The Curmudgeon


Monday, May 15, 2006

Is Your Child British Enough?

The Minister for Maximal Efficientiation of Late Juvenile Resources proposes that eleven-to-sixteen-year-olds should be inculcated with "traditional British values" as part of an "attempt to challenge extremism and promote a more cohesive society". He thinks they should be taught about "free speech and democracy", too. Apparently the Minister believes that the right of all British adults to vote for the business-friendly war party of their choice is the product of "core values", rather than of a long and painful process of wringing a few civil rights out of a ruthless and pig-headed elite. Indeed, far from being "core British values", the spreading of power and the exercise of free speech have often been hysterically denounced as the final, apocalyptic end of everything that is worthy of the name of Britishness; not least by the Vicar of Downing Street himself.

The Minister also intends to promote what the Guardian's education correspondent tactfully calls "the contested view" that Britain, "a historically Christian society" which, at the height of the church's power, burned heretics with the best of them, was "founded on freedom, democracy and liberty". Aside from the eminently contestable view that freedom and liberty are two different things, the claim that Britain was founded seems strange, to say the least. When did this foundation take place? Was it when the Anglo-Saxons drove the Celts into Wales (freedom of travel), or when the Romans subjugated the Anglo-Saxons (Operation Britannic Liberation), or when the Normans conquered the country (it isn't whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game); or perhaps when the barons forced King John to recognise the fundamental human rights of peasants, women and the unemployed by signing Magna Carta? Perhaps, since it is British rather than English values to which we refer, the foundation took place with the conquest of Wales by Edward Plantagenet, or with the drawing and quartering of William Wallace, or with the creation of Northern Ireland.

The Minister told the Guardian, "I very strongly believe that we are a multicultural, diverse society and I think that gives us incredible strength and richness"; nevertheless, our strength is not quite incredible enough to endure without the propagandising of our children and the putting in their proper place of religions inferior to the historical one: "Some of the demands that are being put forward are unrealistic and I think we have to have a public debate and be clear about what counts as reasonable and what does not," said the Minister.


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