Civics Lessons for the Fourth
You can become an American citizen by being born in the U.S. or you can become one by getting “naturalized.”
Becoming naturalized is a heck of a lot harder.
It not only means having to meet all the legal and residency requirements Congress has established, it means passing a U.S. civics test that would stump a random cable-news talk show host.
Sadly, based on the results of the civics test they take, naturalized American immigrants understand the uniqueness of their adopted country better that many native-born Americans.
The civics test is an oral exam during which a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) officer asks test-takers 10 questions from a list of 100 possible questions. A passing score requires that six out of ten questions are answered correctly.
Typical questions include: “What does the U.S. Constitution do,” “Name one right or freedom of the First Amendment,” “How many representatives are in the U.S. House?” and so on.
Immigrants in the naturalization process routinely pass the test 91% of the time, demonstrating their strong understanding of our history, the functions of our government and the duties of being an American citizen.
Meanwhile, according to a recent Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation survey, only 40% of native born Americans can pass the same test — a worrisome finding for a representative republic that requires informed and engaged voters so it may thrive.
In 2020 the Trump administration made the U.S. civics test harder.
Test takers were asked 20 questions from a broadened list of 128 possible questions like “Name one of the many things Benjamin Franklin was famous for” and “Name an American innovation.”