Proposed Bill Would Require High School Seniors in North Dakota to Pass Citizenship Test

Immigrants in the midst of completing the naturalization process face many challenges. Among these hurdles is a civics test administered by the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that must be passed by nearly all immigrants applying to become citizens of the United States. The test, comprised of ten questions selected randomly from a list of 100, evaluates the applicant’s knowledge of a mix of topics related to U.S. geography, current events, and U.S. history; to pass, the applicant must score at least six out of ten correct. While some 90 percent of immigrants pass on the first attempt, studies have shown that natural born American citizens taking the same test have a comparatively dismal success rate of about 50 percent. [See Proposed Bill Would Mandate North Dakota High School Seniors Pass Citizenship Test to Graduate, by Christine Rousselle, Town Hall, 02.Dec.2014.]

A proposed bill in North Dakota seeks to address this embarrassing lack of basic knowledge by American schoolchildren. The bill, which is spearheaded by North Dakota’s first lady Betsy Dalrymple, state School Superintendent Kristen Baesler, and the Joe Foss Institute, a nonprofit organization, would require students to pass a 100-question civics test in order to graduate, beginning in 2016. Sam Stone, spokesperson for the Joe Foss Institute, noted that, while most teens can identify the latest pop stars, far fewer can name even one of our nation’s founding fathers or a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Stone said the bill is needed to increase the civic knowledge of young people so that they can “engage in government and take responsibility for their future.” While state lawmakers still need to consider the bill when they reconvene in January, sponsors of the bill hope that similar laws will be enacted in all U.S. states by 2017. [See North Dakota May Require High School Students to Pass Citizenship Test, by James MacPherson, The Huffington Post, 01.Dec.2014.]

Immigrants who dream of becoming U.S. citizens tend to take great pride in being knowledgeable of our country’s government, geography, and history. The same should be expected of those who have been educated in the United States, many of them American citizens since birth. Such an understanding is essential to instilling appreciation for the freedoms that are easy to take for granted, and keeping the American dream alive for generations to come.


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