The culture and polity that is Danish

Which Danish restaurant gained a third Michelin star in February 2016?

How many municipalities are there in Denmark?

In what constellation did the 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe discover a new star?

Questions such as those are part of a new Danish citizenship test so difficult that more than two-thirds of applicants who took it for the first time in June failed, the Integration Ministry confirmed this week.

Here is the NYT article, this one stumped me too:

Danish Radio recently asked the actor Morten Grunwald a question on the test: When was the premiere of the first movie about the Olsen Gang, a fictional criminal syndicate? Mr. Grunwald, a star of the film, replied, “That, I can’t even answer myself.” His memory was jogged when he was given the choices: 1968, 1970 or 1971. (It was 1968.)

I hope you have all seen the episodes of the TV show Borgen, one of my favorites.


so it's a few pointless questions to ensure people who pass the test care about passing the test as such?

It's just like college!

Some ten years ago, under the heading "Current Affairs" (usually dedicated to questions about economics and politics and international affairs), candidates applying to a clerk position with a small municipality in Brazil were asked questions like, "Who were the winner of the last (Brazilian) 'Big Brother' season?", "Who are the Brazilians pilots competing in Formula One?" and "Which Brazilian celebrity couple has broken up recently?" There were rabid calls for stopping the whole thing as a racket, but telling apart stupidity from malice is difficult enough (and, technically, those were "national current affairs"), so I guess hirings proceeded as scheduled.

Perhaps the people who can pass such a test should be expelled from the country.

Probably. The ones who designed the test surely should be expelled. On the plus side, with such a vague test section as "Current Affairs", becoming a city clerk may be more difficult than becoming American citizen (I wouldn't be able to answer any of the three aforementioned Brazilian little city questions, but, if this quizz is any good, I would have good chances of becoming an American citizen) Maybe we are getting a select group of public workers after all..

It's telling that current affairs in Brazil comprises such trivia. Another question: how many Brazilians have won the Nobel Prize? Answer: One, nominally, Peter Medawar, born in Brazil, Physiology or Medicine, 1960, but the younger son of a Lebanese father and a British mother, and a naturalised British citizen.
And for Greece, 1/20th the population of Brazil?: Two (literature)
And for Canada, which has less than one-fifth the population of Brazil? 25.

Not in Brazil, in a little Brazilian hinterland city. Brazil is a giant country (more than 60 times bigger than Greece, at least a city bigger than Greece, several about as big as Greece). In conclusion, Brazil is a land of contrast.

Literature doesn't count. It's politics. Even Sully Prudhomme and Dario Fo got theirs. Brazilian writer Jorge Amado probably would have got his if he had not a fall-out with one of the Swedish judges. Also, Brazilian physicist César Lattes had the Nobel stolen from him. He was the mind behind the pion discovery. "Although he was the main researcher and the first author of the historical Nature article describing the pion, Cecil Powell alone was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1950 for 'his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method'. The reason for this apparent neglect is that the Nobel Committee policy until 1960 was to give the award to the research group head, only." --ésar_Lattes
The Nobel Prize commitees have stabbed in such ways Brazil many times.
How many Greeks have earned Fields Medals?

One word amigo: Canada. Brazil makes great carnival, not much else.

Yep, Canada is a successful country, not the sick man of the EU, and not just for not being in Europe. It is pretty different from the country everyone hopes take a cue, make like a tree and get ou the EU.
Brazil's moral superiority is a well established fact. Also, the Fatherland is a leading power in aerospace technology, deep sea oil drilling technology, agrobusiness and, before giving up this sordid, blood-soaked, disgusting business, Brazil was a great weapons developer and dealer. If not for Brazilian exports to Iraq, the Ayatollah would have been able to conquer Iraq's oil and threaten Saudi Arabia's, dictating terms to the West. In conclusion, Brazil is a powerful country, not some olive plantation attached to some glorified tourist traps. Brazil is a country with a bright future, not some place whose decent days ended 2500 years ago.

"The chains that forged for us
Perfidy's astute slyness,
There was a most powerful Hand,
Sneered on them Brazil.
There was a most powerful Hand,
There was a most powerful Hand,
Sneered on them Brazil."

It's partly that -- because we would really like to keep stupid/lazy/illiterate people AND THEIR FAMILIES out.

But it's also a pretty good sampling of the (well-chosen) contents of a nice little book (freely available as a PDF) about Denmark and the Danes.

The question about the municipalities has to do with the way Denmark is structured -- and the reorganisation of them 10 years ago was a pretty big deal.

The question about Michelin stars is relevant because those stars are a very recent phenomenon. We used to have relatively ordinary restaurants and no Michelin stars. Now we have Noma, a Bocuse d'Or winner champions, and several stars. We are quite proud :)

Tycho Brahe's discovery was the first European observation of a supernova. Because it was impossible according to contemporary theories of not only Astronomy but also Creation and Theology, it was a pretty big deal. Brahe is one of the best known Astronomers of his time, he made the best observations ever made until some time after the invention of the telescope. His observations were crucial for Kepler's discovery of simple laws for the motion of planets and the eventual demise of the system of epicycles with Earth in the center of the universe. He was also a colourful character: artificial nose, strife with the new king, move to the Emperor in Prague, the apocryphal story of his death, the dwarf, the drunken elk, ...

The Olsen Gang (Olsenbanden) is well-known to everybody here -- the precise year of the first movie of course not so much. The characters were revised for the second movie and became much more likable so few people have actually seen the first movie.

Don't worry, they teach Brahe, and his odd and unfortunate death, even in California.

Not pointless at all. Cultural literacy is essentially for transmitting the values of a society. Always has been.

And, not to be trite, but it is not the questions that are difficult, it is the answers. That is, while knowledge of an iconic film might be important to their society, whether it was made in '68 or '70 is trivia. A proper choice of responses might be in ranges of years or decades, something which identifies the context which gives the film part of its value to the artistic lagacy of the society.

I recommend The Pusher trilogy.

So I pass this test and I'm "Danish." It's magic!

The culture and polity that is Danish

For now.

Your mistake is to believe these things are static.

LOL. Go to Tibet and tell them lie back and enjoy the Han invasion; these things are not static. Then head to Kurdistan, Armenia, Greece, Cyprus: stop worrying about the Turks, people. Your mistake is to believe these things are static.

Then you can nip on over to the West Bank and tell them don't worry about the Jewish settlements; nothing is static. Once you've crossed the River Jordan, you can then proceed to lecture the Israelis on their mistaken beliefs.

Also those Polish pumblers and their tanks conquering poor Albion... #AngloGenocide

How many American citizens couldn't even pass the American citizenship test? How many couldn't even tell you who the current VP is?

Maybe we should also test current citizens and revoke citizenship... I'm not saying we'll kick them out, but maybe you don't get to vote if you can't pass a basic history/government test.

Global warming is real.


If we ever have such a test, I'll give you an important bit of advice. Congress has two non-voting Senators and one non-voting Representative from the District of Columbia.

I love watching the celebrity Jeopardy contests held annually. There are always surprises.

In fact, this sample did better than I would have expected.

Every ballot should contain 5 fairly easy factual multiple-choice questions about the US government. If 3 or more of the questions are answered incorrectly or skipped, the ballot would be considered spoiled and not counted.

Kind of comically Danish, but if it is a 40 question test exactly, and not a random 40 of 400, it sounds easy enough to study to. Not a big deal. And I guess you learn the 40 things that make you Danish, yes.

These questions remind me of the quiz Bart Ehrman gives his (mostly evangelical) students on the first day of his class at UNC on the New Testament. I like this question: How many books in the New Testament? He even gives a hint: the Trinity. Even with the hint it's amazing how few students can answer the question. Does that mean they aren't good citizens, I mean good Christians? I recall vividly my 8th grade history class. I like history, especially American history. What we learned in the class were names and dates and wars. Then there was my 4th grade science class, in which we had to memorize the periodic table of elements. Ehrman's point is to impress upon his students how little they know about a subject they think they know a lot about, not the number of books in the New Testament (although it is a miracle). I'm not sure about the point of my 8th grade history class or my 4th grade science class.

Part of a history teacher's job is to hold up the reputation of the subject by making it history enough that not everyone passes, which requires making it boring and testable, names and dates and wars are useful for this purpose.

These questions remind me of the quiz Bart Ehrman gives his (mostly evangelical) students on the first day of his class at UNC

No, they weren't 'mostly evangelical'.

Ehrman's description of his students, not mine. Of course, those from the Bible Belt define evangelical in a way far different from the way the rest of the country does. Ehrman was raised a fundamentalist, even attended Moody Bible Institute, but has diverged from his righteous brothers (and sisters). He now describes himself as "agnostic": he doesn't believe there's a God but doesn't know there's not a God - how would he know?

Ehrman's pulling your leg. UNC Chapel Hill is a public Ivy and 80% of its students have college-educated parents. About 15% of North Carolina's population belongs to a Southern Baptist congregation and evangelicalism is not for social climbers.

Ugh can we please clear out the sock puppets?

You only need 32 correct answers to pass. It's a multiple choice test. Most of the questions were based on a 180-page (easy to read) textbook that is either very cheap or free (it's usually been freely available for download from the official homepage). There are cheap classes for the test.

If you are reasonably intelligent and know Danish and live in Denmark you can pass the test in 3-5 minutes, just like every other year. Granted, this test was harder than that of the previous few years because the previous (Socialist) government had dumbed it down on purpose. The new government fixed that.

Yes, some natives can't pass the test "cold". If they read the book even once, I bet almost all of them could.

In my opinion, it is still too easy. Way too easy.

PS: Morten Grundwald is old and not in the best of health. And Politiken is The Grauniad with better cartoons and less substance.

Grunwald. Typo.

As a foreigner living in Denmark, I agree that the test is rather easy. (I took it for fun when it appeared in Politiken, and got 39 out of 40, without any preparation.) Don't know what all the fuss is about. More generally, I have lived here for 17 years, and I have not been treated unfairly once. It is a wonderful little country.

"That restaurant serves awful food. And the portions are so small!"

I give things a fair and honest appraisal before I pass judgement

Again, can we clean the sock puppets out?

The leftist fantasy balderdash producers of Borgen thank you for consuming in full their product that you hated.

Please Tyler, dont embarrash yourself by linking to the story in New York Times.
It is really really bad journalism.

The question are pretty easy, given the fact that you take a course with a tiny book, after which you go to the "exam".
It is absolutely meaningless to compare that to what some random danish people who say - they haven't read the book.

My guess is that most people who have a degree from a university, could not pass many of the exams five years later (or maybe just six months later), if they didn't prepare the for the exam. What should we do about it?

THe citizen test is simple and easy for anybody who can read and is willing to do just a tiny effort to get citizneship in the country in the world with the most generous wellfare state.

That's not how we do things now, dane. In Tyler's world would-be Danish citizens tell the Danish government what they think they should know. Who does the government think it is to set conditions for prospective citizens?

Can we clean the sock-puppets out?

Why would the hosts of a blog that you constantly and rudely badmouth be keen to grant your request? And who's the 'we' you are referring to?

I enjoyed the tv series "Dicte."

I also enjoyed a grim western called "The Salvation."

My favorite Borgen moment is in the third season. Someone in the government said something bad about muslim immigrants and Birgitte decides her new party should answer it with a muslim spokesperson. The problem is none of the party leaders know any muslims (besides a retired MP from a different party who was driven out of politics the previous season), someone knows someone from Indonesia but that isn't good enough.

They start looking around for an immigration spokesperson and eventually find a young women of Pakistani descent who seems perfect - she's educated, accomplished and is an eloquent public speaker. The problem is.... she kind of agreed with the original comments. There are a lot of people from Pakistan that she doesn't want anywhere near Denmark. Birgitte failed to see the irony....

Although "The Salvation" is a western, it also falls into another genre, one of my favorites, picking on the wrong guy who's just minding his

Oh, those are good.

Yeah the key thing is that there's a book to study. How many of us could pass our written driver's license tests today?

I think the test's purpose is really to send a message. If you immigrate here we expect you to integrate and adopt Danish ways and mores, not create your own enclave and recreate your country of origin in Denmark

What I liked about Borgen: quite a difference in the dealing and compromise in a multiparty parliamentary type system and a PM who can be booted anytime, compared to the two warring camps and elected absolute monarch the US system has become.

There is an old joke about 'Literacy' tests that were used in the racist Solid Democrat South to deny certain citizens their voting rights that ends with ...

"Then, after being given a Yiddish language newspaper, the Harvard educated (derisive term for African-American goes here) is asked 'what does this headline mean?' He answers 'it means no (derisive term for African-American goes here) is going to vote in the State of Alabama. "

If they want to bring back the literacy exam, here are questions I would ask (I'm guessing most Americans wouldn't pass):

1 How many police officers are killed each year by civilians? a. 1,000

2A How many civilians are killed each year by police? a. ~ 10 b. ~ 50 c. ~1,000

2B. What percentage of those civilians were unarmed? a. ~10% b. ~ 50% c. ~100%

3. You are less likely to die from?: a. mass killing (or terrism) b. car accident c. drowning

4. In over 225 years since birth of country, how many years has U.S. not been at war?: a. ~15 yrs b. ~100 yrs c. ~200 yrs

5. Which country has highest imprisonment rate?: a. China b. Iran c. USA

Question 1 should have had as possible answers: a. about 10 b. 25-50 and c. about 1,000

(2) is great. We need police officers and so showing how relatively safe the job is with respect to many others (which comes only after you normalize the raw count by number of officers and time on duty) can only encourage more to join the force.

(2A) is great except - well, what if someone disagrees with your answer, and you need to back up what's right and wrong? It's not as though - nationally - we find this
interesting enough to bother tracking.

(3) is fine and relevant but couldn't you have spent a few seconds effort to read what you wrote and spellcheck.,

(4) I'm told, sometimes by sitting presidents, that we are in a war on drugs and, as well, a war on terrorism (you can find older mentions too of a war
on communism in the 50's+). Some lefties dispute these as abuse of the word "war". Whatever; how should we consider these in trying to answer this question?
SItting presidents or leftie rabblerousers. The answer does change a lot depending on whom I supposed to trust.

(5) I'm having trouble with your point: it's true some lefties think we are bad, so bad even that we are worse than _China_ and _Iran_! How can they hate
the country so much? Would it hurt the question so much to choose two random countries from an atlas, or even countries that we view as our
near economic equals (what about "Australia" and "France"?) You are basically suggesting: we have the third highest imprisonment rate in the world, and
some stupid lefties think it's the worst, so here are the two who are higher - we aren't the very very worst in the entire world after all, maybe only third worst out
of so many countries - USA 3rd worst USA 3rd worst USA 3rd worst, Not _the_ worst you simpletons! Hurrah! How else do you think this question could be read?.

Denmark should protect its society from immigrants adhering to less evolved cultures. This test can easily be mastered by people form my country India where memorizing texts goes back to antiquity and is still the norm in all our schools. The Danes should devise a method of filtering people who want to enjoy western prosperity but have contempt for western cultural values which are the basis of the prosperity

Reports on difficulty of test wildly overstate it. I've never been to Denmark, don't especially know anything about them, only lived in Europe (France) for a year of my life. My background is not in any type of social science or politics.

I took the test in Danish, although I don't speak Danish --- I translated every question in Google translate, which cut down on the time I had to think about each question. (You had 30 seconds for each in the version linked from NYT.)

I still managed 25/40, based only on my very rudimentary of EU institutions and a general knowledge of western culture & values (from growing up in it). Seems reasonable to require at least this.

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