WHEN THE new National Union of Teachers president argued that tolerance was not an innately British value, she had no idea how quickly her point would be proven. Baljeet Ghale told her union's Easter conference that plans to teach Britishness were likely to fuel racism. Now the east London teacher has received hate-mail telling her to go back to Kenya.
But Ms Ghale, who has lived in Britain since she was eight, has taken the letters in her stride. She said that she had expected some negative reactions. "There's no response I can give to them - it's just people exercising their right to free speech," she said.
One letter said: "You have it far too good here. You should emigrate."
Another says: "If you are British, you respect your British heritage... If you don't, then you are not very British and should accordingly be taught what it means to be British." A third told her to "fuck off back to wogland".
Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, had said schools should teach British values such as tolerance, free speech and respect for the rule of law, to help overcome the extremism behind race riots and the London bombings.
Ms Ghale's argument was that there was nothing exclusively British about such values and that it was racist to portray other cultures as not sharing them. The education system should accept her right, she said, to support Brazil in the World Cup, Kenya in the Olympics, England in the Ashes and India in other cricket matches.
This week, she said that ordinary citizens, from Zimbabwe to Syria, shared similar values of tolerance and respect for free speech, even if their governments did not fully recognise those freedoms.
She argued that Britain's record of tolerance was not good, but tolerance was not enough, she said, because it implied merely "putting up with" other people - a begrudging acceptance that far-right parties could capitalise on.
Ms Ghale has not made a complaint, butJa Metropolitan Police spokesman said any allegation of a crime would be fully investigated.