Haley Barbour, Slavery, and the Citizenship Test

What was the real cause of the Civil War?

By now, every citizenship teacher must be familiar with this civics test question, and the three official answer options:

Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
- slavery
- economic reasons
- states’ rights

There's an interesting discussion this week at Salon.com about this particular question. Here's an excerpt:

"Unbelievably, the official study guide for the U.S. citizenship test still lists three acceptable answers for the question about the causes of the Civil War: slavery, economic reasons and states' rights. The latter two answers, as Gov. Barbour now freely admits, are simply wrong. In fact, they are worse than wrong, because they obscure a central fact about American history. As Barbour put it, "the Civil War was necessary to bring about the abolition of slavery. Abolishing slavery was morally imperative and necessary, and it's regrettable that it took the Civil War to do it. But it did."

Needless to say, the Civil War, with its 600,000 casualties, would hardly have been necessary if it had been about nothing more than the division of power between the central government and the states, let alone some amorphous "economic reasons." And yet, that is precisely the lesson that will be learned by any aspiring citizen who diligently studies the government-provided model answers to the naturalization test.

The test is not equally agnostic about the causes of other American wars. There is only one correct answer -- "Communism" -- to the question about the United States' "main concern during the Cold War." Other quite plausible answers -- such as great power rivalry, third-world self-determination, or even Russian military expansion -- are evidently unacceptable. Even the ubiquitous "economic reasons" would be marked wrong.

Remarkably, the current version of the citizenship test is not simply an antiquated holdover from an unenlightened time. In fact, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) thoroughly revised and updated it in 2008. The test contains several other incorrect answers, but none that are as egregious as misidentification of the causes of the Civil War.

It would be tempting to think that the Civil War question -- with its absurd alternative answers -- was included only as a sop to the Bush administration's Southern supporters, but President Obama has been in office for over two years, and the test remains unchanged."

See the full article here: http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/03/29/barbour_civil_war_citizenship/