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The Problem With Question 36

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Filed: IR-1/CR-1 Visa Country: Canada
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Haven't seen this posted here yet...

The Problem With Question 36

Why are so many of the answers on the U.S. citizenship test wrong?

By Dafna Linzer, ProPublicaPosted Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, at 5:52 PM ETLast month, I became an American citizen, a tremendous honor and no easy accomplishment, even for a Canadian. After living here for 12 years, I thought I knew everything. Then I learned how we mint Americans.

After years of steep filing fees and paperwork (including one letter from Homeland Security claiming that my fingerprints had "expired"), it all came down to a test. I passed, and, my fellow Americans, you could, too—if you don't mind providing answers that you know are wrong.

Friends told me I didn't need to study, the questions weren't that hard. But I wanted to and so for months I lugged around a set of government-issued flashcards, hoping to master the test. I pestered my family and friends to quiz me. Sometimes I quizzed my sources. I learned things (there are 27 amendments to the Constitution) and they learned things (there are 27 amendments to the Constitution). But then we began noticing errors in a number of the questions and answers.

Take Question 36. It asks applicants to name two members of the president's Cabinet. Among the correct answers is "Vice President." The vice president is a cabinet-level officer but he's not a Cabinet member. Cabinet members are unelected heads of executive departments, such as the Defense Department, or the State Department.

The official naturalization test booklet even hints as much: "The president may appoint other government officials to the cabinet but no elected official may serve on the cabinet while in office." Note to Homeland Security: The vice president is elected.

Still, a wonderful press officer in the New York immigration office noted that the White House's own Web site lists the vice president as a member of the Cabinet. It's still wrong, I explained. I told her that my partner wrote an entire book about the vice president and won a Pulitzer Prize for the stories. I was pretty sure about this one. A parade of constitutional scholars backed me up.

In fact, the Constitution aligns the vice president more closely with the legislative branch as president of the Senate. Not until well into the 20th century did the vice president even attend Cabinet meetings.

Then there is Question 12: What is the "rule of law"?

I showed it to lawyers and law professors. They were stumped.placeAd2(commercialNode,'midarticleflex',false,'')

There are four acceptable answers: "Everyone must follow the law"; "Leaders must obey the law"; "Government must obey the law"; "No one is above the law."

Judge Richard Posner, the constitutional scholar who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, was unhappy. "These are all incorrect," he wrote me. "The rule of law means that judges decide cases 'without respect of persons,' that is, without considering the social status, attractiveness, etc. of the parties or their lawyers."

So, where do these questions come from?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a department within Homeland Security, spent six years consulting scholars, educators, and historians before the current test was introduced in 2008. The result: 100 questions and answers designed to provide an in-depth treatment of U.S. history and government.

"The goal of the naturalization test is to ensure America's newest citizens have mastered a basic knowledge of U.S. history and have a solid foundation to continue to expand their understanding as they embark on life as U.S. citizens," said Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for USCIS.

During the citizenship interview, applicants are asked a randomly selected 10 questions from the test and must answer six correctly. In addition to the questions, there is a reading and writing test for English proficiency.

My immigration lawyer accompanied me to my interview. In the security line, I told her I was bothered by Question 16: Who makes the federal laws?

Each of the three possible answers, it seemed, was incomplete. The official answers were: "Congress"; "Senate and House (of representatives)"; "(U.S. or national) legislature." I'm not a lawyer but even Canadians watched Schoolhouse Rock. Where, I wondered, was the president, whose signature is what makes a bill into a law?

My lawyer sighed, she agreed. But: "If you get asked that question, just give the official answer," she said. I didn't get that question.

I also wasn't asked Question 1: What is the supreme law of the land?

The official answer: "the Constitution." A friend and legal scholar was aghast. That answer, he said, is "no more than one-third correct." He's right.

Article VI, clause 2 in the Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, explicitly says that three things—the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties—together "shall be the supreme law of the land."

Question 96 asks: Why does the flag have 13 stripes? The official answer: "because there were 13 original colonies." In fact, the flag has 13 stripes for the 13 original states.

Many of the test questions, organized under topics such as "system of government," "geography," and "American history" are correct and informative. Since I'm a reporter, one tugged at my heart.

Question 55 asks: What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy? Among the correct answers: "write to a newspaper."

<A name=p2>At my interview, I was asked questions on presidential succession, the Cabinet, Senate terms, and the Supreme Court. I was asked to name a branch of government. (I went with the executive.)

I was asked Question 8: What did the Declaration of Independence do?

Heeding my lawyer's advice, I went with the official answer: "declared our independence."

I answered six consecutive questions correctly and moved on to the language section of the exam. Native English speakers are not exempt from this section and I was asked to read aloud the following sentence: "Columbus Day is in October."

I was then asked to write a sentence in English. Remarkably, it was the same sentence: "Columbus Day is in October."

Next, I reaffirmed answers I had given on my citizenship application.

Was I a member of the Communist Party? Was I member of a totalitarian party? Am I a terrorist? Although I was born in 1970, I was asked: Between March 23, 1933 and May 8, 1945, did I work for or associate in any way with the Nazi government of Germany? Had I worked at a concentration camp?

The officer who interviewed me, Sandy Saint Louis, had to ask me the questions. But she didn't even look up or wait for my responses. She checked off "No" after each one.

She did pay attention when she asked whether I was a habitual drunkard, a polygamist, a drug-smuggler, a felon, a tax-evader.

My paperwork was in order, my background check was complete. When the interview was over, Saint Louis pressed a large wooden seal into a red ink pad and stamped "approved" across my application. A wave of relief washed over me and my lawyer shot me a sweet smile. Ten days later, when I returned for the swearing-in, a brief and final questionnaire asked if I had engaged in prostitution since the interview. I checked "No."

On Friday, Jan. 28, accompanied by my family, I was among 160 citizens-in-waiting who filed into a 3rd-floor auditorium in lower Manhattan to be sworn in as Americans. On our seats were an American flag, a copy of the Constitution, a booklet featuring the stories of prominent naturalized Americans, and a welcome letter from President Obama.

Reading the letter, I began to cry. I had spent more than one-quarter of my life hoping to become American, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the honor and the significance of the moment. The place I have called home for 12 years was finally claiming me, as well.

I looked around the room and saw other fortunate souls with long journeys now behind them, quietly weeping with joy.

An immigration official asked us all to stand, and to remain standing, when the name of our country of origin was called out. After he read through the names of 44 countries, we were all standing, waving our flags.

Together, we took the Oath of Allegiance and were then seated as citizens of one nation.

Everyone in the room that day had scored a perfect 100 percent on the test and, for fun, an official decided to test us all once more. Who wrote "The Star Spangled Banner"? he asked. Only a few called out "Francis Scott Key," perhaps because that question is no longer on the test. It was prominently removed four years ago.

A newly sworn-in citizen led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. We sang the national anthem and then watched a video message from the president shown at every swearing-in ceremony across the country.

"It's an honor and a privilege to call you a fellow citizen of the United States of America," Obama told us. "This is now officially your country."

There were more tears. At the end of the hour, we received certificates of naturalization and were given instructions on how to obtain U.S. passports.

My family and I left soon afterward. It was 10:30 a.m. and cold outside. We took the subway uptown. Three children got off at three different stops, headed to their schools or the library. We took the youngest up to his school. He walked in clutching his American flag and announced proudly to his teachers that "Mommy is American."

At a party that evening, I displayed the letter from Obama and laid out the flashcards. Over Sam Adams beer and mini-burgers, I spoke about the ceremony and test. The host led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance, my second of the day. Looking around the room, I realized that a significant number of my friends are journalists, writers, academics, and lawyers. It's a nitpicky crowd and during three hours of celebration they noticed additional errors in the questions.

At the end of the night, one of the catering staff gathered up the flash cards and as she held them out to me, she revealed that next month she too will take her citizenship test. I was thrilled. I closed my first day as an American citizen by handing them over to her. "Which ones did you say were wrong again?" she asked. "Just give the official answer," I said, "and you'll do fine."

http://www.slate.com...pagenum/all/#p2


canadaC.gif - Derek usaCa.gif- KJ

TIMELINE

Civil Ceremony - 02/19/2005

I-130 Mailed Out - 02/25/2005

I-130 NOA1 - 03/04/2005

I-130 Approved - 04/07/2005

Pay I-864 - 05/13/2005

Return I-864 - 07/22/2005 *We mailed in the wrong birth certificate which led to a month or so delay*

Family Ceremony - 10/22/2005

Interview in Montreal - 12/22/2005

Activate Visa - 12/25/2005

Move to Virginia - 04/06/2006

Mailed I-751 - 11/02/2007

Received in Vermont - 11/05/2007

Check Cashed by VSC - 11/09/2007

Received NOA 1 - 11/10/2007

Biometrics - 01/10/2008

Card production ordered - 09/10/2008

Card received! - 09/17/2008

Now on to citizenship...

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Filed: F-2A Visa Country: Jamaica
Timeline

Why bother and Judge Richard Posner should kick back the laws are there for him to explain etc. And yes he is not above the law... Officials have been imprisoned including judges - not above the law.


Current cut off date F2A - Current 

Brother's Journey (F2A) - PD Dec 30, 2010


Dec 30 2010 - Notice of Action 1 (NOA1)
May 12 2011 - Notice of Action 2 (NOA2)
May 23 2011 - NVC case # Assigned
Nov 17 2011 - COA / I-864 received
Nov 18 2011 - Sent COA
Apr 30 2012 - Pay AOS fee

Oct 15 2012 - Pay IV fee
Oct 25 2012 - Sent AOS/IV Package

Oct 29 2012 - Pkg Delivered
Dec 24 2012 - Case Complete

May 17 2013 - Interview-Approved

July 19 2013 - Enter the USA

"... Answer when you are called..."

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Colombia
Timeline

Wasn't an issue with my wife or stepdaughter, a hundred questions with a hundred answers, for both, memorized there answers. When dealing with the USCIS, you do what you are told to do, if you don't, won't get to the next stage.

Can question how many days you were out of the country in the last five years, if you are applying for the three year marriage. Or were you a member of the Nazi party in 1933 when you were born in 1989. Today, my stepdaughter is chasing around gathering proof she did pay for her two traffic violations that is not even suppose to be included as evidence. They tossed that in besides asking her to get court records when she was charged with battery when she was 17 months old. So do you argue, or just do it? Had to prove I was a natural born US citizen three times, don't they keep records? Or that my wife and I got married three times, sending in the same marriage certificate we have done twice before.

How many IO's have you met that are giving English tests, but barely can speak English themselves? So far, we ran into two. It goes on and on.

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Filed: Other Timeline

As I have been stating for many years, the US is a country full of idiots. There are literally tens of millions of them, uneducated morons who never got a useful school education and never bothered to catch up or educate themselves in any way, shape or form.

While the worst of them work at the SSA and at many DMV offices, they are also found in many positions of life reaching deep in the the educational system, which closes the vicious circle. It's one reason why a large part of the US electorate is so easy to deceive by malicious propaganda and consequently votes against their own interest and for corporations who are working overtime in taking over the US government and the country in general.

The US citizenship test is an embarrassment for this country; it appears to have been created by a non-English-speaking moron who had no clue about the history of the United States at all. If I were the head of Homeland Security, I would have changed the test immediately, as well as I would have taken care of all the false RFE's USCIS is mailing out. Yet, nobody gives a sh*t, and I would not be surprised if Janet or Obama never even had a look at this.

Fifty years ago, the US was on top of the World, truly #1 in about everything, but since Reagan came into office in 1980 this has been deliberately reversed. Now kids bring guns to school, gangbangers engage in drive-by shootings, Americans buy Chinese products, and this country doesn't produce much anymore. Everything is being outsourced. The only entities you have gained influence and made sick money in the past 30 years are the big corporations, the one that pump millions into politicians' campaigns, and the dumb Americans are sitting silent like frogs in a pot where the water is slowly being brought up to boiling temperature. By the time they realize how they f*cked themselves up the you know what, it's going to be too late.


There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all . . . . The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic . . . . There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.

President Teddy Roosevelt on Columbus Day 1915

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Colombia
Timeline
The US citizenship test is an embarrassment for this country; it appears to have been created by a non-English-speaking moron who had no clue about the history of the United States at all.

Hope you are not referring to Emilio T. Gonzalez, the former head of the USCIS that was in charge when this test was written. A Cuban refugee that helped GWB to get elected that got him that position. Congress let him go after the American Assoication of Immgration Attorneys filed major complaints against him. This happened just before my wife received her citizenship certificate. So hers was signed by the acting director that only did that for a few months.

Did meet my wife after 9/11 when shortly after that, the old INS, Immigration & Naturalization Services was abolished by GWB with that newly created Agency called Homeland Security that the INS became a part of. Orignially formed becaused the CIA and the FBI couldn't talk to each other that would have prevented 9/11 in the first place. So how do you correct agency problems, create yet another agency of course!

But was able at that time to find old INS forms, and they actually made sense! I was so lost with the new forms, had no choice but to hire an immigration attorney. Come to think of it,most of our laws are written that way. Say one thing, mean another.

Lauren Kielsmeier is the current acting duputy directorof the USCIS, apparently a lot more interested in shifting stuff around with lockboxes so even more applications can get misplaced.

Her education is:

"Ms. Kielsmeier earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Community Health from Tufts University. She holds a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University, East Bay."

Isn't immigration dealing with law? But what do I know, I am not a politician. No English degree, but don't even need that to make sense out of the forms and test questions. See nothing as changed since Emilio was dismissed, maybe she hasn't gotten around to reading the forms yet, maybe she doesn't even know the USCIS has forms. Maybe she doesn't know how to read. These are only wild speculations, but one thing I am dead sure on, whoever wrote the USCIS forms, also wrote the IRS forms.

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Canada
Timeline

Interesting article - and why am I not surprised by the errors on the test? Because I had to read through the incredibly poorly written, badly organized, cryptic messages disguised as 'letters' and emails from USCIS during the various stages of my own immigration journey. Their correspondence is an exercise in how not to say anything while making it look like you are saying something. I often thought I should propose to them that I become their official letter writer and prepare standard, intelligible letters for which they can just fill in the blanks as required so when someone received correspondence from USCIS they weren't left scratching their heads and saying, 'huh'? .

Edited by Kathryn41

“...Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

. Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Another Member of the VJ Fluffy Kitty Posse!

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Colombia
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Interesting article - and why am I not surprised by the errors on the test? Because I had to read through the incredibly poorly written, badly organized, cryptic messages disguised as 'letters' and emails from USCIS during the various stages of my own immigration journey. Their correspondence is an exercise in how not to say anything while making it look like you are saying something. I often thought I should propose to them that I become their official letter writer and prepare standard, intelligible letters for which they can just fill in the blanks as required so when someone received correspondence from USCIS they weren't left scratching their heads and saying, 'huh'? .

And hope you never receive a Form N-14 (Rev. 11-26-08)N after your interview. Got into a long discussion with my wife and stepdaughter on what it said and how redundant it is. Must have read it ten times to make some sense out of it. But I hope I read it correctly, see what happens in our response to it. But we are going overboard in our response providing more information than what they are asking for. Just to be on the safe side.

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