Citizenship tests II (or why I hate multiple-choice)

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

c. Cricket

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

b. Monarchy

c. Dictatorship

d. Socialist state

Well, we are a parliamentary democracy. As Yusuf points out, we are also a constitutional monarchy.

What about:

8. Where did the first European settlers to Australia come from?

a. Spain

b. France

c. England

d. Ireland

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

c. Catholicism

d. Secularism

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’

c. Mateship

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!

Update 2

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)



Filed under Australia, citizenship, crazy stuff, immigration

22 responses to “Citizenship tests II (or why I hate multiple-choice)

  1. Snap! Well done, LE. You may have seen I agree entirely.

  2. LDU

    I think the correct answer to question 15 would be option a…

    …i’m just joking.

  3. It looks like we’ve all been suckered. Quote:

    Mr Andrews and Prime Minister John Howard dismissed a newspaper report which listed 20 questions which could be in the quiz.

    “We’re going to have a booklet which will talk about the history of Australia and our structure of government and the importance of sport in the national life, and canvass some of Australia’s great sporting heroes and all of that sort of thing,” Mr Howard told reporters in Townsville.

    “But those questions in the paper this morning are not ours.”

  4. “The questions will be selected from a pool of about 200 and will be based on the content of an Australian Way of Life resource booklet developed by the immigration department.”

    On that basis, let’s have a sample question:

    Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon:
    a) did not come here in an officially approved manner ;
    b) were mistakes made by the former department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and hence nothing to do with us;
    c) are examples that do not appear in an Australian Way of Life resource booklet;
    d) are not known at this address.

  5. Even so, the Telegraph does claim: “This is a sample of citizenship questions devised by the Federal Government.” Glad you liked my suggestions. 🙂

  6. voidoid3

    Don’t Australians play Ice Hockey on the Mississippi during Winter?

    And I love that system of “Mateship” you Aussies have, I wish they’d adopt that here in the US.

    Instead we have “Sinkingship”.

  7. Phil,

    That’s why the whole “fair go” thing makes me feel a bit sick. Regardless of whether it is or is not in this questionnaire, it is something which is constantly used by this government in its rhetoric, but notably absent from its practice.


  8. Ninglun,
    I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist…but is it possible that the Government has retrospectively disowned the questions after the furore they have created???

  9. Voidoid 3,

    I have seen that ice hockey played at the Winter Olympics. What a scary game that is!

    We’ve got our fair share of “sinkingship” too.

    Actually, in the context of immigration, we’ve literally got people in sinking ships trying to get here… Then the poor blighters get parked in Nauru for a few years. Doesn’t seem very matey to me.


  10. voidoid3

    Any chance we can get Bush and Cheney on one of those ships?

    Fairlane said you’re a Big Time attorney, can’t you pull some strings.

  11. LE, re the denial of the questions, I have added a postscript to my post.
    I really think that all this is just too juicy to let go. Today was a family lunch. Helen, eldest, had her laptop out to read her questions out to the assembly.
    I suspect they originally came from Bundaberg Rum, or at least from a rugger bugger!
    We need some more suitable questions.

  12. Love the suggested question on your post, Jim! 😀

  13. So the government has responded by saying they’ll have a booklet on the “Australian way of life”, including “sporting heroes”?

    What are they trying to turn us all into? The Booney brothers? I know very very little about “sporting heroes”, in fact I tend to think that in my life the term is an oxymoron. What’s heroic about sport?

    Here’s what says about “hero”:

    1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
    2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
    3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
    4. Classical Mythology.
    a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.
    b. (in the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability.
    c. (in later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod.
    5. hero sandwich.
    6. the bread or roll used in making a hero sandwich.

    (I’ve never heard of a hero sandwich, but it’s a fascinating concept – I’m imagining hercules between two slabs of rock or something)

    and “heroic”:
    2. suitable to the character of a hero in size or concept; daring; noble: a heroic ambition.
    3. having or displaying the character or attributes of a hero; extraordinarily bold, altruistic, determined, etc.: a heroic explorer.
    4. having or involving recourse to boldness, daring, or extreme measures: Heroic measures were taken to save his life.

    Now I’m sorry, but how do sportspeople who willingly put themselves at minimal risk for no real purpose (ie there’s no lives at stake; just the wishes of a bunch of people who are effectively watching an improvised play unfold) constitute “heroes”?

    There are real heroes in our lives – those who take real risks for real people. The fellas who got those two miners out of the ground in Tassie – seriously heroic stuff.

    Don’t get me wrong, sport is great when it’s played between friends and communities, having fun, running around, living in your body and enjoying it. But I’m just so sick of the sport obsession here, especially the elite sport obsession which I find quite perverse. It’s such an easy way of avoiding the real world, and the government knows it.

    So what do the Booney brothers say? “Best country inna weeerrrrld, mate.”

  14. Cherry Ripe,

    I feel the same way about sporting heroes. I enjoy watching sport. But it isn’t the be all and end all. I don’t see why sports heroes should be venerated to the extent that they are.

    Why aren’t there questions about Australian Nobel Prize winners, Australian authors, Australian artists, Australian scientists? Why is sport the only thing we seem to be able to celebrate?


  15. Pingback: Club Troppo » Missing Link: YHBT. YHL. HAND.

  16. Cripes… I’m not an Australian?

    My values have never stemmed from God. I’ve always been an atheist. I rejected RI at school quite strongly and I was raised in a godless household, the grandson of non-church goers.

    The “Judeo-Christian” tradition has never had a hand in raising me!

    And on the “Judeo-Christian” note, I recall a comment from one Brian Forte in discussion in April of last year;

    FWIW, in my experience, it’s Christians who use the term ‘Judeo-Christian’. Jews — including me — mostly consider there is little religious or theological relationship between Judaism and its off-spring. Certainly not enough of a relationship to deserve a hyphenated joining of the two words.

    Brian is a rather articulate individual who writes here.

  17. Yes, I believe that “Judaeo-Christian” is a modern invention to try and promote some harmony between Christianity and Judaism. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits said that “Judaism is Judaism because it rejects Christianity, and Christianity is Christianity because it rejects Judaism.” It’s important to recognise (a) that the two religions are related but (b) they are fundamentally different in important ways.

    It’s not quite “never the twain shall meet”, however. There is this really weird sect called “Jews for Christ” – they argue the Christians shouldn’t have dropped all the Jewish traditions, but that Jesus was the Messiah. Both the mainstream Jews and Christians disown them.

    The Ten Commandments can be regarded as forming one of the precedents for modern law, canon law, and all kinds of other law. So to the extent, our legal tradition is based in part upon notions expressed in the Old Testament (which is broadly equivalent to the Tanakh), we can be said to have a legal system which depends on “Judaeo-Christian” values and notions.

    If God wrote the first statute…maybe God was a lawyer? 😉 There’s hope for me in heaven after all, maybe.

  18. I’m of the view that any theocratically inspired common law in effect today is only in effect because secularism from the enlightenment onwards has tolerated it; i.e. has found it reasonable (or should I say “supportable”?) on material grounds.

    I’d also dare say that I find it far more credible that the more ethically sound pieces of theology that have inspired common law, were themselves inspired by things either more material or simply rationally intuitive (as opposed to divine).

    Ever come across a biblical passage and gone “I know what they are on about” because you had already come to that conclusion from analysis of an event in your own life?

    I have; lots of times and in my own initial experiences God hasn’t been involved. I see Christians adhere to say a principal that I value, but one that I value with no divine inspiration, and I think “okay, well that works for me.”

    In fact, I suspect on many ethical issues, the values of many Christians are derived from reason and not by appeal to divine authority. It’s not a uniquely Judaeo-Christian approach; atheists, Muslims etc all do it.

    I think the notion of Australian values being established as originating from the Judaeo-Christian, rather than from reason, is dangerous to a liberal democracy. It infers a deterministic role to a narrow divine authority and relegates reason to redundancy at best.

    From that point on, it’s a hop, skip and jump ’till stoning divorcees and “thou shalt not suffer X to live” become core Australian values (even if not implimented thanks to the reasoning of the un-Australians that make up the majority of Australia).

    Howard knows how to marginalise and dog whistle doesn’t he? I’d imagine up at Hillsong, that their ears would be (joyously) bleeding by now.

  19. For this comment;
    The Ten Commandments can be regarded as forming one of the precedents for modern law, canon law, and all kinds of other law. So to the extent, our legal tradition is based in part upon notions expressed in the Old Testament (which is broadly equivalent to the Tanakh), we can be said to have a legal system which depends on “Judaeo-Christian” values and notions.

    I’ve gone and put you in a bind.

  20. Pingback: purity control at a roll of the dice

  21. I’ve posted my thoughts here – looks like we regard the questions in a very similar light.

    I must say I am most offended by the religious question though – once again, Australia rejects atheism/secularism as some kind of communist plot…

  22. Pingback: National Day of Secularism « The Legal Soapbox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s