The Corner

Testing, Testing

Tomorrow, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will announce a plan to overhaul the civics and history test that virtually all immigrants must pass before becoming citizens. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like a dramatic improvement. The Heritage Foundation’s Matthew Spalding, who was one of the advisors on the new test, tells me: “The intention is to move from a test that encourages rote memorization to one that encourages immigrants to learn important concepts about history and government.”

I’ve written on this subject extensively, in my first book, The Unmaking of Americans, and on the pages of NR–and this is a much-needed and long-overdue reform. Right now, naturalization applicants can pass the test by memorizing 100 specific questions and answers; in the future, assuming this pilot program flourishes the way it should, they will spend more time studying basic ideas about American principles. Two possible questions on the existing test, for example, are:

Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?

When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

These are indeed facts that all Americans should know, but on a certain level they are trivia. The revised test, however, will ask:

Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.

See the difference? The updated test now promises to become a much-improved tool of immigrant assimilation. What’s more, it’s an immigration reform that all conservatives can support, no matter whether they believe in high levels of immigration or want a total moratorium on admissions. Actually, it should be something upon which all Americans can agree–but the new test, sadly, is almost certain to be attacked by left-wing groups that don’t believe there should be any naturalization standards at all. They’ll say the revised test is too hard, unfair, etc. But they’re wrong. It’s just better.

John J. Miller — John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Basta La Vista, Baby

Dear Reader (And especially Martha McSally’s dog), As I often note, I increasingly tend to see the political scene as a scripted reality show in which the writers don’t flesh out the dialogue so much as move characters into weird, wacky, confrontational, or embarrassing positions. It’s a lot like The ... Read More
World

The Brexit Crisis

After what seem like years of a phony war, British and European Union negotiators finally agreed on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU earlier this week, and Theresa May announced it in the House of Commons. The deal covers more than 500 pages of legal and bureaucratic prose, and few but the ... Read More
U.S.

Friends of Elmer

Do you know what scares an American outdoorsman more than a grizzly bear? Twitter. In the late summer and early autumn, the hunting world had its eyes on the courts: The Trump administration had issued new guidance that would permit the hunting of brown bears (popularly known as grizzly bears), including in ... Read More