Project IN PROGRESS. The following notes are intended only as advice to The Unity of Faiths Foundation
- TUFF commissioned John and the MRU to develop a learning tool that promotes British values.
- The work began in June 2015 and is intended for Key Stage 3 students in the UK.
- The UK Government's plan to introduce British values into the classroom is controversial
- (see The Guardian: 30-03-2015)
- However, we will offer a learning tool that encourages an inquiry into a variety of value systems.
- It is an adaptation our tetrahedral relational learning and assessment tool first implemented in 2005.
- This was developed for the MA Design Futures & Metadesign programme at Goldsmiths.
- In 2013, a bespoke version was introduced in Icelandic Academy of Arts for their MA Design programme.
- It would be relatively easy to teach 'British' values if they were clear.
- However, our complex history means that the task is not simple.
- Should we:
- Base it on current British values?
- Base it on UK history (presented in a balanced, self-critical way)?
- Base it on UK history (presented in a more aspirational, glamorised way)?
- This paper would need re-interpretation for (Key Stage 3) classroom usage.
- This project's underlying motivation may be government anxieties about 'radicalisation' and 'fundamentalism'.
- Here, 'radicalisation' may mean:
- 1. inciting/persuading someone to change from well-balanced to immoderate or intolerant beliefs.
- 2. It may also refer to the transition from legal/peaceful to illegal/violent behaviour.
- The term 'Fundamentalism' has a neutral meaning that describes someone's adherence to a number of doctrines that are pivotal to a theology or belief system.
- However, it is often used in the stronger sense of an unshakeable faith in tenets that are deemed irreducible.
- We note that believers may not see them as beliefs, but as truths.
- This kind of fundamentalism may present claims to truth as indubitable axioms.
- 1. We should keep (these) background historical notes and views private.
- 2. We should offer our tool/model as something that cultivates aspirational (British) values.
- i.e. to map a better and viable future, rather than claiming a glorious past.
- 4. We should see it as a way to locate values to which most decent (UK) citizens subscribe.
- 5. The sensitivities of the project call for expert advice in selecting and presenting aspects of our proposal.
- We need a consultant with expert knowledge of the UK government's current agenda and desires.
- 6. Don't announce TUFF's aim of including every school in London.
- Ambitious schools may see the project mainly as a public platform for highlighting their success.
- Other schools may see it as another policy change that will cause them additional work.
The Kingdom of Great Britain was formally established via the Acts of Union in 1707, after which Britons are said to have taken on a plural identity that is British and Scottish, English, and/or Welsh.The British identity that emerged during this formative period reflects the Protestant values of the time. The identities and values also reflect the vast, hierarchical and multi-layered heterogeneity of peoples within the British Empire that developed from the 16th century onwards. By 1922 the British Empire totalled around one-fifth of the world's population, which meant that all of these developments left a strong, influential political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy. Nonetheless, the values embedded in the system are sometimes more variegated and diffused, rather than monolithic and clear.
By the late 20th century, public opinion was divided as to whether there should, or even could, be a homogeneous British identity or allegiance to Britain. This remains controversial, as some ethnic minorities may feel quite divorced from Britishness because of white English dominance; Gwynfor Evans, Welsh nationalist politician, said that "Britishness is a political synonym for Englishness which extends English culture over the Scots, Welsh and the Irish". Historians Graham Macphee and Prem Poddar state that Britishness and Englishness are invariably conflated as they are both tied to the identity of the British Empire and the United Kingdom.
In the 19th and 20th centuries Britain managed the complex plurality of voices within the Empire by combining genteel paternalism with a toleration for individual eccentricity and difference. A significant portion of England's reputation as a world-class literary culture stemmed from the rich influence of Irish writers. Similarly, Scotland has been immensely productive in producing inventors and pioneers, such as Adam Smith or Logie Baird. Indeed, the idea of 'Britishness', rather than 'Englishness' was strengthened with the development of the 'British Broadcasting Corporation', led by a pragmatic Presbyterian Scotsman (Lord Reith) who maintained strict control over what he regarded as decent family values and made sure that all transmitted information was delivered only in a standard 'BBC English' accent. Another legacy that remains dear to the heart of Britons is the National Health Service, which was pioneered by the Welshman, Ernest Bevan.
It is generally agreed that capitalism was predicated upon Protestant values, such as hard work, modesty, temperance and an acute sense of one's conscience. This meant that self-effacing modesty, fair-play, and a liberal attitude to personal eccentricity were characteristic principles. In many respects, British values in the late 19th and early 20th century may now appear overly formal, militaristic and male-centred. Displays of public emotion tended to be frowned upon, or even regarded as soft or hysterical. Iin the early 19th century, the characteristically British quality of self-restraint was captured in the expression 'having a stiff upper lip'. However, these values have waned in the era of personality, celebrity, glamour and competitiveness. This is not to say that British values in the 21st century have changed beyond recognition. Politicians and industrialists are still fond of the idea that top-down regulation should deliver a 'level playing field', even if the gentlemanly metaphors of being a 'good sport' or something being 'not cricket' are out of fashion.
Perhaps older Britons recall previous times of austerity when gutsy Churchillian rhetoric, American swing bands and Vera Lynn were used to raise community spirits and to bring unity to the nation. There has been a strange revival of the slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry On" that adorns many kitsch ornaments and novelty giftware. However, it is likely that the sense of playful irony they reflect also signifies the lack of new visions, or an underlying cynicism and anxiety. Perhaps the traditional British identity has become too blurred and indistinct to useful, except as a whimsical afterglow of its colonial past.
By the last quarter of the 20th century, obedience to Church and State became replaced by the politics of consumption, public deference gave way to private self-interest. It is possible that a more laissez-faire style of hedonism and ethical gamesmanship are connected with the 1980's de-regulation of the money markets. Only couple of years before the 'Big Bang', football experts were heard unashamedly discussing the expediencies of the 'professional foul'. By this time, advertising agencies were persuading citizens to lose their inhibitions and enjoy themselves. A decade into the 21st century, in terms of British values, this trend continues to 'move the goalposts', at least for the many young people who enjoy high levels of disposable income. Binge drinking, and other rowdy habits of hedonism, are now a lucrative business for many travel agents and overseas bars.
While, the one hand, the power of the censor in sexual matters declined after the Lady Chatterly's Lover trial of the 1960s, the modern (ironic) notion of 'political correctness' began to emerge in the 1970s. Tacit, if grudging public acceptance of it in the UK has had a mixed result. Although some see it as a lamentable symptom of a bureaucratic interference, others believe that it has nevertheless encouraged the welcome celebration of 'difference'. Despite continued ridicule and debate, tacit public acceptance of 'PC' principles seems to have engendered quiet indignation about racism, and other forms of bigotry, and an acceptance of a wider spectrum of genders and sexual preferences as 'natural' (i.e. more or less).
By the 21st century, the art of disarming one's companions by understatement, or by feigning ineptness was still alive and well. Some of these traits emerged with military etiquettes and with English Dandy-ism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. They can still be found in (usually in upper class, or upper middle class male) figures, such as Boris Johnson or Hugh Grant. However, this identifiable 'Englishness' now operates in ways that may be either serious or ironically self-mocking. This might be summarised as a brave but self-effacing stoicism and voiced in prim innuendo and polite euphemism. This is partly because the shifts in Britain's shifting class system means that a decreasing percentage of the populations identifies with traditional working class values and alliances.
Many of the values described above call for a high level of self-awareness and the ability to present oneself in a particular way. Both of these techniques can be found in the ideas of Socrates. The more political idea of self-ownership came much later, with the influence of the Scotsman, John Locke. If altruism and empathy for others can be claimed as among the highest qualities within British culture, then it is hard to detach them from the Socratic skill of 'knowing oneself'.
An important (and long-established) aspect of Western thought is the dualistic separation between the ideas of mind and body. In the Enlightenment era, this informed the way that the early (mainly British) scientists viewed the world (Nature) and the self (the observer) as separate. It therefore created a wide variety of observational techniques that tried to exclude the direct experience of the observer from the results of experiments in the name of 'objectivity'. While this has proved extremely successful in many respects, few scientists have succeeded (or even tried) to create a self-inclusive map of their reality.
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