Poll Tests were common before the Voting Rights Act. The idea being you had to prove you were literate and knew something about something before you voted. Except that the tests were given on a whim by whoever ran the local polling place and so white people historically got a pass while black people were hammered with ridiculously difficult questions about our nation's history. ("Who was George Washington's Secretary of War?" How many votes does a bill require in a subcommittee of congress before it may pass that committee?")
Also, if Gingirch is so concerned about education (He's not. He's just firing up his racist base.) he could push for more money for schools or for standardized tests that test more than just math and reading. But he won't, because he doesn't care. He's just blowing that racist dog whistle.
Yglesias -- Newt Gingrich Proposes Reviving “Poll Tests” Of The Sort Outlawed In The Civil Rights Era
Ta-Nehisi Coates heard the dog whistle loud in clear in Newt Gingrich’s proclamation last night that Barack Obama is “the most successful food stamp president in modern American history.” But the speech also featured a straightforward call for the revival of the kind of techniques that were used to prevent African-Americans (and many poor whites as well) from voting in the Jim Crow South:
“You know, folks often talk about immigration. I always say that to become an American citizen, immigrants ought to have to learn American history. [applause] But maybe we should also have a voting standard that says to vote, as a native born American, you should have to learn American history. [applause] You realize how many of our high school graduates because of the decay of the educational system, couldn’t pass a citizenship test.”