So You Want to Become an American?
One of my students recently took the naturalization test and was kind enough to share with me the “Quick Civic Lessons” that the government hands out to help prepare for the test. Most questions are terribly easy, but I would suspect a few are hard for the average would-be American:
15. Who Elects the President of the United States?
19. How many changes, or amendments, are there to the Constitution?
28. How many voting members are in the House of Representatives?
38. Who Becomes President if both the President and Vice President die?
67. What was the 50th state to be added to our Union?
72. Name the amendments that guarantee or address voting rights?
75. Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?
88. What U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form is used to apply for naturalized citizenship?
89. What kind of government does the United States have?
90. Name one of the purposes of the United Nations?
93. What is the most important right granted to United States citizens?
The official answers, with explanations, are below (bonus points if you can spot the wrong answer):
Answer 15: The Electoral College
The Electoral College is not a place or a school. It is a process that was designed by the writers of the Constitution to select presidents. It came from a compromise between the President being elected directly by the people and the President being chosen by Congress. Combining these ideas, the American people vote for a “college” of electors, who then meet to choose the President. Today, the people of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia vote for the electors in November. The electors then officially vote for the President in December.
Answer 19: Twenty-seven amendments
The first Amendments to the Constitution were added in 1791. These original ten Amendments are called the Bill of Rights. Since the Bill of Rights passed, 17 more Amendments have been added. The 27th Amendment is the most recent addition. It was added in 1992 and addresses how Senators and Representatives are paid. Interestingly, Congress first discussed this Amendment back in 1789.
Answer 28: There are 435 voting members in the House of Representatives.The House has had 435 members since 1912. Since that year, however, the distribution among the states of those 435 members has changed. This is because the number of Representatives from each state is re-calculated every ten years. New information from the Census is used in this recalculation. If one state gains many residents while another state loses many, the first state could get one or more new Representatives, while the other state could lose one or more. But the overall number of U.S. Representatives does not change.
Answer 38: The Speaker of the HouseThe answer to this question has changed throughout history. At first, following a 1791 law, the Senate President Pro Tempore was second in line to become President after the Vice President. Later, Congress passed a law making the Secretary of State next in line if the President and Vice President died. However, in 1947 Congress returned to the original idea of a Congressional leader being next in line. This time, though, the Speaker of the House was chosen to be the next in line after the President and Vice President.
Answer 67: HawaiiHawaii is the only state completely separated from the continent of North America. There are six major islands and many smaller ones in this state. Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,400 miles from Los Angeles, California. The islands officially became a U.S. territory in 1898. For many decades after this, Hawaiians pushed for Congress to make the territory a state. This finally happened in 1959.
Answer 72: The 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments
The 19th Amendment gave women the ability to vote. It was a result of decades of hard work by the women’s rights movement. This was also known as the women’s suffrage movement. The 5th Amendment was written after the Civil War and the end of slavery. It allowed all American men of all races to vote. Some leaders of southern states were upset that the 15th Amendment allowed African-Americans to vote. These leaders designed fees called poll taxes to stop them from voting. The 24th Amendment made it illegal to stop someone from voting because he or she did not pay a poll tax. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.
Answer 75: All people living in the United StatesOne reason that millions of immigrants have come to America is this guarantee of rights. The 5th Amendment guarantees everyone in the United States equal protection under the law. This is true no matter what color your skin is, what language you speak, or what religion you practice. The 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, expanded this guarantee of rights. No state would be able to abridge, or block, the rights of any of its citizens.
Answer 88: Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization)The Constitution did not clearly set up a naturalization process. It gave Congress the power to create “a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Beginning in 1790, Congress passed laws to govern naturalization. Since then, Congress has changed this process many times. The naturalization exam is a very important part of the current process.
Answer 89: A Republic
In a republic, the power that the government exercises comes from the people themselves. Government is therefore responsible for protecting the rights of all persons, not just a few special people. The way this happens in the United States is through a system of representative democracy. The people freely choose who will lead them and represent their interests. President Abraham Lincoln said our republican government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Answer 90: For countries to discuss and try to resolve world problems or to provide economic aid to many countries
The United Nations, often called the U.N., was established in 1945, soon after World War II ended. The Charter of the United Nations names the main functions of the U.N.: “to maintain international peace and security…to develop friendly relations among nations…(and) to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.” The two best-known parts of the U.N. are the General Assembly, made up of over 190 countries, and the Security Council, with only ten countries. The United States is one of five countries that is a permanent member of the Security Council. The President has the power to choose the Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations. The Senate must then confirm this choice.
Answer 93: The right to vote
No American is required by law to vote, but exercising your right to vote is a very important part of citizenship. This is the case in any democracy. Only by voting can your voice be heard. By voting, you actively commit yourself to the democratic process. Citizens vote to be represented by leaders who share their ideas and stand up for their interests. Constitutional Amendments such as the 15th (former slaves can vote) and 19th (women can vote) greatly improved our democracy. They did this by allowing more groups of citizens to vote
75. Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?
Answer: All people living in the United States. NO! This answer is incomplete. As the Court found in Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), some constitutional provisions, such as the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, also apply to U.S. citizens abroad.