I'll Take Irrelevant Citizenship Exams for $400, Alex

Quick. How many amendments does the Constitution have? Time’s up! What about—What is Benjamin Franklin famous for (besides anything having to do with kites, bifocals, pot-belly stoves and c-notes)?

In the words of John McEnroe: You cannot be serious?!

If you’re still scratching your head and wishing you paid more attention in 7th grade history class, imagine now if you were an immigrant and knowing the answers to these questions and others like them could determine whether or not you earned the right to become a citizen. The SAT’s never looked so good.

Unfortunately, you’ve got company. In an informal survey of nearly 250 people conducted by People For the American Way Foundation in New York City this past week, more than 50% of respondents failed a simulated 10-question naturalization exam composed of 80 new questions released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a proposed new version of the exam set to be piloted in 2007.

Respondents averaged a failing 5.4 correct answers per exam. (None knew that the Constitution has 27 amendments.) For those attempting to earn citizenship, it takes 6 out of 10 correct—and no, it’s not multiple choice. If you think you can do better, take the test yourself!

It’s yet to be shown how knowing the tallest mountain or the current minimum wage—both new questions on the test—has anything to do with one’s fitness for citizenship; picking up a yellow wedge in Trivial Pursuit, perhaps. (It’s also telling that 96% of test-takers guessed the minimum wage was higher than it really is…maybe it's time for a raise?) Is knowing the longest river in the U.S. considered a “fundamental concept of American Democracy,