They’re still testing the wrong people.

| February 28, 2011 | 2 Replies

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Adoptive parents endure tremendous invasion of privacy, screening and considerable financial impact, yet “natural” parent require no such tests.
  3. The military requires a test, but Congress doesn’t.
  4. Civil service may require a test, but Congress doesn’t.
  5. 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.

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Category: American Culture, ignorance

About the Author ()

Jim is a husband of more than 27 years, father of four home-schooled sons (26, 23, 16 and 14), engineer delighting in virtually all things technical, with more than a passing interest in history, religions, arts, most sciences (particularly physics) and skepticism.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Jim: Good points. My wife and I adopted twice, which inspired me to write this long-titled post: http://dangerousintersection.org/2007/04/03/would

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    I remember the grumbles of my father as he explored the differences between the correct answers and the acceptable ones when my parents ran the citizenship gauntlet.

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