Valuing values again

2nd December 2016 at 00:00
The election of Donald Trump is a reminder not to take British values for granted – and that doesn’t mean getting learners to draw Union Jack posters

After the shock of Brexit, one might assume we’d have a higher tolerance for weathering a political shitstorm – or at least that we’d keep a turd-proof cagoule in the porch, just in case.

I’m still stunned after the land of the free elected a leader whose credibility as a policymaker, military commander and decent human being is repeatedly called into question. Admittedly, he was chosen over a deeply flawed alternative candidate, but come on! The election of Donald Trump is not the American Brexit. It’s the equivalent of Katie Hopkins, Rupert Murdoch and Biff from the Back to the Future films, sellotaped together, being voted prime minister.

Unlike the Vote Leave campaign, there was no underlying whisper of racism in Trump’s presidential bid. It was a key selling point.

It didn’t stop there. Trump was going for the full set. If you have a disability, love someone of the same sex or own a vagina, then you are also less welcome, less valued, less human.

Reinforce the power of kindness and compassion, because fighting for what’s right is worth it

Why should this bother educators in the UK? Because of the historical import of the American Way to this island. Don’t get me wrong, I love a Springsteen and Coke while shopping for Halloween on my iPhone. What concerns me is the seepage of Trump’s beliefs from the position he holds as a role model. His spewing of abhorrent views on equality legitimises anyone who agrees with them.

In a pre-Trump world, I taught many individuals with a shaky grasp of how to communicate with humans. I was paid to teach them functional skills English, but often had to prioritise more urgent issues, such as why it’s unacceptable to shout about the appearance of a passing female. Or unapologetic clarity on why the P-word is not an affectionate abbreviation of a person’s assumed ethnic origin, it is racist abuse. Or instruction on why using vile language to verbally assault people with a disability, or who identify as LGBT, isn’t swearing, it’s a hate crime.

Frank discussions about basic human values are how we combat any potential Trump trickle-down. It’s important that we teach values and not the symbols of Britishness flogged in souvenir tat shops. Stop asking students to make Union Jack posters with pictures of the Queen and cups of tea. It’s meaningless busywork and it misses the point. Instead, discuss the rightful acceptance of democratic decisions, regardless of the preferred outcome. Examine the rule of law and the Equality Act. Explore mutual respect for, and tolerance of, those with different faiths and beliefs.

Reinforce the power of basic human values, of kindness and compassion. Fight for them, because fighting for what’s right is worth it.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands and tweets as @MrsSarahSimons

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