There was much talk last week of British values, and the need for schools to teach them – and not just in Birmingham. Not for the first time schools are asked to step up at times of moral crisis.
In a piece I was struggling to finish in the same week, I suggested that values and values-informed practices would be central to a university that wanted to become, and thence be, sustainable. But I have long known (not just thought) that values are caught and not taught; and they are absorbed through and from experience, rather than formally learned – though formal schooling can surely help this along. Some of these points were made by Frank Cottrell Boyce in an Observer piece on Sunday. In this, he deprecates the tendency for a discussion of British values to default to a list of things we value – which is not the same thing at all.
Cottrell Boyce said that he rather liked the following comment, but who said it?
Britishness is best understood as an identity shaped by an understanding of the common law, refined by the struggle between the people's representatives and arbitrary power, rooted in a presumption in favour of individual freedom, enriched by a love of the quirky, local and unique, buttressed by anger at injustice, constantly open to the world and engaged with suffering of others, sustained through adversity by subversive humour and better understood through literature than any other art.
If you scroll down the page, you will find out:
It was that nice Mr Gove, in a response to Gordon Brown's book The Governance of Britain. I wonder if he remembers.