Mr Gove’s idea to teach “English values”

What is England? Is it cricket and churches? TV and Tories? Urbanisation, and capitalism?

What are English values? Fairness and equality? Individualism and privatisation? Help for all, or help yourself? Christian love or Christian Crusades?

 

England is a complex multicultural society. And the multiculturalism should be embraced as it has so many positives to offer the country. I am not blind to the heinous crimes dictated by certain antiquated but still followed doctrines but a doctrine of promoting nationalist values would be ultimately divisive; “my country has better values than yours”; “you don’t come from my country therefore you’re bad”. Creating an us and them, your values, our values belief system has never historically led to peaceful co-habitation. Addressing values in schools is not though an inherently poor idea, so how can we address this in school?

Teach the young to think critically. Critically engage with what they believe; about what they are told to do and believe by their peers and elders, and act with logic and compassion within a society that does not act hypocritically contrary to what it teaches. An ‘English’ person (whatever that is) may see the value in acting with neighbourly love in the knowledge that they may never have it returned; something seen much more in Eastern collectivist societies and not in individualised Western societies. Others may see the value in treating both men and women with total equality and fairness; a fair wage for all, no violence towards women based on unscrutinised texts that breech basic human rights. But, also no sleazy photo shoots that put a woman’s look before what she has to offer the world as a person (see Maria Sharapova’s sexy photoshoot after winning tennis’ French Open, and yet no photo shoot from the male winner Rafael Nadal).

Take the good parts of all cultures and build something based on basic human rights and fair and equitable treatment for all. Surely the primary goal of an individual, and therefore a society as a whole, is to improve the wellbeing and ability to flourish of themselves but also every one else too. Teaching values hung loosely around an idea of a country that may or may not exist and in fact have never existed will not achieve this. Setting aside differences and finding the common ground with listening and change on all sides is the template that history has shown us and that we should follow.

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