December 18, 2004

Being British

I thought I would be able to just send in an application and a hefty fee, wait an eternity, and presto, I would become a British citizen. Now the Government have decided that applicants for citizenship should pass an exam in Britishness.

Now you would think that I should have no problem, after all, the study materials include a section on history. I teach this stuff every day. What could be more important than understanding Britain's history? But history is not actually on the exam.

No, what will actually be on the exam are things like how to claim unemployment benefits (okay, I won't have trouble with that either), how to seek compensation for unfair dismissal, how to complain about sexual harrassment, statutory holiday pay, equal opportunities and discrimination, complaining about the police, all of the rights under the Human Rights Act, same-sex civil partnerships, European citizenship rights, all of the EU institutions and how they work, legal aid, and no-win-no-fee lawyers.

History may not be important, but British customs are. The exam will include knowledge of Father Christmas (though not the actual St Nicholas, of course), Christmas pudding, Valentine's Day, and April Fool's Day. You have to know how to buy a round of drinks in a pub.

These are apparently the things that define Britishness today.

The study materials also include that doctors give confidential advice and contraception to those under 16. They do not mention when to dial 999 or how to visit a doctor or hospital on the NHS. It would seem it is more important to know the sexual rights of teenagers under the age of consent than it is to know how to get an ambulance.

This is all the more serious because an ambulance might prove necessary, since there is nothing on taking a driving test, requirements for insurance, MOT, or road tax, the importance of seat belts, or what to do in case of a motoring accident.

Lessons in Britishness will cost about 40 million each year, and the Government has acknowledged that it has no idea from whence the funding will come.

Posted by david at December 18, 2004 11:38 PM | TrackBack