07 June 2017

Stitching and citizenship

Aram Han Sifuentes, a South Korean artist inspired by her own process preparing for the U.S. citizenship exam, imagined hand embroidering the test questions on a linen sampler. She started the sampler in 2010 and before it was finished it had a buyer - at the cost of $725, the cost of the US citizenship application.
Now she runs workshops in which people can embroider their own citizenship-question samplers. She teaches embroidery basics, as well as civics.

Could we do with some of that in the UK?

Stories about the difficulty of the UK citizenship test abound - some of its questions are said to be in the realm of "specialist knowledge" and not very relevant to life in the UK in 2017. Hundreds of sample questions are online, eg at https://www.thelifeinuktest.co.uk/

In the version I randomly looked at you get four choices of answer, and one choice is usually "None of these". Which is supposed to me you think ... or quake in your boots. Or ... guess.

I fell at the second question - what did Bronze Age people do with their dead - which seems a very specialist bit of knowledge, not terribly relevant to life in Britain today. (Apparently they mummified them ... we know because of the tunnels made in bone by gut bacteria - read more here.)

A few questions later: "What year did the Vikings finally conquer England?" (Have a guess - 1166, 1066, 1100, 843.) This made me somewhat furious, because the Vikings never did "finally" conquer "England" - where is the "None of these" option when it would be useful! The "correct answer" is indicated as 1066 ... so those would be Norman Vikings then?

A 2017 practice test, at https://www.thelifeinuktest.co.uk/new-3rd-edition-test/practice-test/1, seems more sensible. Some of the questions are True/False, a format that can conceal all sorts of trickyness, and others need you to choose two options of the four - which must be why it's possible to score over 100% - 154.17%, in this example -

An instructive example of the US citizenship test is here - I like the way it tells you why you're right (or wrong) -

or you might want to try a sampling of the questions in this Washington Post article, which explains:

An important part of the application process for becoming a US citizen is passing a civics test, covering important U.S. history and government topics. There are 100 civics questions on the naturalization test. During the interview process, applicants are asked up to 10 questions and must be able to answer at least 6 questions correctly. Here is a sampling of what may be asked. How would you do?

In the UK the test has 24 questions and you have to answer 18 correctly. It costs £50 to take the test, and you can take it as many times as you need to (paying each time). Once you've passed, the fee for UK naturalisation is £1282.

In stitch...

The UK has recently seen a big "civics stitching" project. You may remember the Magna Carta embroidery that was exhibited at the British Library, spearheaded by Cornelia Parker. Images are here.

The text for this massive work came from the Wikipedia article about the Magna Carta, captured on the 799th anniversary of its signing. Lots of famous people were asked to do a bit of stitching on it, and most was done by prisoners via Fine Cell Work.
A frame from the British Library's video; other videos are here
Another Magna Carta project consists of 12 panels, more in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry. It was made by a team led by Rhoda Nevins to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the signing.

Coincidentally ...

Just yesterday I happened to listen to an episode of In Our Time about the Battle of Lincoln (20 May 1217) in which the various versions of the Magna Carta were explained, and why two of the three copies of the 1216 version are now in France. Fascinating. The radio programme is  available online, on the BBC iplayer, or as a podcast, and apart from King John and the actual battle we hear about Eustace The Monk (a pirate!) and also Nicholaa de la Haye, castellan of Lincoln, a remarkable woman.

1 comment:

Plum Cox said...

What an interesting post - thank you! Lots to follow up and think about!