An article in the Irish times today, entitled “Testing times for citizenship exam as Conservatives seek overhaul” discussed the nature of the UK citizenship exam.
Despite insistence that history questions would prove to be unfair, considering the fact that many UK citizens by birthright wouldn’t be able to answer the questions themselves, Conservative home secretary Theresa May insisted that questions that concerned England’s history were important, because it would clue in the immigrants about what type of culture they were attempting to join. There is a high success rate on the citizenship test among English-speaking applicants, such as those from New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Applicants from non-English speaking countries, such as Turkey, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, had nearly a 50% success rate, but this is nothing compared to what Bernard Crick, drafter of the first UK citizenship test, fears for his fellow countrymen. “Could any test for immigrants be devised that 80 per cent of our fellow citizens would not fail?”
He raises an interesting point. Should the test be tailored specifically to be easier for those more unfamiliar with British culture? Or should more specific details be included, because the UK does not want naturalized citizens who don’t know the answers? The article mentions how Channel 4 put out some of the questions to viewers, and the results were dismal.
It appears May is reacting to a fear of British culture being usurped by the culture of the incomers. “Immigrants must integrate,” the article boldly states. The UK has a history of sheltering those who need it, and critics believe that this tolerance has been exacerbated by immigrants who would come in and demand that England accommodate their culture, instead of the other way around. At the end of the article, frustration at an apparent injustice was evident. “Local authorities have bent over backwards to translate documents into several languages, while Christians have been admonished, or worse, for wearing crosses at work.” The point is this: why is it at once okay for an aspect of a foreign culture, the language, to be recognized, but those who try and demonstrate an aspect of English culture, Christianity, aren’t tolerated?