Archive for Saturday, September 29, 2007

Do you know enough to be a citizen?

September 29, 2007


New U.S. citizenship test released

Do you know any of the writers of the Federalist Papers? That's just one of the questions on a new test for U.S. citizenship released Thursday. As 6News reporter Jonathan Kealing shows us - most Americans may not be able to pass this test. Enlarge video

How many amendments are there to the U.S. Constitution?

Who wrote the Federalist Papers?

If you didn't know the answers, you could fail the new version of the U.S. citizenship test, unveiled by the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services office.

The test, updated periodically, has come under fire because it's too hard. And, because it's too easy.

Don Haider-Markel, a Kansas University political science professor, said both the old and new tests do a good job of evaluating an immigrant's civics knowledge.

"Old questions were difficult enough; this isn't that big of a change," he said. "Even with the new questions, there were plenty of difficult questions on the test that the average citizen would have trouble with."

Boy, is he right.

A stop in South Park on Friday revealed that the average Lawrence resident knows when tax returns are due - April 15 - but doesn't have a clue as to how many amendments the Constitution has.

"I want to say five, but I want to say more," said Elizabeth Reed, Lawrence. "I don't know, I've been out of school for five years."

Reed wasn't the only one to have trouble. One group of Lawrence High School students downtown was able to name several national holidays, but that's about it. They had no idea what powers belong to the federal government or how old you had to be to vote.

The popular answer there? 16. But according to the 26th amendment, voting age is 18.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, was one of few elected officials who responded to calls to see how well they would do on the citizenship test. She did the best of everyone quizzed, a perfect 12-for-12.

"I think as much as new Americans or any Americans can learn about how government works, that's helpful. Because, in fact, we govern ourselves," Francisco said. "You always do better at your job if you know some of the rules and some of the history and some of what's gone on."

While Francisco could pass the citizenship test, it's a lucky thing it's not a requirement for those born in America. No one else did better than 50 percent.

OK, here are the answers to the above questions: the Constitution has 27 amendments; and Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers.


tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years, 8 months ago

Lucky for me that I don't have to know anything to be a citizen. Unlucky for the rest of you (that I don't have to know anything to be a citizen).

bastet 10 years, 8 months ago

I have witnessed several citizen naturalization ceremonies, and I know that in that room are a hundred or more people who have made a clearer choice about what they value in the world than the next hundred people I will encounter on the street when I walk out of that court house. When you value someting enough--i.e. US citizenship--you'll do what it takes and be the better for it. Sadly, we native-born citizens do not value our citizenshhip enough to become actively engaged in it. Not a new reality, I'm afraid. If families don't demonstrate this value in the home, even wonderful schools and teachers can do only so much for their apathetic students.

PeteJayhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

5 Amendments? Wow, I hope Elizabeth Reed doesn't have kids, because we don't need that sort of stupidity replicated in the world.

jayhawkjg 10 years, 8 months ago

Speaking English should be a given. This is America, we have always spoken English. ALL citizens should speak it also.

davidnta 10 years, 8 months ago

FYI, English was not always an dominant language in this country/area. Before the colonists, there were millions of Native Americans with many different languages, Louisiana territory was French speaking (and parts of it are still (Creole) French speaking, and the former territories of Mexico covered states such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, and people spoke Spanish and various Native American languages. What about German settlers in Kansas? We have a huge German immigrant population in Kansas and why is no one complaining about them?

With that aside, a lot people come here and they do learn English. This paranoia about us losing a language is unfounded and a bit racist. You have children of immigrant parents who pick up English so quickly that relatives wonder why they weren't speaking their native tongue anymore at the dinner table. People should be encouraged to learn and speak a different language.

Ray Miller 10 years, 8 months ago

"We have a huge German immigrant population in Kansas and why is no one complaining about them?"

Because they're not demanding government documents in German!

coolmom 10 years, 8 months ago

i know enough about my country to have served in her armed forces, to vote at every election, to pay my taxes and to buy american as much as possible.

waydownsouth 10 years, 8 months ago

When you place a phone call to almost any business its press 1 for english 2 for spanish. Never do i hear press 3 for french and 4 for german. In mexico do they have press 2 for english? What you speak in your own homes is your right. In my home we speak english with german mixed in. My kids know in public they speak english. Those who want to be american citizens try and study very hard for the test. They must be able to read ,write and speak english. And even with strong accents try to speak the language. The rest don't care they feel like its there right to be here and dissrespect our country. Those that do things the right way and try i give full props to.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

The education system in the US is so inept, so irresponsible, so incapable of delivering the product of basic education, meaning reading, writing, and math, that, in my industry, the people who are responsible for hiring and training new recruits (new graduates from our so-called institutions of higher education) are busily purchasing video training programs for newly hired employees that will, hopefully, cover what they did not learn in high school and college. Why do these employers need to hire these educators? It is because the newly hired college graduates cannot comprehend, nor transmit, the written word, nor can they do basic math.

teachr2937 10 years, 8 months ago

Don't know if it is really true, but I was taught a long time ago that English was voted to be our official language by just one vote. German was the runner up.

Because of WWI, my grandmother's family quit speaking German in public & started teaching the parents to speak English in the house. Hard to believe WWI is 90 years ago already.

My students from Africa, Asia, & of Hispanic heritage do their best to learn English, but consider that my school's English as a Second Language teacher speaks no foreign language, and that students usually only qualify for ESL for 2 years.

We who are born in English speaking households didn't learn English in 2 years, & by the looks of the spelling, grammar, punctuation & capitalization rules in these comments some of us need more lessons.

Then also stop & think of how hard many of our governmental documents are understood by us English speakers? How many people don't do their own taxes because they don't understand the instructions? I can do my own taxes, & I wish I had the documents translated into something more understandable. If the documents were written in the type of English we speak, we would all be better able to understand them.

Not speaking English is not showing disrespect to our country. It is showing respect for their heritage... just like orange Swedish horse decorations, perogies, Mardi Gras & Christmas decorations, bagels, pizza, shamrocks, madonnas in the front yards, & these wierd looking large- beaked blue & crimson birds we plasster everywhere in this town. If we can forgive those flying Nebraska flags & wearing purple wildcat clothing, we should be able to accept people speaking other languages.

I was in San Francisco this summer. On my mile walk to China town, I heard at least 7 different languages being spoken. & I didn't notice any "send them back where they came from" attitudes around Chinatown despite that signs were bilingual (& some trilingual). Folks were going to the area to check out this diversity.

Being in San Francisco sort of reminded me of going to our Mongolian Barbecue place & seeing Native American, Black & Hispanic families, too. Once I heard German & 2 or 3 other languages being spoken. It is what makes America so wonderful.

& where else can a person get chinese flavored pizza & mexican flavored egg rolls than in America? Our diversity is what makes living in this country fun. So chill out, grow up & learn to get along...

Besides whites & English speakers will be outnumbered before too long according to demographers. Perhaps it is time to learn their languages too?

teachr2937 10 years, 8 months ago

Just read Godot.

I teach inner city high school. The kids come to us reading way below grade level & we ask, "what did the younger grades do?" & the younger grade level teachers do the same until we get to the kindergarten teachers who say... "Did the parents teach their children nothing?"

I used to run a preschool. I had kids of all races who knew more about power rangers & ninja turtles than they did about dirt & bugs & colors & shapes & using kleenex & toilet paper. Today it is probably the rude disrespectful & vulgar spongebob & Simpsons that they know better.

Here's my suggestion to all parents. Read to your kids. Talk to your kids. Play in the dirt & water with your kids. Use actual recipes & have your kids do the measuring. Work with wood or material & have your kids do some measuring. Do board games, strategy games, money games. If you watch tv, watch it with your kids & talk about the shows. Predict, analyze characters, ask why that type of music, why those clothes, why that weather? & Watch the news. Today's news is history by the time they graduate.

If your kids are used to thinking, they will learn. If they are used to sitting like lumps on logs, then teachers can not teach them all they need. Heck, teachers can't teach all they need. Every year there is more history; every year there are new "have to read" books; every few years something like having to learn to type is moved to elementary school when it used to be a highschool elective. Lately its learning to handle money. There are only so many hours in a school day and year. If something new comes in, something old has to lose time.

When will parents go back to doing some of the teaching & push their kids to actually do homework? Yes, I know it's hard... I've got a slacker student of a child myself. But he knows where I stand, & he knows his behavior has lost him many privileges & extra curriculars. Extra -curricular activities need to stay as EXTRA, not as fundamentals like so many soccer, softball, dance & football families tend to think.

By the way... C = average, and that is just knowing 70% of what a teacher tries to teach come test day. It doesn't mean knowing 70% of the tested stuff two weeks later, let alone 2 months or 2 years later. If we don't use the knowledge, we lose it fast. Now thing of this, many of my students are satisfied with a D--- it's passing, ain't it? Then I ask them if they want their waitress, plumber, electrician, car mechanic, doctor & lawyers to only get it right 60% of the time. A few put in some renewed effort, but not all. Cuz life is just about getting by with the least amount of effort possible, that's why the term couch potato exists.

Emily Hadley 10 years, 8 months ago

Yep, my LPR friends are always horrified when I say something ignorant... they, however, often have been misled and undereducated about their native governments in school as well. One friend from Mexico told me that in her elementary school in Southern Mexico, they were taught that Zapatistas were 'crazy terrorists', and nobody had any idea about the history of colonialism or native culture, beyond celebrating Dia de Cristobal Colon and Dia de la Raza.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.