U.S. Law Center

Learning about the rights and duties of U.S. citizenship

Foreign nationals want to become U.S. citizens for many reasons, and some may even have been raised almost exclusively in the United States and feel they belong here already. However, before this dream can become a reality for any immigrants, they must complete all the steps outlined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. According to the USCIS, one of the hurdles is the naturalization test, including a civics portion designed to show an applicant’s understanding of how the U.S. government works, its history and the foundations of the Constitution.

The reasoning behind the civics test is that an immigrant should learn what it means to be committed to upholding the guiding principles of the U.S. Constitution, and how to be a citizen. CNN reports that the study materials from the USCIS provide the information that must be memorized in order to answer the questions correctly. However, many believe that this method does not truly convey the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and that once the test is passed, the answers may be too easily forgotten or disregarded.

Critics of the current method of testing for naturalization have suggested that learning by doing may be a more effective way of gaining an education in civics. They claim that although facts are important, being actively engaged in the system would both teach the true meaning of citizenship, and demonstrate to others that the values and principles of this country have been learned. Research indicates that community service could play a major role in the process and benefit both new and established citizens. 

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