Lazy Luddite Log

28.5.07

I Give Draft Test An F

Once more I am thwarted by the papers. This letter was sent to the Herald-Sun but was never published. I think it was rather clever but possibly it was too smartypants...

The correct answer to one of the questions in the proposed entry test for migrants is that Aborigines have lived here for over 40,000 years. This answer is supported by archaeological evidence, but Christian, and presumably Islamic, fundamentalists believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. Does the Howard Government realise that this discriminates against creationists? If so, it is interesting to note how the current security scare of the 'War on Terror' is forcing Australian conservatives to adopt incrementally less and less conservative ideas.

Okay I was wanting to sew dissention among government ranks in my own tiny way. Still it is just the tip of the iceberg of what is the most sloppily written draft test ever. It so needs redrafting. I am focusing here on a technical rather than a political matter. Whether a test like the one proposed by the Howard Government should ever be a part of our processes is something I am very sceptical of. But even if I were prepared to consider such a test I would want it to be so much better than this one.

A multiple-choice test is the easiest kind of test right? Wrong. With multiple choice tests there is huge scope to confuse and misdirect. Consider some of the questions the Federal Government are considering:

- In one on the topic of which Europeans first permanently settled Australia two of the options are the English and the Irish. The 'correct' answer is the English but there definitely were Irish on the First Fleet. So in truth more than one answer is right but the test as designed does not allow for that.

- Another topic discusses the ethical basis of Australian society. The 'correct' option is 'Judeo-Christian' but I could be forgiven for selecting the 'Secular' option and getting marked down for it. Once more the answer is more complex than allowed for by the test. And another funny thing with this question is that another one of its 'wrong' options is 'Catholic' despite the fact that Catholics are a subset of 'Judeo-Christian'. If this were 1900s Australia I would understand what was happening: The Anglican powers-that-be would be giving Catholics of Irish descent short shrift once more. But this is the 2000s so I am assuming sloppy test design in this instance. Or is Costello secretly having a go at Abbott?

- On the topic of things Anglican another questions offers us the possibility that Australia is a 'Monarchy'. Well it is! We had a referendum recently that affirmed that - a result that Howard was very happy with. And yet the 'correct' answer to this one is 'Parliamentary Democracy'. Once more I say "a bit in column a and a bit in column b".

For someone who cares about an accurate and comprehensive understanding of history and politics (the kind of thing that Howard supporters say they are) this is the most pathetic mess of a test and sure to confuse and misinform many Australians who saw it in the papers. It is too messy for me to suspect that it was all cleverly written to push a particular agenda. And that is the thing that I return to from my letter: Australian conservatism is getting confused. Things in the world are puzzling them. They are having to pick and choose just what ingredients of conservatism they subscribe to. So we now have the equality of the sexes affirmed in one of the draft test questions despite what some conservatives may think behind closed doors.

Our secular or nominally religious conservatives are seeing themselves in contrast with the ultra-conservatism of religious fanatics and having a bit of a rethink of what to say and do. But that is a bit kind of me. They are also publishing this draft test to see what sort of response it gets and to help them decide exactly how to address these issues as we crawl closer to the next election.

Errata

I think I know why that letter was never published - I refer to it as an entry test rather than a citizenship test. Bugger!

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2 Comments:

  • If you read the way the questions are worded carefully, then the "correct" answer is a little more clear cut. For instance the Question "Australian values are based on what:" is obviously the Judeo-Christian. The first 150 years of legislation were based on these principles. However the last 50 years has seen ammendments made informed by secular values, such as the repealing of victimless crimes. Yes, the last fifty years has seen increasing secularisation, but the original basis was Judeo-Christian, and that is what the question was asking, "Where did the values start from?" not "What force is changing them." Maybe the government want it to be an English comprehension test as well.

    By Blogger Conrad, At 29 May, 2007  

  • Hmmm... I find that pretty flimsy particularly since it is intended as a values test rather than a comprehension test. Also (at the risk of nitpicking) back in those other 150 years we utilised terms other than 'Judeo-Christian' which I think is a post-war invention. Rather we would have had Christian or even British values.

    On the other hand a public discussion of our inheritance of the 'Ancient Rights of the English' may be a worthwhile debate to have. I would like to see more discussion of things like limiting the excesses of government power but I suspect the Government may feel differently...

    By Blogger Daniel, At 01 June, 2007  

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