Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Americans Fail ... Their Own Naturalization Test

Yup, it's embarrassing when -- as this column points out -- Americans can't pass their own naturalization test.  Drawing from the column, which drew from a Newsweek article:
  • 29 percent couldn't name the vice president
  • 73 percent couldn't correctly identify the reason for the cold war
  • 44 percent couldn't identify the Bill of Rights
  • 6 percent couldn't circle Independence Day on a calendar
The original Newsweek poll is here with a headline that asks, only somewhat rhetorically, How Dumb Are We?

Obviously this begs the question on how important it is to know these various factoids to participate meaningfully in a democracy.  The easy answer is yes, it's important.  The hard answer is -- perhaps not.  Is it rational to spend time and money to keep up with all this stuff when a single vote may not make all that much difference?  Is it even rational to spend time and energy voting?  These are Downsian approach questions beyond anything I'll try to get into here.  But even if you do believe in rational approach, you have to be at least kinda embarrassed by the numbers above.

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