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Educate yourself on American government

Consider this simple test:

  • Can you name the three branches of the Federal government?
  • Could you explain the separation of powers between those three branches?
  • Can you describe one amendment to the U.S. Constitution besides the First and the Second?

On the U.S. Naturalization Test, the exam that immigrants must take to become citizens, aspiring Americans are asked 10 questions about the government of the United States from a list of 100 prepared questions. In order to pass the test, they must answer six of 10 questions correctly.

Would you pass? How many of our natural-born citizens could pass that test if their citizenship depended on it? As a newspaper reader, your chances of passing might probably be better than most. For the vast majority of Americans, however, citizenship would not be guaranteed.

Take a look at the state of American politics. No matter what your political persuasion, it’s plain to see that things are pretty dysfunctional. Everyone’s got an opinion, and those opinions are being broadcast more loudly than ever, regardless of their basis in facts.

The sad truth is, many Americans don’t understand how their government is designed to work. You can listen all day to talking heads or politicians on TV for answers about the purpose of government, but we would recommend going straight to the source — The U.S. Constitution.

When’s the last time you took a civics class, or actually read the Constitution? For many of us, it’s probably been since high school. Civics today is taught in our ninth grade classrooms, with little in the way of follow up after that.

There need to be more opportunities for adults to learn about civics and government in our country. We owe it to ourselves, as Americans, to understand this country.

So where does one start?

Read the U.S. Constitution. Speak to your friends and neighbors about the Constitution. Pay a visit to the library and check out a book. Consider visiting www.civiced.org, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to civic education for all ages.