1.03.2007

So U Wanna B a Citizen?

USCIS recently released the questions and answers of the pilot version of a new citizenship test, the one legal residents have to pass as part of their applications for citizenship. USCIS will start testing the exam questions on applicants early this year, hoping to finalize a new exam more angled towards the "concepts of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship". Out of the 144 questions in the pool, applicants have to answer correctly 6 out of the 10 asked of them.

Some people have long wondered how native-born citizens would fare on this exam. So, let's test ourselves. Read the 10 questions below, drawn straight from the pilot citizenship exam, and send a comment with your answers (or wait until I post the answers and send in your score). Also, if you want to send in some snide, funny answers, please do.

1. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
2. What group of essays supported the passage of the Constitution?
3. What is the "rule of law"?
4. What is the longest river in the United States?
5. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
6. What was the major concern of the US during the Cold War?
7. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
8. When was the Constitution drafted?
9. What does freedom of religion mean?
10.Name one thing only the Federal government can do.

[I did handpick these, so they're not random. I could have asked, Who was the first President? or Which sitting member of the Executive branch recently shot a man in the face?]

The point, however, is not the injustice of demanding of new citizens a knowledge of our government than many of us do not possess. After all, we hand them a sheet with all the answers on it ahead of time: To become real students of the USA, they just have to learn by rote, spit out the right responses on test day, and go on their ways, immediately forgetting what they'd learned.

The glaring problem with this test is that it rather boldly attempts to indoctrinate our new citizens with simplistic thought and some debatable, politically motivated answers like "Everyone has the right to bear arms" -- and that several of the answers are, well, wrong.

Steven Lubet illuminates this in a piece at Salon.com, in which he attests that answers to as many as 19 of the 144 questions on the test are incorrect. For example:

"The dumbed-down answers to the pilot questions end up penalizing applicants who actually understand the Constitution. Thus, anyone who wants to guarantee a passing score should probably memorize the many misconceptions found in the USCIS pilot answers, such as the following:

"A member of Congress represents all citizens in that representative's district (wrong; he or she represents all people in the district, including noncitizens).

"Only state governments can provide police protection and fire departments, issue drivers' licenses, and provide education (wrong; the federal government can, and does, provide those services on military bases and in the District of Columbia).

"Elections in the United States are always held in November (wrong; federal elections are in November, but state and local elections -- and federal primaries -- are held in many other months).

"It is the responsibility of U.S. citizens, and only citizens, to vote and serve on juries (idealistic, but still wrong; jury service can be legally required, but voting is strictly optional -- and in any event, noncitizens may be allowed to vote in certain state and local elections).

"Only U.S. citizens may apply for federal jobs (seriously wrong, especially given the context; permanent resident aliens -- meaning pretty much everybody who takes the citizenship test -- are eligible for employment by many agencies of the federal government, including the U.S. Postal Service)."

Lubet also throws in some levity at the end, adding President Bush's theoretical responses to some of the questions. The test does prove good for some laughs, but it also shows that, even in a smaller matter like the citizenship test, USCIS and its system need deep reformation. A legal venue for immigration this flawed deserves much of the blame for our large, undocumented population. Who wouldn't skirt a system this stupid?

(You can find the whole pilot test here.)

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2 Comments:

Blogger wildcherrysara said...

1. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
created the silver dollar with sakajawea (SP?)
2. What group of essays supported the passage of the Constitution?
the protocols of the elders of zion
3. What is the "rule of law"?
a movie with julianne moore and pierce brosnan where they play divorce lawyers but really they're doin' it!
4. What is the longest river in the United States? the nile, duh!
5. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
13 is a lucky number
6. What was the major concern of the US during the Cold War?
coats
7. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
being referenced in lots of hip-hop songs
8. When was the Constitution drafted?
during the vietnam war
9. What does freedom of religion mean?
that religious affiliated organizations don't have to pay taxes
10.Name one thing only the Federal government can do.
decide i'm not allowed to take more than 3oz of liquid on a plane

12:37 PM, January 03, 2007  
Blogger Beth said...

1. Her husband. Oh wait, no she didn't, women's-libbers were all prudes, right?
2. Trick question! People couldn't READ back then!!
3. It's like communism: good in theory, not so much in practice.
4. Don't y'all get dirty, now.
5. To represent the 13 commandments, since this is a good Xian country.
6. Heating costs.
7. Wanting the U.S. national bird to be the turkey. (Hello, hasn't everyone seen the classic musical "1776"??)
8. DUH, the Constitution was never drafted. It evaded the draft and currently resides in Canada.
9. That under the current administration David Koresh could probably get funding for his faith-based initiatives.
10. Get paid to mostly take days off. (Can I get in on that?)

10:46 AM, January 05, 2007  

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