The New York Times (registration required) reports on recent efforts to rewrite the test of American citizenship:
In an effort to improve the quality and fairness of the citizenship test taken every year by hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the government is overhauling the naturalization exam.
Like the current exam, the replacement will test applicants in two areas: proficiency in English and knowledge of United States history and government. A major intent is to make sure the exams are administered uniformly. The new test will also try to ensure that prospective citizens understand basic concepts of American democracy and are not merely reciting facts by rote…
This raises all sorts of alarms in my mind. The rewriting of the test seems to rest on a false dichotomy between “merely” memorizing facts and understanding basic concepts. It’s hard to do the latter without the former. Then there’s that word “fairness.” Which, in the context of any type of testing, usually translates into: “dumbed-down.”
The Center for Immigration Studies convened a panel on the new test design earlier this month. Transcript is available here. More from John Fonte here on the dumbing down of citizenship. The Washington Post reprinted 100 sample citizenship test questions from 1996 here (scroll to the bottom). And Rosemary Jenks details how citizenship testing fraud was rampant under the Clinton-Gore administration. Plus: Kimberly Swygert’s thoughts here.
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