We at the Perfect Gentleman seldom weigh in on any kind of political debate or commentary; in fact we are fairly apolitical here at PGHQ. But we were intrigued by recent comments about British Values and thought we might raise our gentlemanly heads above the parapet and wave an umbrella at the discussion.
Now, a discussion of the reasons as to why this recent debate has occurred is really not in our realm, but the discussion about educating children in British Values is right up our street.
What are British Values? Well, there is the comedic, if finding himself alone a British man forms an orderly queue of one, or the popular opinion held by our neighbours that all British people drink only warm beer and adore football. But these are not so much values, as quirky national traits.
British Values are actually quite simple and have been around for sometime, in fact they are not dissimilar from those values we talk about with regard to the Perfect Gentleman. Fundamental to that is Respect. Indeed, David Cameron used the word respect twice when he described his thoughts of values and also used the word ‘tolerance’, which is another form of respect.
We are a respectful nation, or indeed we should be. It seems to be slipping, especially if we now need to teach it in class. This runs in parallel with the debate about teaching Manners in class as the two go hand in hand, but that is another long topic which I am sure we will return to soon.
Respect is also the first word in our mission statement. It is about the respect for yourself, respect for others and respect for the world at large. This is directly translated into British Values. Respect for yourself means looking after yourself, both as a responsible citizen of the UK and as an individual. Respect for others, well this is the big one, isn’t it? It means respect other peoples beliefs and opinions, treat others with fairness. That true old adage ‘Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself’. The third level of Respect is the world at large; obey the law, look after your community and think about the impact of your actions on the world at large.
My wife, who is South African, recently took the ‘Life in the UK’ test for her citizenship. The first two pages of the handbook for this test talks about all these values. In fact, I picked it up just to check.
So, why has this slipped away? Why are we being forced to put this on the curriculum? Well, when we interviewed ex-Headmaster of Papplewick and ISI Inspector of Schools, he said (and I am paraphrasing here) that we have lost School Masters and everyone is now a School Teacher. (You can see the full interview here)
We are so driven by academic results, which are important, but lose sight of the bigger picture of developing a well rounded character with a core set of good values. So, do we need to add it to the curriculum? Yes, we think we do. We also believe that manners should be taught at school too, these are the physical demonstrations of core solid values, which we believe are the British values as mentioned above.
Finally, Britain is a nation of immigrants and immigration, we have been absorbing people from around the world some by being conquered, some by conquest but the majority by trade. We have adopted all manner of habits and quirks thanks to this new blood into our system, but one thing is pretty clear, British values have remained the same for centuries. Values are the fabric of the nation and that has not changed and will not change. Every now and then we like to remind people what they are and to be proud of them.