I’ve decided that it’s really time I learned US history and passed the Citizenship Test. Most intelligent Americans seem to view the test as some kind of joke, but my attitude is the same as my approach to the driving test: I don’t just want to be good enough to pass, I actually think I have a duty to go beyond that and really learn properly.
The same can’t really be said of the average American. In January of this year, Synovate conducted a random telephone survey of 1,000 US adults, with a resulting margin of error of 3%. They found that fewer than 1% of respondents could identify the rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, 17% of them said it mentioned the right to drive a car, and 38% of them thought it gave you the right to “take the fifth”. Also, 21% of people thought the Constitution mentioned the right to own pets.
On the other hand, 20% of respondents could name all the members of the immediate Simpson family, which reminds me of a UK comedy sketch of years ago in which the US immigration quiz was revised to include questions that tested knowledge people actually need to know in order to fit in in the USA—like “Please sing the first verse of the Mickey Mouse Club song” and “Name three items from the McDonalds value menu”.
I have a copy of The Cartoon History of America. ‘m wondering what book to go with after that; suggestions are welcome. I’m also open to CD-ROMs, audio books, web sites, whatever. I’ve been thinking about Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C Davis as an audiobook; it seems to get slammed as “leftist” “liberal rubbish“, so it probably doesn’t just cover the politically correct history the US wants to believe.