The new test for those wishing to become British citizens has been introduced. You buy a £9.99 book and take a £34 computer-based test, which seems a little steep for something with just 24 questions. However,you can take it as many times as necessary, so centres will be falling over themselves to accept your cash. The BBC has some unofficial questions based on their reading of the book. I managed a sterling 50% (you need 75% to pass). One of the ones I got right was a guess. I wasn't sure what I should do to be British- basically, whether I should obey the laws, participate in a culture or be a part of a European democracy. I guessed the first, assuming that's what the politicians behind this would want me to say and, sadly, was right.
Somehow, I have managed to be a British citizen for decades without knowing how long you have to be married before you can get divorced (one year- I said six months), or that 18-year-olds got the vote in 1969, and I only learned that you can dial 112 instead of 999 for the emergency services a few months ago.
While the idea of bringing newcomers into British society is one I think is sound, the dreary, drab, death-by-committee feel to all of this is off-putting to me. The government website talks about attending ESOL and citizenship classes, the mere thought of which makes me so glad to be several thousand miles away from those classrooms. The materials and curriculum they were destroying the subject with were depressing enough, but the thought of having to graft on their view of citizenship is enough to give me sleepless nights, let alone the wading through manuals and PDFs full of soulless jargon and slightly dated business terminology, or, God forbid, the training sessions. They'd probably be better off doling out copies of RJ Unstead's children's history books, which are well-written, captivating and far more likely to make people engage with the culture and history of the UK.