Will New Citizens Meet The Test?

Immigrants take the oath of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, 5-17-06
The federal government recently came out with a new citizenship test, because the feeling was that to pass the old test, prospective citizens could just memorize facts rather than understand principles. For example, on the old test, they might've been asked the question, "How many stripes are there in the flag?" On the new test, they may be asked the question, "Why does the flag have 13 stripes?"

Here are a few examples of the questions on the new exam:

  • How many amendments does the Constitution have?
  • Do non-citizens living in the United States have the right to bear arms?
  • Who becomes president if both the president and the vice president can no longer serve?
  • How many members does the House of Representatives have?

    Not so easy, huh? I hate to think what would happen if all current U.S. citizens had to take the test.

    But in addition to making the new exam harder, I think they should make it more relevant. I'd like them to include questions that would indicate a greater understanding of America, so these new Americans will be able to be fully informed citizens. For example:

      Q: What is the "two-party" system?
      A: It's the system in which one party is held after a political group wins an election, and the second party is held when they gleefully decide to exclude those from the other political group from participating in anything meaningful.

      Q: What are the three branches of the federal government?
      A: Lately, that would be the Presidency, the State Department, and the Department of Defense.

      Q: Which of the 50 states lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?
      A: Hawaii, and, let me look out the window for a second ... Yep, California's still attached.

      Q: What does "Separation of Church and State" mean?
      A: It means that religion and government should be separate, except when politicians are pandering to the large bloc of religious extremists.

      Q: What is "bipartisanship?"
      A: That is a way to participate in government that the party not in power always asks for.

      Q: What is our system of "checks and balances?"
      A: This is a system in which politicians receive big checks from powerful people and still try to balance their books.

      Q: Regarding the war in Iraq, what is the difference between the "cut and run" approach and the "reasonable exit strategy" approach?
      A: There is no difference. One just sounds worse, so that's what they say their political opponent believes in.

      Q: Even though the nominees have already been determined before then, why do the Republicans and Democrats still hold political conventions every four years?
      A: They're just being responsible. If they canceled the conventions, the silly hat industry would go out of business.

      Q: Why have former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush been hanging out with each other so much lately?
      A: Some people will do almost anything to get out of the house.

      Q: My son recently had a partially used tube of toothpaste confiscated at an airport checkpoint. Was this over zealousness on the part of the inspector?
      A: Absolutely not. It turned out that they didn't just get him for "possession," but it was "possession with intent to brush."

      Q: What is the meaning of the term, "distrustful immigrant?"
      A: A "distrustful immigrant" is someone who wants to become a citizen after you and your family have already become citizens.

      Q: Can a poor person be elected president?
      A: Of course, just not of the United States.

      Q: Who decides when members of Congress should get a raise?
      A: Members of Congress.

      Q: Isn't that a conflict of interest?
      A: Not by Congressional standards.

      Q: Why is it so hard to get people to vote in American political elections, but TV shows like "American Idol" seem to have no problem getting people to vote?
      A: When more politicians do things worthy of applause, maybe more people will vote.

    So, I think that if there were questions like the ones above, new citizens would be better prepared for their responsibilities as new Americans. Oh, I almost forgot one:
      Q: Since our enemy usually becomes our friend after we fight them in wars, why don't we just skip the wars?
      A: This sounds like something a naïve child would ask. In other words, it's something we should think about.

    Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover, but every single one of them in English.

    By Lloyd Garver