I came across an article in The Atlantic, which begins like this:

To become a citizen of the United States, naturalizing immigrants must take a test. Many native-born Americans would fail this test. Indeed, most of us have never really thought about what it means to be a citizen. One radical idea from the immigration debate is the repeal of birthright citizenship—guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment—to prevent so-called anchor babies. Odious and constitutionally dubious as this proposal may be, it does prompt a thought experiment: What if citizenship were not, in fact, guaranteed by birth? What if everyone had to earn it upon turning 18, and renew it every 10 years, by taking an exam? What might that exam look like?

You can take the exam here:


I missed a score of citizenship attained, with distinction by one point 🙁
Out of interest, here are the questions I really had for my citizenship interview:

Who has the right to declare war in the U.S.? 

What is the supreme law of the land? 

How many Senators are there in Congress?

What is the highest branch of the Judiciary in the Government? 

Who said, “Give me liberty or give me death?”

What was the 49th state added to the Union?

When was the Declaration of Independence adopted? 

In what month do we vote for President? 

Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? 

How did you do? Here are the answers:


The Constitution.


The Supreme Court.

Patrick Henry.


July 4, 1776. 


All people living in the United States.
(This was the only one I missed; I said “citizens of the United States,” and was glad to be corrected.)

Truth to tell, my exam was not as difficult as the Atlantic one, but still some of my friends made the same point: I needed to know a lot more about our country than natural born citizens are required to do.

Subscribe to My Newsletter

I send a seasonal email about the publishing process and motivations for the writing life. If you'd like to join and receive updates, please simply enter your best email address here.

You have Successfully Subscribed!