This is the weird thought I had today over lunch (not on the toilet, I might have to change the name of this blog at this rate).
Sometimes I like to engage my children in lively debate over mealtimes. It’s fun (for me at least). I like to know what they think about various contemporary issues and topics (I also often do this on car journeys as well when they can’t run away from my annoying questions).
Today over posh soup and bread from Morrisons I asked them: can you name any traditional British values?
Number one son replied with: I don’t know what you mean. What do you mean?
Number two son said: Oh we did that at school, I can’t remember.
Number three son didn’t respond.
Number two son, after some careful thought, finally came up with: tea!
The reason I posed this question was in response to the most recent ‘coffee and chat’ session between parents and the headteacher at my two youngest sons’ school last week. At the ‘coffee and chat’ we talked about the most topical recent addition to the curriculum for primary schools: the teaching of British values. Ofsted will now judge schools on, among other things, their teaching of British values. The discussion was lively and the conclusion was that British values are quite abstract concepts and hard to teach and the same as the values of most regions in the world: tolerance, democracy, individual liberty. They are mostly common sense.
The Internet, that oracle of truth, tells me that Ofsted lists four British values that primary schools should be teaching. These are: democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
These do indeed seem to be universal values. However, my children appeared to have little understanding of the first two certainly and some limited understanding of the latter two. As all they could come up with was ‘tea’, which I was swift to point out came originally from China and India, this doesn’t bode well for their understanding of the issue at hand. I’m just glad there isn’t an exam.
However, after giving this matter some thought I managed to come up with, over lunch, some fundamentally ‘British’ values that may or may not be found abroad and that my children might be able to grasp:
- Respect for tradition (we are very fond of old things and anything with a bit of pomp and circumstance such as a Royal Wedding)
- Respect for people who are more senior in age (this is a ‘value’ that we share with a country such as Japan, where respect for elders runs very deeply)
- Respect for those with more experience than us (in this area, we are again very similar to the Japanese)
- Decorum (we all know when to turn on the please and thankyous)
- Tolerance of the expression of individuality (we are a nation of eccentrics after all, such as the man number two son saw in HMV last week dressed as a dog)
- Tolerance of minorities in our society (we live in a country which has been conquered and which has in turn conquered so we are by our history multicultural – tolerance is a must)
- Openmindedness (we have lead the world in granting equal rights to all regardless of faith, gender, sexual orientation etc)
- Strong work ethic (compared to many of our mainland European neighbours we are very ambitious and career-orientated and many of us are complete workaholics). This probably comes from our Protestant past. As I pointed out to my children, look at how much work mummy and daddy do – too much.
- Strong education ethic (we want the best for our children and we want them to achieve better than we did, however impossible that might be). Again, I blame the Protestants.
- Belief in our right to democracy (our ancestors fought very hard for democracy so we feel very strongly that it is a given in our society)
I’m sure there are more ‘British values’ that we didn’t come up with over lunch of posh soup from Morrisons today, and some of these above fall into the values listed by Ofsted. However, I think mine are very peculiarly British.
I wonder if I am feeling a bit more patriotic than I was when I wrote this?
So then after the discussion I asked my children again what they thought constituted a British value and number one son responded with: Sunday dinner?