October 11, 2011

Immigrants must pass test on British history, says David Cameron

This might be an interesting discussion theme especially with reference to your first assignment for the Introduction to Politics module

The article (link below) discusses David Cameron’s idea to give greater emphasis to British history in the so-called and already existent “Citizenship Test”. Candidates (or immigrants) must pass this test to become Britons.

The Telegraph article writes that the greater role given to British history in the test “basically means [that] future candidates will be tested on the Roman Conquest, Boadicea, the Norman Conquest, Magna Carta and King John, the Wars of Roses, Elizabeth 1, English Civil War, the Battle of Britain, Churchill and how we ‘encouraged a national spirit of resistance in [the] UK’ in World War Two” (emphasis added).

It is perhaps interesting to note that the preferred historian of the Conservative Party is (Harvard-based) Niall Ferguson who in 2010 was announced to overhaul history in schools for the conservative government. Some argue that Ferguson’s work is an apology for Western (and perhaps especially British) imperialism. It is yet unclear however if Ferguson will be personally involved in the drafting of the history test itself.

How will such a test impact the construction of British history? Will the emphasis on a specific interpretation of history lead to greater chauvinism? And if so, is this a good or a bad thing? What are the potential consequences for other interpretations of British history and what would this mean (if anything) for the recognition of other other histories and/ or cultures?

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/8818650/Immigrants-must-pass-test-on-British-history-says-David-Cameron.html

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Ben Jacoby

    maybe something we could discuss here as well is how and why this “Citizenship Test” is political. Or does it make sense to say that this is just a legislation about some technical details and has nothing to do with what we study in the discipline of politics? What is politics anyway?

    13 Oct 2011, 22:35

  2. Nice ideas Marijn and Ben.

    While it’s impossible to do the official Life in the UK Test online – we don’t want to encourage those amoral migrants to cheat, now, do we? – there is an official, Home Office-approved practice site at http://www.ukcitizenshiptest.co.uk/. It’s free, you don’t have to register, and you can do this as often as you like.

    It would be interesting to see how well UK students do at this; and how well an unprepared foreigner can do with just a bit of educated guesswork.

    Even more interesting, what if prepared foreigners get all this stuff right? How likely is it that learning this stuff makes them better prepared for life in the UK? What common “mistakes” do foreigners make in Britain that are not covered by this material? How good is the overlap between this material and what is taught in Civics or Citizenship classes in schools? What do the connections and disconnections say about the attitude to migration and migrants embodied in this policy?

    Meanwhile, a mini-industry in more-or-less accurate preparation websites has sprung up. One of the more accurate is http://lifeintheuk.net/index.php, which lets you do a short sample test for free if you register, then charges you for doing full-length practice tests. If you don’t like the information security and privacy implications of registering on their site, register with a bogus name and email address and the sample test will work fine. Other sites are outrageously unscrupulous, gouging the naive for hundreds of pounds with inaccurate test materials.

    19 Oct 2011, 13:46

  3. PS: I just took the official practice test and failed! 67%. And that’s after passing twice in the last three years (once for permanent residency and once, unnecessarily, for citizenship). And yet, I don’t feel too bad about not knowing the precise date in the 1800s when women gained the right to divorce their husbands; I just hope my wife hasn’t caught up with that fact just yet.

    19 Oct 2011, 13:54

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  • PS: I just took the official practice test and failed! 67%. And that's after passing twice in the la… by on this entry
  • Nice ideas Marijn and Ben. While it's impossible to do the official Life in the UK Test online – we … by on this entry
  • maybe something we could discuss here as well is how and why this "Citizenship Test" is political. O… by Ben Jacoby on this entry
  • Thanks for those comments folks. In further reponse to Gordon, may I add that comparing the effects … by on this entry
  • To the above: that's complete rubbish. The very fact that the three main parties in this country off… by Tom on this entry

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