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Tucker: High school citizenship tests and Godaddy’s ad

Posted: January 29, 2015 3:51 p.m.
Updated: January 30, 2015 1:00 a.m.

Things I promise not to write about today:

• Under-inflated footballs.

• Why the weather forecasters got the blizzard predictions wrong for New York City.

• Tiger Woods’ missing tooth.

• Whether Mitt Romney will run for president.

• The bankruptcy of Skymall.

• Drones landing on the White House lawn.

***

Here’s a pretty basic idea:

Kids who graduate from American high schools should know at least as much about how our nation’s government operates as do immigrants who try to pass our country’s citizenship test.

That’s fairly simple, and it makes good sense. An informed electorate is a bright electorate, right?

Not so fast.

In Arizona, which has become the first state requiring its high school students to pass the citizenship test (several other states have similar bills before their legislatures), a backlash among teachers has already sprung up). 

Some Arizona teachers say they don’t want another standardized testing barrier. And an education professor at the University of Wisconsin says, “If all we’re asking students to do is answer very simple questions, we’re not going to be working on the complex understanding that I think students need in order to participate well.”

Sounds like a professor, eh?

Others criticize “rote memorization.”

But Frank Riggs, a former congressman who’s pushing such bills, says, “I’d argue that our secondary schools have no greater mission than to prepare our young people to be informed, engaged citizens.”

The citizenship test asks basic questions nearly everyone should know. But many don’t; a survey last year by the Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed more than a third of respondents could not name a single branch of the U. S. government.

And the “rote memorization” that ivory tower professors love to criticize works pretty darned well in many instances. Some things, like multiplication tables, just need to be memorized. Simple. Slam dunk.

Knowing how government operates is a pretty important part of being a good citizen. If we can’t rely on our schools to help teach it, then who?

***

Hey, let’s stir things up a little bit.

(Full disclosure: you need to stop reading now if you are a political correctness devotee, you’re enthralled with PETA -- People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals --  and you have absolutely no sense of humor.)

GoDaddy, the web hosting company, had a clever tongue-in-cheek ad ready for the Super Bowl.

It showed a puppy falling out of the back of a pickup truck, then trudging through all sorts of terrain and terrible weather, trying to make its way home.

Heartstrings were pulled. Viewers were ready to weep as the little fellow found his way and headed towards a barn, his obvious home.

As he entered the barn, a woman exclaimed, “It’s Buddy” and the pup rushed into her arms. She said, “I’m so glad you made it home … because I sold you yesterday on my Godaddy website.”

And she yelled to a guy in a panel truck, “Ship him out.”

It’s not what you were expecting, but it’s funny and eye-catching.

But -- disclaimer coming --  that assumes our country has not largely lost its sense of humor and replaced it with a sense of indignation, which we have.

Godaddy was besieged by angry Americans who screamed that the ad was insensitive to animals, degrading, horrific, blah, blah, blah.

If the ad had pictured some seamy puppy mill, critics would have been right. But it didn’t. The conditions appeared to be ideal. It was just an ad about a cute puppy and a website with a clever twist at the end.

But we Americans are determined to be mad about something. Not merely mad, but outraged.

I like pets. Like puppies. Have even learned to tolerate cats. Deplore those who abuse animals.

But this ad was harmless. As you might guess, Godaddy caved in and pulled the plug on the ad, which just opens the door for the next time we get outraged about something that’s innocuous.

 

OK, rant’s over. Have a nice weekend. And if you don’t have a sense of humor, remember to find at least three things which will make you chew nails.

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