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Could you pass a citizenship test? Most people in 49 states would flunk it, study says

A majority of people in all states except Vermont wouldn’t pass the U.S. citizenship test, a study from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation found. Top states included Wyoming and Virginia, with Louisiana the lowest.
A majority of people in all states except Vermont wouldn’t pass the U.S. citizenship test, a study from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation found. Top states included Wyoming and Virginia, with Louisiana the lowest. AP

Think you could pass a U.S. citizenship test?

It might be harder than you think.

A new survey from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation found that about 60 percent of U.S. citizens would flunk the test.

What’s more, only one state has a majority of people who could pass the test, according to the data from more than 41,000 people.

In Vermont, 47 percent of people would fail the citizenship test, the survey says, while 53 percent would pass with at least a “D.” The second-best state is Wyoming — where 49 percent of people would pass — and South Dakota is right behind with 48 percent passing.

The worst state is Louisiana (where only 27 percent could pass), with Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi rounding out the bottom five, according to the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Even our nation’s capital didn’t fare well, with just 42 percent of people passing.

So what were the questions that tripped people up?

Eighty-five percent of people didn’t know when the U.S. Constitution was written, the study says.

If you guessed 1776, you are wrong — it was actually in 1787.

Don’t know how many amendments there are to the Constitution? You’re not alone: 75 percent of people didn’t know, either.

(The correct answer, if you are wondering, is 27).

A quarter of respondents didn’t know that free speech is protected by the Constitution, which spells it out in the very first amendment.

You can click here to take a practice U.S. citizenship test and see how you fare.

A previous survey from the foundation found similar results, including that only 28 percent of Americans could name the original 13 states and 37 percent incorrectly believed that Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb. That survey was conducted with 1,000 American citizens.

These findings led Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, to issue a striking statement.

“American history education is not working, as students are asked to memorize dates, events and leaders, which the poll results shows (sic) are not retained in adulthood,” Levine said in a press release. “Based on our research, this is not an issue of whether high school history teachers are adequately prepared or whether kids study American history in school.

“The answer to both questions is yes,” Levine continued. “This is an issue of how we teach American history.”

To increase knowledge about U.S. history, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation said it is launching an initiative that includes digital lesson plans to “make American history more interesting.”

“It is too often made boring and robbed of its capacity to make sense of a chaotic present and inchoate future,” Levine said, according to the press release. “Instead, knowledge of American history must serve as an anchor in a time when change assails us, a laboratory for studying the changes that are occurring and a vehicle for establishing a common bond when social divisions are deep.

“This requires a fundamental change in how American history is taught and learned to make it relevant to our students (sic) lives, captivating and inclusive to all Americans.”

Real-Time reporter Josh Magness covers breaking national news and trending news to keep readers of McClatchy’s newspapers up to date with the latest high-profile stories. He previously interned at McClatchy’s bureau in Washington, D.C, while covering the U.S. Congress.
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