October 19, 2010

Can we pass the test?

We're pleased to once again offer the writings of Lorraine Collins, whose columns are regularly published in the Black Hills Pioneer.  This time, she addresses an issue that we're hearing more about during this election season -- the U.S. Constitution.  Our thanks to Lorraine for sharing her work with us.  You may contact her at Collins1@rushmore.com

There has been some talk lately about changing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that allows anybody born here to be a citizen of our country. Some people  worry about illegal immigrants coming here and giving birth to "anchor babies" so eventually, those infant citizens can grow up and then sponsor their parents for citizenship. This would take 21 years, as I understand it, but those who worry about immigration seem to fret a lot about the ramifications of "birthright citizenship".

Most other developed countries do have some additional requirement for citizenship, such as having been born to a citizen or permanent resident of that country, but I kind of hate to see us starting to dismantle the Constitution because of some current fears. Next thing you know, somebody will decide it's dangerous to have all that stuff in the Bill of Rights about freedom of religion and speech and assembly.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that some of my ancestors were born in America to parents who were immigrants from Europe but were not yet citizens. Their children were "first generation Americans." By now I'm a fourth generation American so I'm glad the birthright citizenship worked for my family.        

Those of us lucky enough to have been born here don't have to take any test to prove ourselves worthy of citizenship but what if we did? What if just being born here didn't entitle us to be Americans? What if we had to pass some kind of test? Could we pass?

Well, there's one way to find out. We can take the test required of everyone who applies for American citizenship. You can find the questions online, and I thought it might be fun to offer a few examples of the questions, so here they are.

            1. What are the first three words of the U.S. Constitution?
            2.What is one of the five rights guaranteed by the 1st Amendment?
            3. How many Amendments does the Constitution have?
            4.How many U.S. Senators and Representatives are in Congress?
            5, If both the president and the vice president cannot serve, who                  becomes the president?
            6. Who is the current Chief Justice of the United States?
            7. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
            8. What are the two longest rivers in the United States?
            9. When was the Constitution adopted?
          10. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?

Actually, it might be a good idea to sit down and take the citizenship test every now and then just to remember some of the history and geography that we may have forgotten since we were in school. Some recent studies have indicated that Americans tend to be woefully ignorant of history and current affairs.  Maybe that's why so many of us are willing to believe practically anything anybody tells us.

Pondering all this, I had another idea and came up with another quiz, in preparation for Election Day. Let's assume everyone can name the two candidates for governor on the ballot for the November election. But who are the two men running for Lt. Governor? What do we know about them?

Do we all know that there are three people running for Secretary of State? Can we name them? How about the candidates for State Auditor, Treasurer, Commissioner of School and Public Lands? What do we know about them and whether or not they'd be any good at the job? 

And what about the ballot issues this year---Amendments K and L, referred law 12 and initiated measure 13? These are the things we should know something about before we get to the voting booth. Luckily, sample ballots are available in several places including party headquarters, the court house and city hall. And there's almost a month before election day to study up.

Those of us who don't have to pass a test to become citizens still have to pass the citizenship test every couple of years in November. 

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