Geography's turn for `British culture' speech

19th April 1996 at 01:00
Geography lessons should help foster a sense of national community in the face of a homogenised global culture, according to Nicholas Tate, the Government's chief curriculum adviser.

Dr Tate, chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, urged teachers to stand up for "distinctiveness and tradition", and asked them to consider teaching more British geography, writes Nicholas Pyke.

In an address to the annual conference of the Geographical Association at Southampton, Dr Tate returned to the theme of cultural identity which has dominated his recent talks.

"A world of social and geographical mobility, frequent job changes and family breakdown is a world in even greater need of those things that bind people into distinctive communities." Yet the world, he said, is faced with increasing cultural uniformity.

"National identities can be inclusive and involve strong support and respect for cultural minorities alongside an unembarrassed affirmation of the traditions of the majority culture."

British identity, he said, does not exclude a complementary sense of, for example, European identity.

Dr Tate told the conference that geography is a suitable area for discussing a range of "citizenship" issues, such as the causes of ethnic conflict, questions of nationhood, and the impact of the media on society.

He said that understanding geography is also a central part of cultural literacy: "That framework of reference which helps to define the distinctive features and concerns of a society, which ensures continuity with the past of that society, and which enables people within it to speak to each other. "

Dr Tate asked the conference to consider whether or not future changes to the curriculum - after 2000 - should involve incorporating a requirement to study "the geography of either England or the United Kingdom as an entity in itself".

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