History should be learned by all

Eastern New Mexico is about to gain one more American citizen.

That’s the report I got a few weeks ago, when then-Clovis City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen suggested we do a story about Legislative and Community Development Director Claire Burroughes applying for U.S. citizenship.

Burroughes, who has been married to a U.S. citizen for more than a decade and has lived in Clovis longer than I have, figured she’d make the plunge for many reasons, notably the right to vote.

This means I won’t get in my digs anymore, like mentioning the Revolutionary War and chanting, “U-S-A.” Or like a few weeks ago when Burroughes needed to look something up and used Ask.com. I said, “Ask Jeeves, Claire? Americans use Google.”

I’ve known other people who went through the citizenship process. It’s expensive, with a fee of about $600 for the naturalization application. But it’s not too difficult, with an interview about American history and comprehension of the English language through multiple-choice questions.

I decided to take the test myself. I figure I shouldn’t judge whether somebody should be in this country — at least, not until I’ve taken the tests that show I could become a citizen had I been born elsewhere.

Whenever there’s a multiple-choice test, I always find some humor in the wrong answers — like in high school, when “Deer” was the third choice for, “Which animal hatches from an egg?”

The sample online exam I filled out was no exception, with questions like these:

n What does the Constitution do? It protects the basic rights of Americans, with incorrect answers that it “defines who can vote,” “allows people to own land,” or, “lets women drive a car.”

n What does the judicial branch do? It reviews laws. Incorrect answers are “amends the Constitution,” “runs the government,” and, “protects the God-given rights of corporations to privately influence public elections.” OK, I made up the last one.

n What is freedom of religion? The correct answer is that you can practice any or no religion. Incorrect answers include, “Your family is free to practice any religion, provided you agree,” or, “You must practice a religion, but you can choose it.”

The questions are easy, Burroughes said before her interview this week, but reasoned they’d be difficult with limited grasp of the English language.

After I finished 50 questions, my score was a 96 percent (60 percent passes). I got the number of amendments to the Constitution wrong (27, not 25), and I protest a question about the Pledge of Allegiance. I said we pledged allegiance to, “the country,” thinking that meant the same thing as, “The United States.” The words, “republic,” and, “flag,” were not mentioned in the answer list.

Of course, 96 percent is good, but I still feel like it’s not good enough. We (myself included) should know our history, especially anything we should be ashamed of so we don’t repeat it. But if nothing else, I want to learn so I have a firm base of knowledge when I mock other British citizens for no reason.

U-S-A. U-S-A.