Don't knock Fritz, praise Tommy

28th June 1996 at 01:00
Our problem is not love of nationalism, but fear of it, says Nick Tate. Nicholas Pyke reports

While the Daily Mirror beats a hasty retreat from its War on the Krauts, while nationalistic excesses furrow brows in the broadsheets, Dr Nicholas Tate soldiers on.

We are neglecting our sense of national identity, he told The TES this week. Never mind the tabloid xenophobia, schools should tell us what it is to be British.

It will take more than Euro '96 and the language police to deter the chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. For the past six months, in speech after shameless speech he has promoted our native language and culture, and bemoaned our collective loss of nerve. In fact, according to Dr Tate, the problem is not our love of nationalism, but our fear of it.

"Of course there are things of which we are ashamed in our past. But we have over-reacted and come to feel that there is something distasteful in the very idea of national identity," he told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

"We have ended up with the rather odd situation where people can be deeply sympathetic to other people's cultural traditions, but disdainful towards their own."

This failure, says Dr Tate, led to last week's treatment of Pedro and Juan, and the avalanche of abuse this week heaped on Fritz. A nation ill at ease with itself, he argues, is taking solace in comic-book stereotypes - old ones at that.

"If you lack a worthwhile sense of group identity you become insecure and you begin to lash out at others," he said. "It is with individual and group self-esteem that we begin to see ourselves in relation to others."

And the solution? "I'm pushing for urgent consideration to be given to citizenship education as an important part of the curriculum. In particular one doesn't have explicit teaching about the country we are today as well as the country we were in the past. One of the problems is that with all this festering away, intellectuals feel a great distaste and therefore play down the matter of national identity."

This almost includes Dr Tate. "It was bad enough for the Spaniards. There was a lot of silly stuff about the Armada and so on. The German stuff is rather more serious . . . there is a historical basis for potential trouble."

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