I was in Bath recently talking to an excellent group of trainees about fundamental British values.
What are they?
It’s not easy to say is it?
The government have told us that they are: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs.
Got a problem with that?
Going by the reaction at my talks a lot of people have.
So I ask: What are yours then?
Battle of Britain? Getting rotten drunk? BBC? Misbehaving at football? Dickens, Austen, Rowling? Strictly Come Dancing? Fish and chips? Nice cuppa tea? Newton, Darwin, Faraday? Black taxi cabs?
I don’t mean to trivialise but sometimes I make up a list of things that derive from ‘British’ behaviours, history, culture and customs just to wind-up my audience. I can see some of them getting annoyed. I don’t stop… James Bond films… the Dunkirk Spirit… stiff upper lip… always saying sorry, talking about weather…
The funny thing is, I actually believe some of them, though I don’t tell my audience which ones.
British values, especially fundamental British values are hard to summarise aren’t they?
That’s because of course, we all have our own personal values and our own ways of relating them to be being British.
Discussing this issue with student teachers and trainees, they often question how fundamental British values can even be encapsulated into a sentence like “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs” – and they challenge even the notion of trying to do it in a diverse and multi-cultural society such as ours.
They’re right to say it’s hard. They’re right to say it’s challenging. Just because it’s hard and challenging doesn’t mean that fundamental British values don’t exist.
Go on… Have a go yourself…
Try and get fundamental British values into a single sentence…
The French manage it with theirs and they do it in better than a sentence – they manage it in just three words: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Three words that say who and what they want their society to be. That’s quite an achievement I think – and they did it two hundred years before the invention of advertising strap lines and PR jargon – though not, of course, before the Greeks gave us an understanding of how the rhetorical tri-colon plays a fundamental role in how we understand philosophical and political messages.
What are your three fundamental values?
What’s the message of yourself as a teacher?
Maybe you should come up with one, or one day you might find a politician asking you to take an oath…