A lesson in destroying British identity
Published in: Daily Mail
One of the most startling aspects of our society at present is the way things that were once considered to be virtues have now become the object of intense disapproval, and vice versa.
A recent survey of teachers by London University's Institute of Education found that some three-quarters of them believed it was their duty to warn their pupils about the dangers of patriotism.
Once upon a time, loving your country enough that you were prepared to die for it was held to be the highest virtue.
Indeed, without patriotism there would be no one serving in the Armed Forces.
For the past 1,000 years, it has given the people of these islands the strength and courage to repel invaders and defeat the enemies of liberty.
Is it not extraordinary that such affection for your country should now be considered so objectionable that children should be told it is positively dangerous?
One teacher said that praising patriotism excluded non-British pupils. 'Patriotism about being British divides groups along racial lines, when we aim to bring pupils to an understanding of what makes us the same.'
But on the contrary, patriotism is what binds us together through a shared sense of belonging and a desire to defend what we all have in common.
What this teacher seemed to be saying was that children from immigrant backgrounds can't have that shared sense of belonging because they are not really British. Is that not itself a racist attitude?
And if such children really are merely foreign visitors, it is even more extraordinary that teachers should tailor the education of children who are British to suit the few who are not.
But then, some of these teachers seemed unwilling to acknowledge the concept of citizenship at all, spouting idiotic nonsense instead about promoting 'universal brotherhood' or the need to 'identify as humans'.
With no awareness of any irony (they probably don't understand what that means either) some said promoting patriotism was a form of 'brainwashing'.
So what, pray, is promoting 'universal brotherhood'? Planet earth to teachers: make contact, please!
As the researchers who conducted this survey point out, much of history and politics is incomprehensible without understanding the power of patriotic sentiment.
Accordingly, they say, schools should ensure that pupils not only understand what patriotism is, but are also 'equipped to make reasoned judgments about the place it should occupy in their own emotional lives'.
Surely that's the point. Teachers should not set out to put across one point of view, which replaces education with propaganda. Instead, they should be giving pupils both knowledge and the ability to think about it and learn from it so they can arrive at their own conclusions.
But on the grounds that love for your country is wrong, many teachers have long stopped passing on to children the knowledge they need if they are to admire and identify with Britain. Somehow this has got mixed up with racism, xenophobia and the BNP.
Perverse though this may seem, it is not actually a surprise. It is merely the latest stage in the deconstruction of education that has been going on for the past three decades - and at the heart of which lies the teaching of history.
Back in the Eighties and Nineties, history teaching was at the centre of a tremendous battle over British national identity.
In one camp were those who believed that it meant transmitting to pupils the story of this nation and its institutions; in the other camp were those who said that to do so was racist.
That was because they subscribed to the view that Britain was itself intrinsically racist: that it had a history of colonial exploitation and that a new society had to be created that would treat the culture of every incomer as equal to the culture of the indigenous British.
More fundamentally even than that, they believed the very idea of a nation with a distinct identity at all was racist.
According to their reasoning, the nation led to nationalism, and nationalism led to prejudice and war. So destroying national identity would eradicate all such horrors and create the brotherhood of man on earth.
Of course, this was ridiculous. Such a utopian vision was likely to result in more prejudice and war, since without the glue of shared national identity a society fragments into warring factions. Moreover, the pose of 'neutrality' that teachers adopted in denouncing patriotism did not prevent them from telling children that Britain had a past of which it should be ashamed.
Despite their far-left provenance, these destructive, even nihilistic views captured the education world. In part, this was a reaction to mass immigration. Teaching Britain's national identity was thought to discriminate against foreign-born children.
But the surest way to ensure that immigrant children are excluded from a society is to fail to teach them to know and admire the country of which they are now citizens.
Native-born children have been left equally bereft of anything in their country with which they can feel a proud sense of identification. These teachers have produced equality, all right: an equality of rootlessness.
They have also produced widespread ignorance. No longer telling the coherent story of the nation, history teaching took instead the form of disconnected episodes that made little sense.
No wonder a major study is now warning that in some state secondary schools the subject faces extinction altogether.
Thousands of pupils are being allowed to drop history at the age of 13, with fewer than a third of pupils studying it to GCSE.
This ignorance is affecting even the intellectual cream of the crop. Professor Derek Matthews, an economics lecturer at Cardiff University, was so concerned at his students' lack of historical knowledge that he set them a number of simple questions.
He discovered that only one in six knew that the Duke of Wellington led the British Army in the battle of Waterloo; only one in ten could name a single 19th-century British prime minister; some of his students had never heard of the Reformation; and one thought Martin Luther was an American civil rights leader.
Yet these students were probably in the top 15 per cent of their age group for educational success.
Despite -- or perhaps, because of -- this collapse of knowledge in the schools, there is a tremendous appetite for history among the general public.
TV historians turn into superstars; genealogy has become a craze as more and more people search for their family histories; and even the six novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize are all in different ways rooted in the past.
People are usually desperate if they cannot root themselves. Yet for ideological reasons, the teaching world decided unilaterally to deprive children of the ability to do so.
Gordon Brown has spoken in favour of encouraging pupils to be patriotic, calling for 'Britishness' lessons to be part of the curriculum. He is right to be concerned about the erosion of national identity.
What he is reluctant to acknowledge, however, is that the root cause of this is the promotion of multiculturalism, which has turned patriotism into a dirty word.
But without patriotism, a society starts to die. If the core purpose of education is to transmit a culture down through the generations, it is not patriotism that is a menace to this country, but the teachers whose real target is Britain's identity itself.