Foreigners tend to perform better than born Americans in a test administered to green card holders who apply for American citizenship. To become a naturalized citizen in America, after obtaining a green card and meeting other requirements (like a minimum amount of time spent in the US, police clearance, etc.), a Guyanese or Trini green card resident or any another green card holder has to pass an oral exam. The test is on basic American history. However, it is reported in the media that American born citizens have done poorly in the test. Only one out of three born American adults actually pass the test. One would have expected that Americans would score perfectly on the exam since they study American history, but that has not been the case. Green card holders or foreigners outperform Americans on the test on American history for citizenship. A report notes that Americans find this test too difficult for them but easy for foreigners.
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation just released the results of a survey of Americans tested on the citizenship exam.
They survey found that only 13 percent knew when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam, with most incorrectly thinking it occurred in 1776 (year of independence). The constitution was actually ratified in 1788 but took effect in 1789. Some 60% of survey respondents (60 percent) didn’t know which countries (Japan, Germany, Italy) the United States fought in World War II. And it also found that 57% Americans don’t know how many justices (9) are on the Supreme Court despite the ongoing media spotlight on the Court to fill a vacancy. Some 2% of Americans said the cause of the Cold War (between Soviet Union or Eastern Europe and the US or the West) was climate change. A main cause of the cold war was the threat of communist to US interests. The survey found that older Americans did better on the test than younger Americans. Some 74% of those above 65 passed the test as compared with only 19% of those younger than 45 years old. Clearly, the youths are not learning history. And these survey numbers are obtained although 79% of Americans said history was their favored or favorite subject in school.
The Woodrow Wilson Foundation President Arthur Levine, responding to the survey, stated: “Unfortunately this study found the average American to be woefully uninformed regarding America’s history and incapable of passing the U.S. Citizenship Test. It would be an error to view these findings as merely an embarrassment. Knowledge of the history of our country is fundamental to maintaining a democratic society, which is imperiled today. American history is not an academic exercise, and that the future demands it. Americans need to understand the past in order to make sense of a chaotic present and an inchoate future. History is both an anchor in a time when change assails us and a laboratory for studying the changes that are occurring. It offers the promise of providing a common bond among Americans in an era in which our divisions are profound and our differences threaten to overshadow our commonalities”.
The Woodrow Wilson Foundation is suggesting a change in the way history is taught and learned in America.