How British am I? Not very, apparently…

… based on the Guardian’s online “citizenship test” and, if it truly reflects what immigrants are going to be asked, I have to say that it’s mostly irrelevant to British life, and not just because I failed, miserably!

In actual fact, this is an example of what happens when you comment on an item, as I did, writing this, without reading it properly, but hell, I’ve written it so I’m not wasting it! ;)

The thing is, just how knowing in what order Shakespearian plays should be put, or the lyrics to elderly Punk songs, or which of three black footballers were once known as the Three Degrees, among other pointless crapola, would qualify me for citizenship I have no idea. It’s pure, triple-distilled bovine ordure.

As for the strange belief that the British – or even those aspiring to be British – should embrace Shakespeare, sorry, I’m not buying it. If Shakespeare, why not Marlowe, for example, without the influence of whom old Bill might have turned out very different? Just a thought . . .

I had no interest in Punk, can’t stand football, never could, and only ever had a moderate interest in Shakespeare, so god help anyone from another country.

Among other nuggets of useless knowledge migrants might be required to trot out on demand are:-

What did George Orwell identify as the ‘most hateful of all names in an English ear’? (I’m guessing, were he alive now, it would be Cameron.)

Which event inspired Shelley’s poem The Mask Of Anarchy?

Which British institution connects Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Labour politician Chuka Umunna and the actress and writer Meera Syal?

None of which I either know or care about, and why should I? Knowing would enhance my life not one iota. Nor would it make me any more British.

That’s not to say I don’t actually know a lot of other equally useless things, any intelligent person accrues knowledge in much the same way as a glacier accrues rocks – there is nothing at all wrong with knowledge for its own sake, you never know when it might come in useful – but I don’t accept that not knowing someone else’s list of inconsequential facts is in any way detrimental to me, or in any way superior to my personal collection.

And there are other questions, all equally germane to bugger all. Anyway, a test like this is not a measure of Britishness, it’s not even a measure or intelligence, it’s merely a test of memory, the facts being learned by rote simply for the test not, for the most part, out of any innate desire to learn. It will mean, though, that those more retentive of facts couched in a foreign language will be considered somehow more worthy than those who have problems, which is dangerous. A terrorist group, knowing this, could easily exploit the system.

But that’s a side issue, and argument for another day. Surely what immigrants actually need is at least a passing acquaintance with English and a willingness to become proficient; a grasp of our currency; and some idea of our political and social structure, and history, might be useful too.

And the final question is “Can you complete this lyric from Panic, by The Smiths? ‘Panic on the streets of Carlisle, Dublin, Dundee…’? beggars belief, as does the suggestion that this quiz  actually bears any resemblance to a genuine citizenship test (if it does, we’re further down the pan than I thought).

But, back to the question and, no, of course I bloody can’t,** not least because I wasn’t a Smiths fan (I know the first two lines if that helps – from the radio, since you ask), and neither will some poor bastard fleeing persecution in Syria, or anywhere else, know these things, which most Brits will have forgotten, assuming they ever knew.

**But I could figure it out by extrapolation, as the only two examples given that actually scan are Birmingham and Humberside, and as the former is in the second line, I figured Humberside was the answer. And I was right, but figuring it out isn’t the same as knowing it, though it should, in my view, be worth more Brownie points, being more indicative of intelligence than a simple memory test.

To expect foreign nationals to have to study these, or any other, essentially niche facts, it utterly absurd, and will not contribute in the slightest degree to their acquiring any sort of “Britishness”. And is British citizenship really going to be granted on the basis of success in the equivalent of a pub quiz? **

It does seem, though, an excellent mechanism for causing them to fail and, possibly, be emptied out in short order which, no doubt, is the intention.

**The US has a seriously comprehensive citizenship test which can take several years’ study, especially for those with little or no English, not a toytown multiple-choice Q&A like this.

NB: Racist comments will be consigned to oblivion.

5 thoughts on “How British am I? Not very, apparently…

    • I got six – thing is, though (and I know it’s not supposed to be taken seriously – I missed that bit!), most normal people have no reason to know 80% of the answers, not least because most don’t actually care!

      By the way, ordered Maw Broon’s Cookbook!

      • Well as I live in Scotland, I have to admit that I don’t much care about learning Welsh!

        Maw Broon as of The Broons?! I wonder if Clootie Dumpling will be in it?

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