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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Meghan Markle's Big Test

I was amused by the news that Meghan Markle needs to take a UK citizenship test in order to marry  her Prince.   The NY Times printed one for us so we could know what she had to learn:

Here are my favorite questions. I like them because  I don't know the answers to them.  I believe they are beyond idiotic and in no way a test of whether is one is fit to be a citizen:

The Union Jack contains which cross?
St. George’s
St. Peter’s
St. John’s
St. Thomas's

How long did the Hundred Years War actually last?
99 years
116 years
200 years
75 years

Which is not a cricket term?
Maiden over
Sticky wicket
Virgin bat
Bowled a googly

Who built the Tower of London?
Dame Zaha Hadid
William the Conqueror
Sir Norman Foster
Lancelot “Capability” Brown

The Butler Act of 1944 did what?
Enshrined into law the rights of butlers to have first pick of a cottage on the land of their employers upon retirement
Establish a lifetime pension for servants of the monarchy
Provided free education for servants’ children
Provided free secondary school education for all children in England and Wales

Where was Shakespeare born?
Essex, England
Gloucestershire, England
Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Manchester, England

The British Royal Navy fought the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 against:
The combined French and Spanish navies

Why do Britons eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

To begin the new season of “The Great British Bake Off”
To honor Ireland
To use up all the eggs, milk and fat in the home before fasting for Lent
To prepare for marathons

The distance between John O’Groats on the north coast of Scotland and Land’s End in the southwest of England is:
870 miles
1,000 miles
650 miles
999 miles

What did the Chartists campaign for in the 1800s?
Women’s right to vote
The right to vote for 18-year-olds
To raise the voting age to 21
The right to vote for all men, including those from the working class

What’s not true about British television?
U.K. households need a TV license to watch live TV, even on a computer or smartphone
You can be fined up to 1,000 pounds if you watch live TV without a license
Blind people get a 50 percent discount for a TV license
The BBC is the second-largest broadcaster in the world

In the 1960s, when a woman got married, it was not unusual for:
The church to demand she no longer work
Her employer to cut her wages
Her employer to shower her with maternity pay and child-care vouchers
Her employer to ask her to quit her job

Of course I am not British but I have spent a fair amount of time in the U.K. Oddly none of this ever came up. Just to be clear, we have a citizenship test in the U.S. too, which is just stupid. Here are some questions from it:

What is the "rule of law"?

A Everyone but the President must follow the law.
B Government does not have to follow the law.
C Everyone must follow the law.
D All laws must be the same in every state.

What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

A youngest member of the Constitutional Convention
B inventor of the airplane
C third president of the United States
D U.S. diplomat

The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

A four hundred thirty-five (435) 
B four hundred forty-one (441)
C two hundred (200)
D one hundred (100)

What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
A Atlantic Ocean
B Indian Ocean
C Pacific Ocean
D Arctic Ocean

What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?

A the Louisiana Territory
B Alaska
C Hawaii
D Quebec

I happen to be staring at the above mentioned ocean as I write this. I know its name, so I could pass the test, but how is that something that indicates that I am a good citizen of the U.S.? Wouldn't the real questions be whether I was willing to help my country if called upon to do so, and if I am good local citizen, a good neighbor for example, someone willing to help others in their time of need? I am rather sure that terrorists know the name of the oceans bordering the U.S. I am also quite sure that not knowing the number of representatives in the House means absolutely nothing with respect to being a good citizen.

So what are they really asking Meghan Markle to do? First they are asking her to make up for the fact that she didn't study British history in high school. What did she miss out on by growing up in the U.S.? Here are thing she surely missed out on learning:

1.Who the chartists were

I had no idea. Then I did something radical. I Googled it. Now I know. Except I have already forgotten it because I don’t care.

2. The distance between someplace in the U.K. to another place in the U.K.

I will not Google that. How could that possibly matter to me (or to Meghan)?

3. Who built the Tower of London.

I have been there are few times so I guess some tour guide mentioned it, but here again I don’t care. Should Meghan care?

Now, that is the real question. I can well see that the British might care that Meghan know a great deal about the new country she will be living in and representing. The questions in this test might actually matter to her in her new life. But to every immigrant wanting to become a British citizen? That makes no sense at all.

Yes, we have school. And school is about indoctrination. So what the demand that she pass this test is really about is that it would look funny if she didn’t know the stuff that every British school child has had to memorize.

It does make sense for her to learn some British history. And certainly she needs to know that she will need a license for her TV in the U.K. because surely that will be her responsibility in her new castle.

Of course, the real question is that if you are going to make people take a citizenship test, which makes no sense, but governments are rarely trying to make sense, what should be on it? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Questions about empathy for others
  2. Questions about one’s willingness to sacrifice for others
  3. Questions about one’s responsibilities in society
  4. Questions about one’s country’s responsibilities in the world 
  5. Questions about what a citizen can do to take action on things that he or she cares about.
  6. Questions about one’s civil rights and protections offered by the government .

There are things citizens should know about their new country. But these tests are pure nonsense, as is every multiple choice test that has ever been created. In real life we don’t take quizzes. As I have said before, the only government agency that gets it about tests is the bureau that issues drivers licenses and they only half get it. They have two tests. One that is completely idiotic, and another that actually tests to see if you can drive. 

The time has come to abandon multiple choice tests in every area of life, forever. Put people in situations (in simulation, or in real life) and see if they can do it.  No one needs to know how long the Hundred Year War lasted. 


shackletonjones said...

Nice post. Of course the 'citizenship test' reflects quite nicely the nature of the basic educational transaction which goes something like this:
Person: 'We need to know if these people are capable'
L&D: 'I know. Let's make a test!'
Person: 'What would be on the test?'
L&D: 'Beats me. Just any stuff that sounds vaguely relevant to the thing they are doing'
Person: 'Would that tell me if they are capable?'
L&D: 'Not really. But it's easy to do. And if anyone asks "How do you know these people are capable?" you can show them the test scores."
Person: 'Let's do it!'

Stuart Cooke said...

here, here!