Thursday, March 23, 2006

Qualified Participation?

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

I couldn't resist... How well would you do?

If you couldn't pass the U.S. citizenship test, but you're a citizen by default, why do you think your opinions on politics should matter?

I've often wondered about informed participation among the American people. We encourage high-school students to register to vote, and the media always bemoans the lack of turnout by "qualified" American voters. If Americans choose not to vote because they don't know what's going on, is that really a bad thing?

The truth is, I'm not sure high turnout would be good for American elections. I'm not suggesting we go back to the property test -- only allowing property owners to vote, as we did in the early days of the American Republic -- but maybe we do need some kind of test.

Literacy wouldn't do it -- and not simply because illiterate Americans are sometimes well-informed. No, the real issue is civic and historical illiteracy. If we expect immigrants to pass an exam to become citizens, perhaps it would be appropriate to ask citizens to pass an exam to earn the right to participate in determining the shape of our collective future.

Question of the day -- should there be a basline of knowledge required before we allow people to participate in the American political process?


Sanctimonious Hypocrite said...

I passed, but I missed two. I would like to say we should require something equal to eighth grade reading, arithmetic, and civics as a bare minimum, but that's not going to happen. I think the best we can hope for is some minor hurdle like having to go in person to the courthouse and sign your name. I don't see how anyone benefits from having a lot of essentially random votes cast.

John said...

Should there be a baseline? Yes. But testing such a baseline would probably be a bad idea, given the history of such testing. The cure would be worse than the disease.

Conrad said...

I have an idea, we could prevent Southern Baptists from voting. They usually vote the wrong way anyway.