Archive for February 28th, 2011
Dafna Linzer wrote a piece for ProPublica (I found it on Slate) on February 23rd, titled “The Problem With Question 36” with the subtitle “Why are so many of the answers on the U.S. citizenship test wrong?” (On ProPublica, she called it “How I Passed My U.S. Citizenship Test: By Keeping the Right Answers to Myself“). She was summarizing her experience becoming a naturalized American citizen in January of this year. As you may guess from both titles, she found a few problems with some of the questions on the test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She quotes Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for USCIS:
“The goal of the naturalization test is to ensure America’s newest citizens have mastered a basic knowledge of U.S. history and have a solid foundation to continue to expand their understanding as they embark on life as U.S. citizens.”
I thought of my own short rant I wrote a year ago on my personal blog that I called “They’re testing the wrong people“. I considered rewriting it for here, but I’ll just highlight (and elaborate) a few points in relation to this and not quite in relation:
- We make people wanting to become citizens of the USA take a test that I doubt most natural born citizens could pass. I speculated that many of our elected legislators couldn’t.
- Adoptive parents endure tremendous invasion of privacy, screening and considerable financial impact, yet “natural” parent require no such tests.
- The military requires a test, but Congress doesn’t.
- Civil service may require a test, but Congress doesn’t.
- Boards of Education decree testing standards, but undergo no such tests themselves.
Ms. Linzer’s story might enlighten you, or not, but I now have to add the USCIS – or at least the scholars, educators, and historians they consulted to create the current test – to the list of people who need to be tested.
Lawrence Krauss discusses the most poetic thing he knows about the universe:
The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution – weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.
I just watched an hour of the Academy Awards tonight, and I was impressed with the snippets of movies that were shown (though I haven’t seen any of the featured movies yet). I love movies. I’ve seen hundreds of movies in my life, I’d bet I’ve watched two or three movies per month over my 54 years of life. Many of them have inspired me. I’m glad we have the opportunity to watch well-crafted movies. I should add that I watch almost no live television.
I’m increasingly disturbed about the great number of Americans who know far more about the movies and television they watch than they know about the real world. They know more because they watch dozens of movies every month. They can talk for endless hours about movies, movie stars and even the gossip regarding movie stars. Most people I know have a far greater grasp about movies than they do about any of the big issues facing this country. Movies are as real to them as the world they actually live in.
The following statistics are from the Kaiser Foundation:
Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.
The Academy promotes movies as opportunities to escape, and movies function too well in that regard.
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