I do wish that Mr Gove, the Education Secretary, (and everyone else for that matter) would stop trying to wrap progressive values in a national flag.
I feel uncomfortable about it, whatever the flag – and there’s a lot of it going on in Scotland at the moment too.
According to the Prime Minister, the kinds of values that he and Mr Gove mean by British values are:
- respect for the rule of law
- belief in personal and social responsibility
- respect for British institutions
Well, with the exception of the last on (which institutions? – there’s plenty of good British people who have little respect for parliament and parliamentarians at the moment) this has nothing whatsoever to do with being British and mostly to do with being a good citizen. (I say mostly because I’ve no interested in being merely tolerated by anyone).
I think that if we want such things taught in schools then we should defend the idea of having proper civics classes and agree a strategy that doesn’t come waving flags of any kind.
There’s also one or two things missing from that list like equality, being a global citizen, human dignity in work and human rights. If the Prime Minister was talking about some of that then I might be cheering him on. As it is, we are left with sound bites that sound like they have been left over from John Major’s Back to Basics campaign.
It seems to me that very many people are weary of religion being such an issue in schools and think that schools would be better without it. Those who promote faith schools seem particularly defensive at the moment and not without good reason.
The things is, it seems to me that it is obvious that faith schools are not part of the problem insofar as they are known to promote rather than detract from community cohesion. However, it is equally obvious that faith schools are part of the problem in that some religious groups have ready access to them and some don’t. Their existence automatically makes people think that everyone should have the right to a religious education no matter what kind of religion the state is being expected to endorse. Furthermore, we know that at least some of those faith schools have strong input (including clergy governors) who walk a long way away from equality and tolerance in the rest of their lives.
My view – the state should be investing less in faith schools not more and it should be promoting the teaching of civics rather than British (or any other pseudo-nationalistic) values.
And if we want progressive values taught in schools (and I do) then we should be prepared to come out and name those values and say so.