Thoughts On Understanding Civics and Citizenship

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Thoughts on Understanding Civics and Citizenship – Michael Doyle

Results from Taking the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Practice Test:

          The practice test was taken three times to see what types of questions were asked and how much these changed with each test.  It seems a well-rounded test that covers geography, political methodologies, rights, responsibilities and history.  It is interesting to note that there are two versions of the test, 2008 and 2020, and that the test is going back to the 2008 format.  The test does seem to gauge how well future citizens understand the reasonable expectations of what to expect from the American government (Kraft & Furlong, 2018).  The broad range of questions also seems geared toward encouraging these potential citizens to become more involved in government to the degree these might wish (Kraft & Furlong, 2018). 

Content to Include Within the Practice Test to Help Citizens Understand Their Role in Public Policy:

After taking three practice tests and noting that there is a separate test for English proficiency, it appears that the content included within the citizenship test is carefully crafted to help future citizens understand the role of citizenship within public policy (Loring, 2013).  Not only are these potential citizens tested as to general civic knowledge but also generalized standard English.  With these skills, these future citizens not only demonstrate more knowledge than some American citizens have demonstrated having but also show the language capacity to engage in assisting in the formulation of public policy.  There is some need to move beyond memorized bits of knowledge, however, if these citizens are truly to understand their rights and duties. It is also suggested that ESL instructors and others might emphasize critical thinking skills as well (Loring, 2013).   That, however, seems as though the academic involved in the study is seemingly wanting to make the citizenship far more complex than necessary. It also begs the question of how such instruction might be less than objective and unduly dive into political under and overtones that are not useful for becoming a citizen with these individuals allowed their own diverse opinions.  It actually seems a bit Orwellian on the cusp of a brave new world.  As such that seems overly intrusive.   Leaving the ESL and basic format as it is seems more than adequate for the function of the citizenship test. 

How Understanding U.S. Civics Helps Citizens to Vote and Engage In Public Policy is:

           Understanding the fundamental nuts and bolts of civics pertinent to the United States is a first step in understanding the complexities of American public policy.  Understanding to at least some degree is necessary to approach voting and engagement with some requisite skills and knowledge of practical matters along side a smattering of history, geographic information and how the mechanics of the American system works.  The ability to go beyond these measures and develop their critical thinking civic matters may help Americans learn to think more carefully and deeply on fundamental rights and responsibilities (Cantil-Sakauye & Luna, 2019).   Understanding civil engagement in the American political system may well be at least part of the way out of the increasing hostility and polarization that seems prevalent in society today.  This in turn may foster the civic virtue and civility that too many have seemingly forgotten. This in itself is a fundamental of the incremental policy making that constitutes so much of how America’s politics and public policy is formulated best (Kraft & Furlong, 2018).


Cantil-Sakauye, T.G. & Luna, C. (2019). Keynote Address at the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement’s Eighth Annual Conference on Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue: Restoring Respect. San Diego Law Review56(3), 521–530.

Kraft, M & Furlong, S (2018) Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. (6th Edition.)

Loring, A. (2013). The Meaning of “Citizenship”: Tests, Policy, and English Proficiency. CATESOL Journal24(1), 198–219.

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About alohapromisesforever

Writer, poet, musician, surfer, father of two princesses.
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