Hundreds of thousands of school children are to be taught British values in the wake of the ‘Trojan horse’ scandal from September. So says Michael Gove.
Who will devise this new curriculum? Will it centre just on fairness and tolerance, a la Gove? Or will Dave, hot from his Swedish rowing trip, insist on no less than, “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions.”
Now that is a much taller order. Which British institutions will he include, I wonder?
The ones that have been under government sanctioned attack, if not outright abolished, since the 1970s? the church, the army, the police and marriage?
Fair words that roll nicely off the tongue, but has Dave thought what reinstating respect for them in the national psyche would really entail?
A compulsory return to daily school assembly with Church of England hymns and prayers across the state sector, may be? Single sex education again? Replacing sex education and school contraception services with lessons on the value and meaning of marriage? A new teacher duty to encourage respect for police authority, to stop the routine labeling of them as institutional racists?
No, the teachers’ unions would come out on strike. The arbiters of politically correct thought from the judiciary through The Guardian to the BBC would be up in arms.
Never fear, it won’t happen. Condom putting on classes will continue. Dave and Mike will just huff and they’ll puff along with Mishal Husain and John Humphrys on the Today programme.
For the idea that there is any such thing as left as a British value that can be taught in our atomised society is risible. It went out of the window years ago, when the rights culture came in.
Don’t believe either that Gove’s righteous indignation at the ‘Trojan Horse’ schools Islamic bias (any more than Ofsted’s new found disquiet) derives from the schools’ failure to uphold ‘British values’ or stem extremism.
His fury is at the hole this has all blown in modern platitudes – in the ‘celebration of diversity’, the multicultural orthodoxy that British governments have embraced as a tool of social progress since the 1980s; the culture war his government has failed to fight.
The crime the Birmingham schools have committed is their failure to comply with the niceties of this culture of (competing) rights. They’ve have taken their own a bit too seriously when they should have been genuflecting to the sacred cows of diversity, liberalism and equality, so beloved of the BBC and secular liberal left – like other well behaved state schools.
Ofsted’s inspectors fell foul of these mores too, falling into the trap of respecting Muslim diversity too much.
That’s why the schools are being taken into special measures – now Ofsted’s caught up – for their failure to pay lip service to everything from Diwali to Druidism, from witchcraft to evolution; for failing to be inclusive in their determination to uphold their own beliefs.
We should learn.
Were British institutions like the Church still vibrant, still commanding respect, were schools upholding the precepts of Christianity these Muslim schools might have risked more ‘integration’. But modern British ‘belief’ is strictly secular. LGBT rights trump the right to faith and belief every time – and especially if you are Christian.
It dictates that not to believe in gay marriage is to be homophobic; that gay and transgender – and indeed sexual – rights are the heart of ‘moral’ teaching; that celibacy, faithfulness or traditional marriage are outdated; that all family forms are equal.
This modern version of toleration, fairness and celebrating diversity is confusing at best. Based on BBC values – it’s liberal when it should sanction, it’s authoritarian, anti-Christian and intolerant of those not worshiping at the altar of Polly Toynbee, her Marxist, anti-family and pro-state solution to poverty, when it should be open. The culture of complaint is its creed.
Today’s peculiarly British youth culture of intoxication, coarse television, underage sex, morning after pill, sexually transmitted disease and lone parenthood is its depressing outcome.
If exposing your children to this is the price of integration into British society, who would want it? Why not protect them by maintaining your own value system?
Anyway there already is guidance on the statute book that asks schools to “enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law”. There is nothing wrong with it.
Except it is miles apart from the modern orthodoxies that ministers and teachers alike are in thrall to.
No wonder exhortations “to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” fall on stony ground.
They would come better if we provided a better example. The problem Mr Gove and Mr Cameron really need to address is that we don’t.