By Anna Muckerman
Every year thousands of people become U.S. citizens by taking the Unites States citizenship test. The 10 questions on the test are taken from a pool of one hundred that potential citizens can review beforehand. Immigrants are tested on basic knowledge of U.S. history and government.
The questions may seem simple but a surprising number of Americans are clueless when it comes to questions like ‘Who is the current vice president?’ or ‘When do we celebrate Independence Day?’ In fact, a recent Newsweek study found that 38 percent of Americans would fail the test.
But why are so many Americans lost when it comes to questions about their own country? In Maryland public schools students complete seven American history and government courses between elementary, middle, and high school. Rex Shepard, the social studies coordinator for Baltimore County Public Schools, believes that students have adequate exposure to the information – the problem lies in their retention.
“One of the reasons why people forget things – why memory fades – is that they haven’t attached the information to anything they think is important or relevant. There’s no personal connection,” he explains.
In order to prevent students from becoming adults who lack this crucial knowledge, Mr. Shepard says that “a different type of emphasis” should be placed on this information in schools.
“In our classrooms, if we can use that opportunity to help students perceive that what they are learning about really is important and it is interesting and that it does affect them, then they are more likely to retain and use that information and apply what they’ve learned in school as adults.”
But what about the Americans that left high school long ago? One solution to help more adults answer these questions correctly lies in the hands of teens.
“Young people could play a very important role when they go home and talk to their parents about what they’ve learned in school and why they think it’s important and ask their parents why they think it’s important,” Mr. Shepard says.
A democracy like America depends on educated citizens. In fact, Mr. Shepard considers the information to be “essential knowledge for citizens who are going to be active and effective”.
To quiz yourself on the citizenship test questions, visit www.citizenshipstudyguide.com , and when you’re done ask your parents a couple questions too!
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