Gov. DeSantis showcases his civics knowledge, pushes for a citizenship-type civics exam for all high school seniors

Volunteers unfurl a giant banner printed with the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday directed Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to require all high school seniors in Florida to take a civics exam similar to the citizenship test given to people who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

It wasn’t clear when such an exam would launch in schools; if and when legislation would be required; and precisely what the exam would look like for high school seniors.

DeSantis made the announcement in Naples, stressing that a high school civics exam would be part of a package of reforms for Florida’s academic standards, including civics education and understanding the U.S. Constitution and the principles of America’s Founding Fathers.

How much the current civics education curriculum will change is still not clear to the public.

DeSantis, who graduated as an undergrad at Yale as well as Harvard law, lamented that many young people aren’t able to answer questions about American government and civics.

The governor then moved on to a historical discussion at the podium, mentioning George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, King George III, Alexander Hamilton (citing the blockbuster Broadway play) and touched on the topics of separation of powers, checks and balances, civil rights, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the Cold War.

The civics education issue had become controversial last spring, when the Legislature inserted groups tied to right-wing donors into Florida’s new law on civics education.

The Phoenix wrote about the issue here.



Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.