Trivial Pursuit

If you were walking through City Hall Park earlier this week, you might have been stopped by an earnest young survey taker who had some questions about U.S. history, geography and civics.

“What’s the tallest mountain in the United States?” (Mount Denali, though it will always be McKinley to me.)

“Who wrote the Federalist Papers?” (Duh–the Federalists!)

“What’s the longest river in America?” (It’s not the Mississippi, it’s the Missouri. Really. I’m stunned.)

The questions were all from a pilot test of a new exam that the U.S. immigration service plans to use as part of its naturalization process. The people asking the questions in City Hall Park, however, were from the liberal group People for the American Way. They think that the questions are pretty hard–and not particularly predictive of good citizenship. To see how native-born Americans would do, they asked a sampling of 10 questions to a random group of 246 New Yorkers.

The results are as you’d expect: A little over 50 percent failed the test, meaning they failed to answer six out of ten questions correctly. The average score was 5.35. And no one got the question about the Missouri River right. That makes me feel much better.

You can take the test yourself here.

Andrew Rice

Trivial Pursuit