By, Dr. Kerris Dillon
As a former public school teacher of high school social studies, I find it ironic the US asks immigrants from other nations to know more about our government than our own citizens. I taught public school for 10 years and was dumbstruck by how little students knew about their own government. It is might hope that they learned quite a bit from me about it, but I taught during Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative where focus was solely on reading and mathematics. The school district that I taught in was consistently on the watch list and therefore the elementary and middle school had to often cut social studies because more time needed to be spent on math and reading.
This was such an enormous mistake because students are lacking basic understanding of geography and government. It is difficult to have a discussion with anyone about political issues because often times, they don’t have basic facts about the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights. I remember having the students complete simulations where cops would attempt to search vehicles and teaching students when it was legal and not legal to have their personal property searched. Wouldn’t American citizens want to know this information? Maybe it’s the fact that I was taught by teachers that lived through the 60-70’s who lived through the Vietnam War, its protests, as well as Nixon’s resignation that made me mistrusting, but I don’t always believe that law enforcement has citizen’s best interest in mind.
Don’t get me wrong! I love the police, law enforcement, the military, EMS, the fire department, and anyone else that serves our nation. I have always taught my students not to blindly believe everything that you are told, though. I lived in an area at one point where a police officer was arrested for bargaining with women that he stopped for oral sex in exchange for not arresting them on drug charges. The powerful tend to prey on those that are younger and less knowledgeable about their rights. It’s hard to get a classroom full of students to understand this, though. As a lifelong lover of history, I always considered the consequences of power and am one of the many citizens that is very worried about the current state of our nation and its democracy.
Nevertheless, I still think understanding government, our rights as citizens, and a basic understanding of civics is important whether we are immigrants or not. If you aren’t politically involved, I just want to emphasize the importance of it within the nation, now. The state of our country is in flux and its important for all voices to be heard so that we can move toward a nation that we are proud of and want to defend. Here is a video that I recently placed on YouTube. It is meant for fun so don’t take yourself too seriously if you watch it. It doesn’t mean you are a bad citizen if you don’t pass it. I just thought you might find it interesting what we expect immigrants to know in order to become citizens.