Perils of classes in 'Britishness'

9th June 2006 at 01:00
I welcome Bernard Crick's criticism of the Government's proposals to promote British values by including history in the citizenship curriculum (TES, May 19). These are a knee-jerk reaction to the problems of extremism in the Muslim community, and as he suggests, are designed more to grab headlines than deal with the problems. The proposals would destabilise a successful citizenship initiative while failing to deal with extremism.

Muslim fundamentalists feel no loyalty to Britain and the values of democratic and peaceful debate, because they adhere to an ideology which does not see any value in Britishness.

In this they behave just like the Irish terrorists of the pre-Good Friday Agreement period, who defined themselves by religion, or communist fundamentalists who believe in international revolution. Trying to impose values they do not accept in school lessons is naive. Indeed the term Britishness is itself part of the problem as it defines issues by the accident of geography.

Once a nationalistic framework is set in place rather than universal values then the questions are set in a way which encourages xenophobia.

New Labour may think it has support for its values. But if a Conservative government took over, or a Scottish Nationalist government north of the border, or even worse if the extremist British National Party had any share of power, then they would impose their own values.

History cannot become a political football. It is essential that the higher education minister is lobbied effectively to remove the misuse of history in this way.

Trevor Fisher

49 Lovatt Street, Stafford

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