Without Googling it, can you answer the following question: Who was President of the United States during World War I? If you thought Woodrow Wilson, you were correct. However, the distressing truth is that, according to a 2015 article in National Review magazine, 79 percent of adults born in the United States (U.S.) cannot correctly answer that question, or many other U.S. civics and history questions on the test given to become a citizen of this country.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Naturalization Test is given to immigrants trying to become U.S. citizens. It is understandable that people who have not lived in this country might not be able to answer such questions without studying about our government or the U.S. Constitution. Those who take the test pass by correctly answering just six of 10 questions. According to that same National Review article, 91 percent of applicants who take the citizenship test pass.
The problem of civic illiteracy is just as troubling at the middle and high school levels. According to a The Nation’s Report Card.gov website, in 2014, only 23 percent of students tested demonstrated proficiency in civics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress; 18 percent demonstrated proficiency in U.S. history. A 2015 article in Education Week states that the problem has become such a major issue, eight states have passed laws requiring high school students to pass a citizenship test as a graduation requirement. (Maryland is not one of the eight states with this requirement.) At the local level, MSJ requires successful completion of a U.S. History course, and there are electives that focus specifically on government and the Constitution.
If U.S. civics and history content is being taught in schools, why is the gap in knowledge so large for so many? One theory is that students and adults find civics and history boring. Enter the Solutions Showcase project, “Model Citizen.”
Model Citizen is a board game designed to serve two general audiences: native-born citizens and those who wish to become citizens. Model Citizen can help potential citizens by studying for the citizenship test because the game questions come from the USCIS study guide. The game also can help native-born citizens who never learned, or forgot what they learned about U.S. civics and history. The game can be used in middle schools, high schools, activity centers and at home — or anywhere that people like to play a good board game!
In the game, people move their tokens throughout a path of tiles that indicate questions to be answered or movements to other board spaces. Categories include red “U.S. Civics” questions, white “Ben Franklin’s Lightning Round” questions, and blue “Justice” cards based on luck. The first player to complete the path is the winner — he or she becomes a “Model Citizen!”
Model Citizen was purposefully developed into a board game instead of a video game to accommodate a wider age range and to make it easier for multiple people to play at one time. Some people might ask, “With all the educational social studies games out there, how will Model Citizen be any different?” Upon researching comparable games, no board games were found that were based on content from the USCIS citizenship test.
Hopefully, the work on Model Citizen will make a difference to educate, or re-educate, people of all ages about U.S. civics and history in a fun way. Then, maybe more people will believe that “history’s got game!”
Written by freshman Anthony Bibbo as part of his Solutions Showcase Project.
Categories: Solutions Showcase