Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Could You Earn American Citizenship?

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Could You Earn American Citizenship?

Article excerpt

Students graduating from high school in two states will soon have to pass the test immigrants take to become U.S. citizens. How well would you do?

If you live in Arizona or North Dakota, you will have to pass the U.S. citizenship exam to graduate from high school beginning next year. Students who fail the test--which covers American history, government, and democracy--won't graduate, under new laws approved this winter. Legislatures in 12 other states are weighing similar laws.

Proponents of requiring the test that immigrants must take to become American citizens say that preparing young people to be well-informed and engaged in civic affairs should be a priority for schools. A recent survey found that only 36 percent of Americans could name the three branches of the U.S. government, and 35 percent couldn't name a single one.

"Our high school graduates across the country [should] be able to demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge of civics education as they are graduating high school," says Frank Riggs, a former California congressman who is president of the Joe Foss Institute, a nonprofit group that's urging states to adopt the test.

If you were born in the U.S., you have what's called birthright citizenship, meaning you're automatically a U.S. citizen. But more than 650,000 immigrants become naturalized citizens each year. Applicants must satisfy residency requirements (living in the U.S. for at least five years; three years for spouses of U.S. citizens), have no criminal record, and pass an English test. The final step is the civics exam. Immigrants are given 10 of 100 possible questions and must correctly answer six to pass. Students will have to get at least 60 of the 100 questions right to graduate.

Let's see how you stack up. Though the exam given to immigrants is oral and has open-ended questions, we've simplified it by making it multiple-choice. Try answering these questions from the test. You need to get 15 out of 25 correct to get to the 60 percent pass mark.

American Government

1. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

(A) the Declaration of Independence

(B) the Articles of Confederation

(C) the Bill of Rights

2. What is an amendment?

(A) an inalienable right

(B) a change or addition to the Constitution

(C) a new law

3. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

(A) Congress

(B) the President

(C) the Chief Justice

4. Who makes federal laws?

(A) Congress

(B) the Supreme Court

(C) the Cabinet

5. How many Justices are on the Supreme Court?

(A) five

(B) seven

(C) nine

6. What is one right or freedom protected by the First Amendment?

(A) religion

(B) privacy

(C) public trial

7. How old do citizens have to be to vote for president?

(A) 16 and older

(B) 18 and older

(C) 21 and older

8. How long is a U.S. senator's term? …

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