Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1911.
Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1911.

How My American History Class Got Deported

Yes, that’s right. My history professor decided my class of about 20 deserved to be deported last Wednesday. We were learning all about the Louisiana Purchase and what would become of the people living there during the time it became a U.S. territory.

Today, people hoping to become citizens have to take a test to prove they are knowledgeable about American “culture.” If you are unfamiliar with this test, people are asked 10 out of 100 possible civics questions. To pass, they must get at least six of the 10 questions right.

So Wednesday morning near the end of class, the professor gave us the test. He went down the row asking each person one question. Before we started, we decided we needed to get at least 80 percent correct if we wanted to pass.

The first question asked was this: “What are the colors of the American flag?” Easy enough. Next came, “How many stripes are there?” and “What do the stripes represent?” The first four or five questions went pretty smoothly. And then came the difficult part. “Who are your congressmen?” The girl behind me was stumped. That was it, our first question wrong. From that moment on, we were doomed.

The questions only got more difficult, and we finished with a 65 percent. If this was the real test, we would have passed (barely) and been granted the right of American citizenship. Unfortunately for us, we decided that we needed at least an 80-percent score to pass.

So our professor joked that this meant we now deserved to be deported. “Go home and tell your parents you’re going back to where you came from.”

In my head, I pictured people boarding the Mayflower or waiting at Ellis Island with their iPhones to voyage back to wherever they came from. Unlike the French and Spanish who woke up one day in Louisiana and were American citizens, I was going to wake up on Ellis Island, ready to board an old-fashioned cruise ship on my way back to England, similar to the way my great grandmother arrived in New York about 80 years ago. Either that or I would be living off the land with my American Indian ancestors.

Photo courtesy Images of History

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