Saturday, January 27, 2007

What is Britishness?

There has been a lot of talk this week about the move to teach Britishness in schools. And this has got me thinking, what is Britishness? Despite having lived my whole life in this country and needing to go back four generations to find anyone not even English (great-grandmother was Irish), I'm really not sure what it means.

Our defining characteristics as far as I tell are:
  • An endless fascination with the weather
  • The ability to queue
  • The inability to complain effectively
  • Irony

Somehow I don't suppose these are the things that they will be teaching.

Tolerance and value of multiculturalism seem to be the qualities they are talking about and whilst these are undoubtedly good things a) it isn't unique to this nation and b) I'm not convinced these are things that can be taught in the classroom if children are surrounded by hatred and intolerance outside it.

Most kids pick up their beliefs from their parents and their peers, not their teachers and I think parents should take more responsibility for this. Likewise the falling levels of literacy cannot just be the fault of teachers and the government, some blame must lie with parents who foster a culture of ignorance is good (see Jade Goody).

We have produced some great works of literature, so perhaps they should concentrate on making sure everyone can read properly, so they can appreciate Shakespeare, Chaucer, Pinter, Shelley, Bryon, the Brontes etc. We do popular music pretty well too, I suppose.


Miss Forthright said...

Britishness is also a love for the underdog too.

I agree about pop music.

SandDancer said...

Of course, how could I forget the love of the underdog! That is certainly something I do myself.