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New Citizenship Test
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New Citizenship Test Proposed

The New York Times had an article on December 1st saying that the federal government has rolled out a new citizenship test to replace the current exam, that simply required prospective citizens to memorize facts, with a better exam, in which they will demonstrate an understanding of the principles of democracy (the article did not specify that they meant the American version of democracy).

The article in the Times referenced the Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website for people interested in reading all the questions. This is a noble service to those of us who earn sufficient money to own a computer and are able to pay for internet connectivity and who read well enough to understand the information. Not so great a service to those who will really need it, in my not-so-humble opinion.

The Times article devoted many paragraphs to the benefits of the new exam, the experts consulted and the careful screening of test questions and test preparations. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Citizenship “has done everything imaginable to make the test more meaningful, but not more difficult.”

The BBC News coverage of the same story was quite different. For one thing, it discussed the difficulties with the new exam as well as its benefits.

And, rather than requiring the reader to go to a website in a separate action, embedded in the article itself were five of the actual test questions and descriptions of several others which will require prospective citizens to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the American political system and its history.

One question caught my interest: Testees will be asked to explain the conditions which led to the U.S. civil war. I wonder how many current citizens could answer that question or these others:
--Why does the United States have three branches of government?
--Name two rights that are only for U.S. citizens.
--Name two cabinet-level positions.
--Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.
--What does the Constitution do?

How many of them can you answer? How many of them could you answer if you spoke English as a second language? Try answering these questions in Spanish or Hindi. Not easy, even in English! Now, pretend that you speak only a little English, have no education beyond the 8th grade and … you get the idea.

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