Monday, June 24, 2024
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National shame is compulsory in the classroom


As TCW reported yesterday, according to a YouGov poll for the BBC, 55 per cent of England’s younger generation (aged 18-24) are not proud of their English national identity. Ten per cent even admit to being embarrassed by it. Should we be concerned? Not at all, in the opinion of journalist James Marriott. Writing in The Times he declares:

Anybody concerned about the future of the nation should breathe a sigh of relief . . . Let’s be glad that our young people are embarrassed to be English.

This week BBC TV News is exploring the whole question of English identity, making it the latest salvo of its anti-Brexit campaign. National identities, especially the English version, are at best eccentric and, at worst, a dying irrelevance in the supranational twenty-first century.

Since the BBC is also reporting that 72 per cent of the over-65s are hanging on to pride in this identity, Harry Mount arrived at a more nuanced and intelligent conclusion in an opinion piece for The Daily Telegraph:

These results . . . chime neatly with the BBC’s world-view – that old people, and old-fashioned people, stuck out in the provinces, are all unpleasantly Brexity and nationalistic; while the young, metropolitan and educated are progressive types, too sophisticated to be restricted by, let alone proud of, national characteristics.

I wonder if BBC TV News will report the national amnesia and the epidemic of ignorance that underpins its findings about generational differences over perceptions of English identity. I suspect not. These days, as Lord Tebbit has pointed out, ‘Lest we forget’ has become ‘Lest we remember’. Readers may have their worst fears confirmed if they read my explanation of this turn of events on the Reaper website.

How depressing and how alarming it is that so many politicians and commentators are too lazy to take a genuine, or an in-depth, interest in the revolution that has been quietly taking place in our classrooms over the past three decades. One need only look at the records of attendance in the Commons chamber for years when education is up for discussion to appreciate the extent of the political neglect.

Sadly, the denial of pride in identity that the BBC is now publicising has not come about by accident and nor does it represent superior emotional or intellectual maturity amongst those schooled here over the past thirty years or so, as James Marriott would have us believe.

What it signifies is a knowledge deficit consequent on a delinquent education system. Its casualties are those who leave school knowing little, if anything, about their national identity. And the little they do know focuses on the shame, not the pain and struggle, of our past. Ignorance is now enshrined in law by a history national curriculum that makes entirely optional any specific landmark event or personality from English or, indeed, from British history.

Outside the UK the terms ‘English’ and ‘British’ are largely used synonymously. Within the UK itself, however, ‘British’ is seen as more acceptable and less a source of embarrassment than ‘English’. A British Social Attitudes Survey made this clear in 2014. It showed, however, that over the previous ten years the percentage of those feeling ‘very proud’ to be British had fallen from 43 per cent to 35 per cent. Forty-seven per cent still claimed to be ‘somewhat proud’ to be British. The Sunday Times pointed out that this was an ‘all-time low’.

Four years on from that survey, is pride in British identity going the same way as pride in English identity? Most likely!

How is it possible for an increasing number of young people to turn their back on Britain’s and England’s heroic stand against the Nazis in 1940, the sacrifices of the Great War, the campaign against slavery and so on?

Not every episode of British history is a source of pride, of course, but, on balance, we have more to be proud of than any other great imperial power across the world, anywhere and at any time.

Turns out, kids, that we are not half as bad as your schooling made us out to be! Respect!

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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