UK Liberty

British values

Posted in politicians on liberty, rule of law by ukliberty on April 7, 2007

The Education Secretary, Alan Johnson MP (Kingston upon Hull West & Hessle, Labour) has been criticised for his support for teaching British values in schools – most recently by Baljeet Ghale, the president of the National Union of Teachers, who claimed this was fuelling racism.

I want to focus on one particular bit Mr Johnson has been getting stick for:

Alan Johnson had described the “values we hold very dear in Britain” as “free speech, tolerance, respect for the rule of law”.

“Well, in what way, I’d like to know, are these values that are not held by the peoples of other countries?” she said.

Well, Mr Johnson didn’t say they weren’t held by the peoples of other countries, did he?

Ms Ghale isn’t the only person to have made this mistake. The Independent, for example:

In a BBC radio interview, Mr Johnson elaborated. Schools, he said, needed to find time in the curriculum to teach “values we hold very dear in Britain: free speech, tolerance, respect for the rule of law”. Of course, such values are fundamental to the way this country functions.

They must not be eroded by anyone – and that includes a government that sees civil rights as fair game in the quest for national security. But are such amorphous values really the exclusive hallmarks of Britishness? Do they not distinguish any civilised democracy?

It seems to me that no-one is claiming such values are exclusively British.

Although I would say that Britain has played a unique role in their development.

Nevertheless, they are – I hope – British values, and values that should be promoted in school and beyond.

Children should be taught how such values developed and why they are important.

As should Government Ministers!

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