This week's citizenship test prep post is the first in a series about the Constitution. The Constitution is one of our founding documents, and is very important not just for American government, but as an example that many other countries have used in setting up their governments.
The citizenship test includes many questions about the Constitution. This week, I'm reviewing the first five of these questions.
Question 31: What is the supreme law of the land?
Answer: The Constitution
Article VI, Section II of the Constitution contains the Supremacy Clause, which says that the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties are the "supreme law of the land". What this means is that state courts must follow what the Constitution and federal law says, and if state and federal law are in conflict, federal law always wins.
Question 32: What does the Constitution do?
Answer: Sets up the government/defines the government/protects basic rights of Americans
The Constitution consists of three basic parts:
1. Articles I through III explain the separation of powers concept. Each of the first three articles describes the responsibilities and powers of one of the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) and how they serve as a check on each other.
2. Articles IV through VI explain the concept of federalism, which is how the system is divided between federal and state governments. These articles also talk about how states interact with each other.
3. The amendments generally discuss two things. Most of the amendments provide for individual rights and liberties (such as the 1st Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition). The rest of the amendments are generally about government procedures (such as the 22nd Amendment, which limits the president to two terms).
Question 33: The idea of self-government is in the first 3 words of the Constitution. What are these words?
Answer: We the People
The founders were making a statement with their word choice in the preamble. "We the People" informs the world that the United States is run for the people, by the people. We are not governed by a monarchy or a dictator, but by a democracy. The people have a voice in their government, and it is the people who make the decisions that govern them.
The above video is from Schoolhouse Rock, which was a television program in the 1970s and 80s that taught children (and adults) about science, math, civics, and history through cartoons and song. When I had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution for 7th grade civics class, I used this video, as generations of Americans have done. Maybe it will be helpful for you to remember the answer to this question as you're studying for the citizenship test!
Question 34: When was the Constitution written?
The Constitution was written in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, which was held in Philadelphia. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, which was a different document of the founding that was a failure in many ways.
Question 35: Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
Answers: (a) print money; (b) declare war; (c) create an army; OR (d) make treaties.
Keep in mind you only need to answer one of these to get this question correct.
a) The federal government is tasked with printing money in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The historical reason for this is because under the Articles of Confederation, each state could print its own money, which led to disastrous economic consequences and impacted interstate trade.
b) Also in Article I, Section 8, Congress is given the power to declare war. This logically makes sense, because we would not want each individual state to be able to declare war on its own without the support of the rest of the country.
c) This section also gives Congress the power to raise an army. The military is the responsibility of the federal government; however, keep in mind that there is no federal police power, because that is left up to the states.
d) Article II, Section 2 provides the president with the power to make treaties. The federal government is given this responsibility, because we would not want each state making treaties with foreign countries that might conflict with the treaties of other states.
I'll be back next week with five more questions about the Constitution. As I said at the beginning of this post, the citizenship test contains many questions related to the Constitution, because it is very important to our country's government!
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