The Ethics of Citizenship Tests

Over the last decade, tests and exams for immigrants have proliferated – especially, but not only, in Europe - but so have controversies about what they may legitimately ask. Such tests can be empowering, but only if they communicate lessons about rights and democracy, that is, politics – not about lifestyles or the supposed core content of a “national culture.”

PRINCETON – Can citizenship really be tested? An increasing number of countries – especially, but not only, in Europe – seem to think so.

Over the last decade, tests and exams for immigrants have proliferated – but so have controversies about what they may legitimately ask. Recently, the revelation that the “Life in the UK” test tries to instill respect for the practice of queuing – standing in line, that is – caused as much ridicule as indignation.

The British minister responsible for the test justified the idea by claiming that “the simple act of taking one’s turn is one of the things that holds our country together. It is very important that newcomers take their place in queues whether it is for a bus or a cup of tea.” While this might sound like an excerpt from a Monty Python sketch, it raises an important issue: should there be limits as to what prospective citizens are tested for? Can testing become counter-productive?

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/rcxcvaW;
  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.