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Tristram Hunt is wrong — pupils should be schooled in the creed that unites the West

24 March 2015

5:10 PM

24 March 2015

5:10 PM

What is Tristram Hunt trying to say in the Times today? He seems to say that the teaching of British values is an important thing, except when Michael Gove or another Tory says so. When they advocate the teaching of British values, the concept becomes reactionary tosh, because Tories are restructuring the schools system in a Bad way.

He doesn’t actually argue with Michael Gove’s four-part definition (‘the values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs’). He just implies that these things are spun by Tories in an evil right-wing way, without quite producing evidence.


I think the whole debate is rather unhelpful. What we should be talking about, and schooling young people in, is the creed that unites the West as a whole. For what we Britons consider good political values is very similar to what Belgians or Americans consider good political values. It is unhelpful to over-egg the Britishness of these things, when attempting to inculcate them. Because young people will turn off, supposing that this is a just a trivial chit-chat about tea-drinking and good manners. Of course we must teach British history, in all its complexity, but this is not directly about values-teaching.

We should be encouraging young people to affirm the basic creed of the West as a whole. Do I mean liberal democracy? I prefer ‘secular humanism’, which is more basic, more concerned with moral vision. Yes, there is a danger that this term might sound anti-religious, but this issue must be squarely faced: the public ideology of the West is secular in a neutral sense. Let’s get our young people thinking about this, taking pride in it. Idle chat about red buses and the Queen gets in the way.


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