Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Each year, tens of thousands of would-be American citizens set out to conquer the U.S. citizenship test. To do so, they must be prepared to answer 10 fact-oriented questions about American government, history, and geography selected by a naturalization examiner from a master list of 100. A score of six correct answers earns citizenship. Consequently, aspiring citizens memorize the number of Amendments to the Constitution, the branches of government, the names of three of the original American colonies, and the location of the Statue of Liberty. Most immigrants pass.
This article seeks to understand the roots of the memory test that currently serves as America’s gauge of fitness for citizenship. In looking back over 100 years of history, it seeks to explore how a once highly pluralistic approach to education and an anxiety-producing system of testing conducted by naturalization courts became what we know today. By asking how we got here, it also implicitly asks whether we want to maintain this status quo or seek out change."