The Big Picture: Immigration, Diversity and Social Capital

This month's SCI staff meeting featured a good discussion on the proposed changes to the citizenship test, which all immigrants must pass before they become full citizens of the United States. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the new test

"will continue to be an oral test, conducted in English, and will have 10 questions. Six correct answers will earn a passing grade. But the content, which is tightly under wraps, is expected to shun simple historical facts about America that can be recounted in a few words for more explanation about the principles of American democracy, such as freedom."

Questions have since been posted to the official Citizenship and Immigration Services website, and include:

What type of economic system does the U.S. have?
How many U.S. Senators does each state have?
What is the tallest mountain in the United States?

One of the most obvious issues raised in our staff discussion was that most American-born citizens probably would not be able to pass such a test, in either the original or revised form.

Over at the web magazine, law professor Steven Lubet points out that only certain answers are accepted for each question, even those that may seem more open-ended than others:

"Let's start with the second question, which gets the whole test off on the wrong foot constitutionally. Pilot question No. 2 asks, 'What is the supreme law of the land?' The sole allowable answer is 'The Constitution.' That is only partially right, however, because it excludes at least two other correct answers. Anyone who has read Article VI would know that the supreme law of the land includes the 'Constitution, and the laws of the United States ... and all treaties made ... under the authority of the United States.'"
Read more

Gateway Cities Report

MassINC and the Brookings Institute released an important report today suggesting the important role that 11 "Gateway Cities" could play in the economic and social future of Massachusetts.

Volunteerism said to be at 5-year low

New data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans volunteering decreased by over 4 million between 2005 and 2006, the lowest since 2002.

To mark the five-year anniversary of the establishment of the Freedom Corps, President Bush invited scholars and nonprofit leaders to the White House for a discussion on the findings and what they say about the state of civic engagement in America. The speakers included Professor Robert Putnam, who reportedly


suggested the president do more to help get working-class youths involved in volunteering, the political system, and other aspects of civic life.


The nation risks creating a "caste system" if middle-class children are far more engaged than their less affluent peers, [Putnam] said.


Read more: Philanthropy News Digest, Volunteerism Figures Fall to Five-Year Low, Study Finds, 19 February 2007; Chronicle of Philanthropy, Volunteerism Figures Fall to Four-Year Low, Federal Study Finds, 14 February 2007

Posted by Mike

Harvard and the Real World

I was pleased to read on the front page

Actor promotes civics education

Actor Richard Dreyfuss has been vigorously promoting civics education recently, appearing on ABC's Real Time with Bill Maher and lecturing on civics at Oxford University in England.