At a lecture in Richmond last week about “Our Constitution: A Legacy of Liberty for All,” Gold Star father, lawyer and author Khizr Khan spoke passionately about this country’s founding documents. Khan, who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1980 with his family, encouraged fellow Americans to read the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the oath of allegiance that new citizens take.
Knowledge of the documents lies at the heart of the naturalization test that people take when applying for U.S. citizenship. Among the requirements for gaining citizenship, applicants must pass a civics test that covers “the fundamentals of the history, the principles, and the form of government of the United States,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The test is given orally to applicants, who must be able to answer correctly six of 10 questions to pass.
How would you score? A national survey released in October 2018 by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only 1 in 3 Americans (36%) could pass a multiple-choice test consisting of items taken from the U.S. citizenship test.
Here’s a sampling of questions, taken from the USCIS website. An asterisk indicates the correct answer.
1) What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
A) Liberty and justice
B) Life and death
C) Life and the right to own a home
D) Life and the pursuit of happiness*
2) Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
A) Because the stripes represent the number of signatures on the U.S. Constitution
B) Because the stripes represent the original Colonies*
C) Because the stripes represent the members of the Second Continental Congress
D) Because it was considered lucky to have 13 stripes on a flag
And our favorite:
3) What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
A) Give an elected official your opinion on an issue and join a community group
B) Vote and join a civic group
C) Write to a newspaper and call senators and representatives
D) All of these answers*
American democracy depends on the active involvement of all citizens. Everyone should know the answers to these fundamental questions about our government and history. It’s election season in Virginia. Remember your civics.
— Pamela Stallsmith