Archive for Monday, October 1, 2007

Citizenship test

Unfortunately, new American citizens may know a lot more about our country than those of us who were born and educated here.

October 1, 2007


Probably not many people, even in highly educated Lawrence could match State Sen. Marci Francisco's perfect score, reported in Saturday's Journal-World, on a series of questions taken from the new U.S. citizenship test.

And that's too bad.

In fact, it's a little shocking that a group of Lawrence high school students questioned by a Journal-World reporter had no idea what powers belong to the federal government or how old they had to be to vote. It sort of makes you wonder whether, in the push to leave no child behind in the areas of math and reading, schools have chosen to place too little emphasis on government and civic education.

However, people who went through the school system before No Child Left Behind, weren't faring much better. Apparently forgetting even the 10 amendments that make up the Bill of Rights, one local resident thought five sounded about right for the total number of amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Maybe it's a positive sign that the U.S. system of government runs well enough that most citizens can easily take it for granted. The only problem is that the future stability of our nation depends on people understanding and participating in our democracy.

Any move to require native-born Americans to demonstrate, as part of the voter registration process, some of the same knowledge immigrants must have to become U.S. citizens would be seen as an undue obstacle to voting. But it's a shame that Americans don't care enough to understand their government and how it works. Our democracy is a miracle of human ingenuity that needs our support. Apathy and ignorance probably are the greatest enemies of a system that has survived a full range of political and economic tests in the last 230 years.

Just for fun, everyone should answer the sample questions from the citizenship test in Saturday's Journal-World. Then get a copy of the whole test, and see how you do. If you find some questions you can't answer, look them up. We all might learn a thing or two about the country we love.


Emily Hadley 8 years, 2 months ago

The link to the Saturday story, since they didn't provide it, and it is generally difficult to purchase an old newspaper:

Confrontation 8 years, 2 months ago

Most of us had to learn this stuff at one time or another, even if many have forgotten these U.S. facts. Why shouldn't immigrants have to learn it, too? They only have to memorize it for one day of testing, and then they can forget it like most Americans. It's not that hard, really. They want the "privilege" of being a citizen, so suck it up and take the test. Most high schoolers who don't know these answers are the same ones who flunked social studies, government, history, etc.

denak 8 years, 2 months ago

Immigrants do learn it. I work with two people who became citizens this summer. One was from Mexico and one was from Russia. Both of them were excited and proud to become Americans even though they have to deal with a lot of idiots like Confrontation.

And for the record, they both were here legally. They both are college educated and they both speak English.


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