Teaching “British values” in Schools, really?

Apologies to anyone who doesn’t like my more political posts but I try and keep up to date and informed with Educational news, not only in the context of Higher Education but also Schools and Colleges. After all, the knowledge students come to us with is predominantly from their teachers in those institutions.

To put this into context for you, I am not patriotic in any way. I consider myself lucky to live in this country with the education and health care (etc) I have received. HOWEVER I would not describe myself as being proud of being British. I often find myself cringing at the image of British people that most people hold which typically depicts us as being drunkards. I also come across people (usually on public transport) who clearly do not think before they speak and their vote counts along with mine!

Working with a lot of international staff and students I often wonder why they would want to move to the UK as I don’t see the UK as particularly inspiring or interesting and I often think of us as the “joke of Europe” (hence why we should stay in the EU and thus be in on the joke). This could be something to do with my age or it could be the fact that having studied Sociology I have been able to crticise typical social concepts such as gender, nationality, ethnicity etc.

So this has all lead me to discuss; David Cameron’s plan to get UK Schools teaching “British values”. The Sociologist in me winced when I first heard about this. “Really?! Do we even know what being ‘British’ means?” I don’t know why I was surprised though seeing as the Conservatives have been trying to fart about with education for the sake of it since they have been in power within this coalition.  Some examples of which being the changes Gove wished to make to teaching History and his fiddling around with English class reading lists.

I’m not about to state what I think being British is. I don’t think anyone can properly nail it down for a whole host of reasons. Type British into google images and you will have results showing the Union Jack and Bulldogs. But

Having British values apparently includes…

” promoting democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” 

The BBC awkwardly interviewed some members of the public in a broadcast I saw yesterday and the best thing they could come out with is “well we’re quite self deprecating aren’t we?”… is that it? Great. That’s worth learning about.

I have deliberately skirted around the issue of this plan being linked to supposedly tackling Islamic extremism in Schools as I do not know enough about those isolated cases and I am not a teacher. However, the Sociologist in me (and yes I will keep using that phrase) makes me massively biased here. I think that if Sociology was taught from an earlier age people would be more culturally aware and hopefully more understanding of people generally not just those of a particular faith. I think there are particular groups, Political or otherwise who are damaging to people’s perceptions of groups from other countries.

When pupils get the chance to learn about Sociology, which in the UK is usually when they get to A level (17+) and they ask what Sociology is the responses often make it sound like a soft or weak subject when in fact is the fundamental bedrock of knowledge people need to know it order to properly engage with society as a whole.

What do you think being “British” or having “British values” means? Leave me some comments

I am often under the impression that Politicians are out of touch with the “common man (or woman) on the street” and so can’t really see how they can stretch their own image of Britain over a model for teaching, that would effectively communicate with staff and pupils from a wide variety of backgrounds, in a meaningful way.

As this article helpfully points out (among many other flaws in this plan) is that even the Conservative party can’t agree on some issues and everyone’s values are different even if they come from the same nation.

So do you think this is a good idea? Is anything that makes pupils more socially aware a step in the right direction (even if Sociology has been waiting in the wings to be rolled out more generally in Schools) or will this just go on the scrap heap with Religious Education, Sex Education and PE and the next lesson to try and skip?



Author: eemaa27

Blogging and reflecting to keep my writing skills in tune

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