A bipartisan group has launched an effort to make sure Missouri’s high school graduates know as much about their country and its system of government as immigrants know when they become citizens. They recall a time when Civics was a course taught in high schools.

Backers of the Missouri Civics Education Initiative point to studies showing a need for a return to civics education.  The Pew Research Center says two-third of Americans cannot name the three branches of government. Studies show less than four percent of Oklahoma and Arizona high school students could pass the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services test that 92 percent of immigrants pass on their first try.

The group wants every Missouri high school student to pass that test before they can graduate.

National campaign director Sam Stone says Civics has gotten lost in the push for STEM subjects–science, technology, engineering, and math. “We’re just saying this is absolutely equally as important [as] those subjects.”

He says when citizens don’t understand how government works and who we are as a nation, they’re not likely to vote or take part in intelligent policy decisions, thereby failing their states and the country.

Former Governor Bob Holden, one of the co-chairmen of the effort, says understanding the American system of government is “fundamental to the well-being” of the country and its states.

AUDIO: conference call 24:21