OPINION: Failing the U.S. Citizenship Test

June 28, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Tom Purcell

"It's not my fault I failed the test. It's a lot harder than it looks."

"Ah, yes, you speak of the U.S. citizenship test, which Newsweek recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to complete. Nearly 40 percent failed!"

"That's because the test is riddled with trick questions, if you ask me."

"The test is actually very straightforward. It is composed of 100 questions about government, rights, history and civics. Test-takers are presented with a random selection of 10 questions and must correctly answer six to pass."

"Yeah. Well, why don't we go through some of the questions? You'll understand why I failed it." 

"OK, here goes. What is the most important right granted to U.S. citizens?"

"The right to vote for the guy who promises to give you the most free stuff from the government that is paid for by your neighbors."

"Technically, that is not correct, but your answer is regrettably accurate these days. Let's try some questions about America's system of government. How many branches are there in our government?"

"Four: executive, judicial, legislative and the Federal Reserve run by that Bernanke guy who prints trillions in new money to pay the government's bills."

"Though you are technically wrong again, your answer makes sense to me. Let's try another: What is the U.S. Constitution and can it be changed?"

"The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land! It can be changed by creating an amendment, which is really hard to do. But President Obama has shown there is no need to change it. You can just ignore it and nobody will mind too much."

"Regrettably, the spirit of your answer is correct. What is your answer to this one: What is the U.S. Congress and what are its duties?"

"The purpose of the Congress is to allow 435 people who mostly can't hold real jobs in the private sector to get cushy government salaries and retirement benefits and just enough fame and power to date staffers."

"There are some principled people in the U.S. Congress, but your point is well-taken. How would you answer this: For how long do we elect each of our 100 U.S. senators?"

"Until the law finally catches up with them."

"That's pretty funny. Now name one purpose of the United Nations."

"To create lots of cushy lifetime jobs for foreign people who mostly hate the United States."

"Not bad. Let's try some history questions. Who said, 'Give me liberty or give me death'?"

"I just said that last week to the wife after I had one too many at the pub. But it was also said by Patrick Henry, whose words helped spark America's desire to seek independence from England."

"That is correct. Why did the Pilgrims come to America?"

"They sought religious freedom and, until the Obama administration recently started telling churches what they must include in their government-directed health care policies, religion was practiced freely in America."

"I must admit, sir, that your answers make a lot of sense. Still, the nearly 40 percent of Americans who failed the citizenship test did so because of basic ignorance about America's history and government. That's worrisome for a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Nearly 30 percent of the test-takers couldn't name the vice president."

"I'll bet Joe Biden gets that question wrong 30 percent of the time, too."

Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune- Review.

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