Have a look at some of the proposed citizenship questions, reported in the Herald Sun. Apparently I’m not the only one who is severely unimpressed. I really dislike dumb multiple choice questions. Quite often on forms and the like I can think of more than one answer which applies, but I’m just supposed to tick one box. And I’m a tertiary educated person currently undertaking a postgraduate degree whose first language is English. I can only imagine how confusing it must be for other people.
Some of the citizenship questions just seem pretty silly. For example:
4. Which is a popular sport in Australia?
a. Ice hockey
b. Water polo
d. Table tennis
20. What is Australia’s biggest river system?
a. The Murray Darling
b. The Murrumbidgee
c The Yarra
d. The Mississippi
How does knowing these things prove that you are going to be a good citizen? It reminds me of the horrible stuff we had to learn in Geography. I had to know all of the main rivers of Australia and be able to identify them on a map. Geez, it was boring. Can I remember it now? Nope. Thank God. I’ve got more interesting things to put in my brain.
As Irfan Yusuf has pointed out in a post on the topic, some of the questions have multiple correct answers:
5. Australia’s political system is a …
a. Parliamentary democracy
d. Socialist state
Well, we are a parliamentary democracy. As Yusuf points out, we are also a constitutional monarchy.
8. Where did the first European settlers to Australia come from?
La Perouse, a Frenchman, landed in Australia just after Captain Phillip. He subsequently disappeared. Does he count as a settler or not? What about convicts of Irish background who were transported by the English? Do they count?
9. Who is Australia’s head of state?
a. Prime Minister John Howard
b. Queen Elizabeth II
c. Governor General Michael Jeffery
d. Premier Steve Bracks
As Yusuf points out on this one, again, there are a couple of correct answers. The Queen is our monarch, so she’s technically at the top of the tree, but anyone knows that she never actually intervenes in the running of Australia. The Governor General is the representative of the Queen in Australia and our head of state. However, the Prime Minister is the real head of state – the one who goes abroad and represents us on a practical level. About the only one who doesn’t have a head-of-state-like role is Steve Bracks. He’s just the head of a State (distinguishing between a head of state and the head of a State could be a problem for those whose first language is not English).
15. Australia’s values are based on the …
a. Teachings of the Koran
b. The Judaeo-Christian tradition
Again, as Yusuf points out, the Judaeo-Christian tradition informs both the teachings of the Koran and Catholicism. So (a) and (c) are subsets of category (b). Are the options suggesting that they are not subsets of category (b)? – if so, I would suggest that is inaccurate and offensive. If not, the question is just unclear. Also, unlike many countries, we don’t have a state religion. So could it be argued that (d) is also a valid answer.
But the very, very, very, very WORST question follows. It makes me squirm. It’s so jingoistic:
14. Which of the following are Australian values?
a. Men and women are equal
b. ‘A fair go’
d. All of the above
What exactly do the options in this question mean? (Does it mean that I’m not a real Australian if I don’t know what these terms mean???)
What is mateship? Is it friendship? Or something different? Somehow mateship has always seemed exclusively masculine to me: mates hangin’ out together, knockin’ back a few cold ones. What about “Men and women are equal”? Does this mean just formal equality? Or does it mean substantive equality? And then, the one that makes me squirm the most, “A fair go”. What the heck does that mean? A fair go for whom? (Certainly not the poor suckers who are taking this test). To me, a citizenship test just sounds like the kind of BS that a fair-dinkum Aussie would laugh at and flush down the loo. Perhaps that’s the answer, and it’s all a big trick! All successful applicants must laugh at the test and flush it down the loo.
As long-time readers may recall, I was never enamoured with the citizenship test to begin with, and these stupid questions have realised my worst fears. People will just learn what the “right” answers are, but they won’t actually believe them.
The best way to get people to believe in “Australian values” is to give migrants the language skills to settle into this country well, and help them to mix with the general Australian populace. To really sink in, values have to be learned through example and interaction, not through a class.
Read Ninglun’s very amusing take on the topic. Cracked me up!
Looks like the questions were purely the invention of the Herald Sun. Sucked in! Guess it’s one of those cases of “wanting to believe”…
(Thanks to Skepticlawyer for the heads up)