The following appeared last year on this date on SERENDIPITY. You will read about my Columbia-American “family” member below.
Civics 101 by Rich Paschall
Most of us are Americans because we were born here. We did not have to meet any special requirements. We did have to learn about our history and our government, however. When I was in 8th grade we had to take a Civics class. Basically, it taught us how the government works, or how it is supposed to work anyway. We were told if we did not pass Civics and a test on the Constitution, we would not graduate from Elementary School. We studied hard. Never underestimate the power of a nun tapping a three-sided ruler on the palm of her hand to put the fear of God as well as the fear of not graduating in you. You certainly did not want to take 8th grade twice with Sister Angela Rosary. Yes, I went to Catholic school.
In recent years you might wonder if they still teach Civics. There are a lot of people with very little knowledge of our history or our government. Even some of our elected officials have demonstrated a remarkable lack of knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. What if they had to pass a test to be an elected official, or even to be a citizen? How many of them would fail the test?
Those who wish to emigrate to the United States to become citizens will learn that the process is long, hard, and expensive. In the end, you must demonstrate you are a good citizen and pass a Civics test. There are a hundred questions, but you will only get ten. You must get a passing grade to become an American. OK, class, get out your Number 2 pencils and get ready to take your test. These are actual questions asked by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). No, I did not steal them. Practice tests using the actual questions are on the website for applicants to study. Will you become a citizen today?
01. How many amendments does the Constitution have? a). 27 b). 10 c). 23 d). 21
02. Name one problem that led to the Civil War. a). westward expansion b). slavery c). oil d). sugar
03. How many justices are on the Supreme Court? a). 9 b). 10 c). 12 d). 11
04. Who did the United States fight in World War II? a). Japan, Germany, Italy b). Japan, China, Vietnam c). the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy d). Austria-Hungary, Japan, Germany
05. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for? a). U.S. diplomat b). the youngest member of the Constitutional convention c). the third president of the United States d). inventor of the airplane
06. Why does the flag have 13 stripes? a). because the stripes represent the members of the Second Continental Congress b). because the stripes represent the original colonies c). because it was considered lucky to have 13 stripes on a flag d). because the stripes represent the number of signatures on the U.S. Constitution
07. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s. a). Korean War b). Mexican-American War c). World War I d). World War II
08. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do? a). freed slaves in most Southern states b). gave the United States independence from Great Britain c). ended World War I d). gave women the right to vote
09. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? a). James Madison b). Abraham Lincoln c). George Washington d). Thomas Jefferson
10. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in? a). Civil War b). Spanish-American War c). Vietnam War d). World War II
Who is the current President? a). Barack Obama b). Joe Biden c). Donald Trump d). Harry S. Truman
Put your pencils down and pass your tests forward to the angry-looking nun in the front of the room. Please note that if you picked an orange politician for the Bonus Question, you fail even if you got the 10 questions right.
You may have met my friend John right here at the SERENDIPITY gathering place. He has been the subject of a few articles you may have read, although I may have just referred to him as “roomie” or roommate. He was also the inspiration for various characters that have appeared in my stories. I also used pictures of John to illustrate some stories. Some of the pictures for a series of South American short stories were shot from the roof of John’s building in Medellin. He waited thirteen months for a visa to come to America. I collected him at Chicago O’Hare on the day he left his country for good.
He spent years learning English and assimilating into our culture. He had just one goal. He wished to become a US citizen. It was a difficult journey. After his application was accepted last November he studied the 100 questions while he waited for his interview and that Civics test. He was given an appointment in May for an interview and a test. By the time he went, he probably knew history and government better than some Americans. We discussed many of these events, institutions, and politicians as we waited.
One day the letter finally arrived. John had a date at the Everett Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. On June 17th he became an American. Would you have passed the test?
Answer key: 1. a, 2. b, 3. a, 4. a, 5. a, 6. b, 7. b, 8. a. 9. d. 10. d.