is constantly under assault and, I believe, part of the reason for this breakdown is the high level of civic illiteracy amongst our citizens, especially, our youth.

In the 2014 round of National Assessment testing, a mere 23 percent of U.S. eighth graders scored at or above proficiency in civics; just 18 percent in U.S. history. Many of us have observed the late-night comedians’ ‘man-in-the-street’ skits, where citizens demonstrate a very limited understanding of the U.S. system of government, unable to name the three branches of government, etc.  While it’s always good for a few laughs, it’s really not that funny.

Last year, the New Hampshire State Senate passed a bill that would add civics competency as a graduation requirement for all New Hampshire public high schools. This measure would require all high school students to pass the 128-question citizenship naturalization exam with a 70% to graduate. 

New Hampshire joins some 15 states which have enacted such laws. In doing so, the approach is to apply the INS administered citizenship test to high school seniors as a graduation requirement.   A strong argument can be made for asking high school seniors to do no less than the U.S. asks of immigrants seeking to be citizens. 

In New Jersey, a bill has been introduced in 2022-23 session – A497–to require students to pass a test identical to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services civics test as part of high school graduation requirements. The bill is awaiting action by the Assembly Education Committee.

I strongly encourage you to consider supporting such a unifying initiative and using the prestige of your office to raise awareness to the issue.   Moreover, as the state’s chief executive, I hope you will publicly support such an important change in the state curriculum.  Frankly, if the New Jersey State Board of Education has time to plan and promote the teaching of sexual orientation and gender orientation to second graders – I would hope they have time to address this fundamental civics issue.

Regardless of differences in our party affiliations, I think Democrats and Republicans can jointly agree that a greater understanding of the core principles of American democracy can only help to unite rather than divide Americans.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Bob Healey
Candidate for Congress, NJ-03