OKLAHOMA CITY — State lawmakers want Oklahoma students to pass the United State’s naturalization test before they’re allowed to graduate high school.
The test is typically administered by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to all foreign nationals seeking U.S. citizenship.
But many Oklahoma Republican lawmakers believe that all students should start taking the test in a bid to ensure they’re adept at American civics, history, geography and government ahead of graduation.
Under House Bill 2030, which has already cleared the state House, school districts must offer the naturalization test to students at least once per school year beginning as early as eighth grade at the discretion of the school district. Students may retake the exam as often as desired until they earn a passing score of 60 out of 100 questions.
In order for applicants to pass the federal test, they must study a list of 100 questions and answers. A federal immigration officer will randomly quiz them on 10. Applicants must answer six questions correctly to pass.
State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, who co-authored the measure, said he first filed a similar bill five or six years ago as a part of national movement to incorporate the naturalization test into school curriculum.
He said the measure has repeatedly passed that state Senate, but never made it through the House.
“I think this would actually help a lot of students,” he said. “I think this would help them to be informed citizens as they engage civically, as they engage voting.”
Dahm also said when he took the test, he got a 99 out of 100 questions correct.
“I don’t think it’s that complicated of a question or of a test,” he said.
State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, said lawmakers in the building probably need the test more than the students because they’ve passed what he considers unconstitutional provisions.
“I think it’s an unnecessary barrier, but I have no doubt that most of the kids in our classes today could pass the test,” he said. “That’s not my concern. My concern is wasting classroom time, and putting another high stakes test in front of kids.”
He said lawmakers need to spend more time in the classrooms.
“I visit with a lot of kids, not just in the classrooms, but in the community, and I can assure you, the kids are much more well-grounded in a lot of the fundamental civics than a lot of the other folks that I deal with,” Fugate said.
With the way it’s written, Fugate said he envisions a teacher standing in front of a classroom, reading the questions and telling a student how to answer.
“There’s a number of things that make it just completely goofy,” he said.
State Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore, the House co-author, said lawmakers have seen so many examples of young people who don’t know how government is structured, which suggests that maybe they’re not learning what they should.
“This seems like a pretty clean way of examining that,” he said. “If you’re immigrating to this country, and you know nothing about it, other than you want to come here, and you can pass such a test, then perhaps everybody else in the country ought to be able to do that, too.”
He said if Oklahoma school kids can’t graduate because they don’t know the basics of civics, then the state has bigger problems.
Still, Lepak said he’d be open to alternatives that ensure Oklahomans understand the three branches of government, who the president is and “all the things that are so simple on the test, and somebody in the political world down here finds second nature.”
Lepak said he took a sample test several years ago and got all the answers correct.
Sample questions for U.S. naturalization test
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What does the Constitution do?
3. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
4. What is the economic system in United States?
5. What is the “rule of law.”
6. “What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
7. Who lived in America before Europeans arrived?
8. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
9. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
10. Who was president during World War 1?
11. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
12. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
13. Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
14. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
Answers (though there may be additional correct answers, applicants should use the answers below to be correct):
1. The Constitution
2. Sets up the government, defines the government and protects basic rights of Americans
3. Speech, religion, assembly, press, petition the government
4. Capitalist economy, market economy
5. Everyone must follow the law; leaders must obey the law; government must obey the law; no one is above the law
6. Give up loyalty to other countries; defend the Constitution and the laws of the U.S.; obey the laws of the U.S.; serve in the U.S. military (if needed); serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed); be loyal to the U.S.
7. American Indians; Native Americans
8. (Thomas) Jefferson
9. War of 1812; Mexican-American War; Civil War; Spanish-American War
10. (Woodrow) Wilson
12. Civil rights (movement)
13. Cherokee; Navajo; Sioux; Chippewa; Choctaw; Pueblo; Apache; Iroquois; Creek; Blackfeet; Seminole; Cheyenne; Arawak; Shawnee; Mohegan; Huron; Oneida; Lakota; Crow; Teton; Hopi; Inuit
14. Missouri (River); Mississippi (River)
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services