The British Citizenship Test: How much do you know?

Untitljed 2 275x300 The British Citizenship Test: How much do you know?I moved to the UK from America in 2000, not with a plan to immigrate, it was an opportunity to live outside my home country and see the world a bit.  I was lucky with the job I got, which I mercilessly and proudly stole from a British person.  The job came with a nice long work visa.  After a few years, I received perminent residency, and eventually was eligible to become British.

However, to make it all the way, I had to take the Citizenship Test, which the Labour government introduced in 2004. The climate at the time of the test was a push back against all these new foreigners (including me I assume) coming over here and taking your jobs (that would be me).  However, most of the main wave of immigration was from the EU.  Not only would they be exempt from a test because they were already European citizens, they provided much needed improvement in the level of plumbing skills available in the UK. But the demand for ‘Something to Be Done’ was everywhere. Labour, as with most governments, heard the racist, misinformed noise in much of the press and caved.

Once they accepted the idea of a Citizenship Test the government was forced to describe Britishness. A committee was formed; recommendations were made, and then swiftly ignored.  Defining yourselves and committing these things to paper have never been a strong suit in this country, you haven’t even written your Constitution down. And it’s not like paper hasn’t been around for a while.  (As a side note, I highly recommend writing the Constitution down all in one place, that’s what we did in America and it’s pretty much cleared up all the legal problems there.)

So a test now had to be taken. I read the official guidebook, took the test and passed.  On the first go.

Lot’s of people have mocked me for having read the guidebook the government published before taking the test, but I didn’t want to fail.  I knew it would be hard enough for you to accept me, and if I struggled to even make it through on the first try it would never be forgotten. Failing would be like when I misunderstood the rounds system for ordering drinks when I first moved here.  You miss one round and you’re labeled as the guy who cheats on the round for eternity.

After much mocking for not being British, despite having taken the test, I finally had enough and the result is the video experiment.  We stopped a random selection of about 10 groups of people and asked a sample pool of questions taken from the guide.

As you can see the results were pretty clear.  You don’t know squat about yourselves.  This isn’t a stitch-up in editing. Only one, very nice, quite British lady, managed to pass.

The elements of the test are bizarre to say the least. The questions test a range of obscure facts that don’t have much to do with our current day-to-day experiences and ones that scream committee creation.  You can imagine the meeting where they argued the merits of ‘making a good neighbour’.  Keeping your front garden tidy?  Yes.  Building a meth lab in your loft? Probably not.

Luckily, the Coalition is on the case and the guide and the test are currently being updated.  The new guide will reflect more history, Shakespeare, and will remind test takers of the country’s strong ‘Christian’ history.  All you Jedi immigrating here, be warned, the force of the Church is strong on this Isle.

Brilliant lessons in governance are also included in the process.  There are a few mistakes in the guide, and if you answer a question correctly according to the way things actually are, and don’t answer incorrectly as stated in the guide – you get it wrong.  Right, is wrong. What better way of teaching how the country is run?

Yep, in our completely unscientific survey, I think we proved any test given to measure citizenship is a huge waste of everyone’s time.  Citizenship is earned and attained by birth or with time. It is retained by being a contributing member of your community. Yes, you have a shared cultural heritage, but by allowing and embracing immigration you are also accepting your future – that of a dynamic and interesting country, both past and present.

We were pleased on the day to see a number of people who passed the test with scores of 100%. They were the people who wouldn’t stop and talk to us at all.  What could be more British than that?

And for the people who did stop, they passed a much more important test – The Humanity Test.  They saw someone who needed help, stopped and gave a little bit of their time and of themselves.  That’s the kind of person I’m proud to have as a fellow citizen.

Erich McElroy – British Citizenship from James Worthington on Vimeo.

Erich McElroy’s show The Brit Identity will run 1-27 August, 16.45 at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Festival

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  • john m

    The linguistic evolution of these islands is far more complex than that I’m afraid……still is,ask any American tourist who has visited any region of England if they could understand what the locals were saying to them.
    The Norman conquest was just another episode in what was the evolution of a wider Viking empire,”English” Vikings versus Norman French Vikings,one wave invading and subsuming the next.

    The point I was trying to make with my friends observation about the influence of “invaders” on language,was more about how ignorant he was in thinking that a thousand years ago Saxons were walking about saying “good morning old chap,how we today?” or some such sh*t.

    England and English are constructs(one of the reasons the English have such difficulty defining what “Englsihness” actually is) The country that we now recognise as England has for most of the last 2,000 years been a mish mash of kingdoms eg Mercia,Cornwall etc.

    If I had been alive at the time of the Norman invasion I wouldn’t have even been living in “England”,Corby my home is well within the boarders of “Danelaw” (hence the “BY” in the name a prefix that does not exist in most of the west and south west of England).

    Don’t even start me on the rest of the British isles LOL!

  • Hermit

    Ah yes, an amusing and intelligent comment from a true representative of “One Nation Undereducated”, bearing an impressively surreal label. I probably couldn’t have nailed him more accurately myself. I suggest he add “Bleeding” to his name, to describe both his demeanour and a suitably patriotic label acknowledging what America, the economic collapse of which has cost many times what the collapse of the Soviet Union ever did, has become. Speaking of the Soviet Union, I’m not sure why the Bleeding Heartland Patriot raised the issue of Marxism here, but “Lies My Teacher Told Me” explains that his total lack of knowledge of both Marx and class warfare, and reflex horror of actual past events, is very deliberate. This way, those of the Bleeding Heartland Patriot’s ilk (and class or rather, lack of it), will never learn that Marx advocated a system based on “capitalism with ethics” – or that he described, quite accurately, what has happened in the USA based on “capitalism without ethics”, where everything worth stealing already belongs to the rich, and the poor merely labour for a living, with little hope of achieving even the same level of survival once enjoyed by their parents. A progression that the fascist (cooperation between capital and government benefiting the elite) United (Under the Police) States exemplifies. Marx described the consequences of “capitalism without ethics” right down to people so deluded that they cannot perceive themselves as the losers in a now concluded game of extreme class-warfare who cannot recognise that those living under historic aristocracies, let alone those living in modern humanist socialist countries, were, in many ways better off and freer, than themselves.
    Perhaps if the US Citizen Test asked topical questions like: Rank the number of people under judicial supervision per 100,000 by Country (USA has nearly 3x more than the next worst (China)), or Rank countries by Medical System (38th), Education (28th), Infant Mortality (48th), or even to have to identify countries where the right to a fair trial is denied (think Guantanamo) or where Presidents boast about torturing prisoners (GW Bush) – then maybe we could take it seriously. Until then, the test, and the country are perhaps better left to the Bleeding Heartland Patriot and the rest of the “One Nation Undereducated and Over-Patriotised” (to coin a phrase) who, by and large, are unable even to answer the simple questions in the test – yet call themselves “Patriots” (not realizing that this is forever the brand of the last refuge of the incompetent).

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