Traditional British values

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Schoolchildren should be taught "traditional British values" as part of an attempt to challenge extremism and promote a more cohesive society, the UK higher education minister claimed.

Under the proposals, all 11 to 16-year-olds will learn about free speech and democracy in the UK, as well as about the contribution of different communities to building a modern, successful country.

  • What are “core values”?

  • Do you think core values should be taught at schools?

  • Should governments promote "traditional values" in their societies?

  • How in your understanding are core values learned?

READING-1 (British core values)

Pre-reading: Do values differ from nation to nation? What factors influence the set-up of traditional national values?

Read the texts, answer the questions that follow.


Martin Kettle

The Guardian May 15, 2006

Now, if there is one thing that most people will accept (happily in some cases, unhappily in others) about a country like ours in the 21st century, it is that the old nation state no longer comfortably embodies the people who inhabit it - call that the Tebbit test or the melting pot according to choice. But it's a fact that we all know we live in interconnected and weakened nations. So I'm very sceptical that a dose of shared national values are really the answer to any of these issues. I fear they might merely be a source of fresh divisions and disagreements.

I'd be more in favour of kids being taught Core British Values if I knew what CBV actually were. But in every discussion I've ever been involved in on this subject (and I've been in a few) it's not long before someone (sometimes me) makes the blindingly obvious point that fairness or ingenuity or respect or love of the countryside - or whatever virtue some other speaker has identified as essentially British - isn't in fact uniquely British at all. If I were French, I would have no trouble claiming that all these qualities were French Values too. Or if I were American. Or Chinese. And so on around the world. It is just daft to pretend that we British, however polite or pastoral we may imagine ourselves to be, are uniquely defined by them.

I'm not going to pretend that there isn't something worthy of the name that I would want to call Britishness. I think it's a fascinating challenge to define what, if anything, really differentiates one group of human beings from another. But this is an incredibly slippery and elusive subject and too much of the debate is owned by scoundrels.

Yes, some aspects of what I would define as truly distinctive Britishness are rather admirable, like our pride in our particular independence, or an inherent scepticism towards theory and authority and a rumbustiously creative and adaptive use of language. But there are other British values, like drunken aggression and a seemingly unquenchable appetite for smut, that do less for me. And in any case, as I've said, a lot of what we tend to pass off as British is actually common to all humankind, while quite a lot of the rest is more accurately labelled, I suspect, as English.

So my view is that we should abandon the rather quaint and daft (and perhaps rather British) idea of trying to define the Britishness of core values, and should concentrate instead on the Core Values themselves, without trying to plant the Union Jack on any of them. I'm all for kids being taught about good citizenship and the principles of democracy, about respect for others, about non-violence, the rule of law, the ethical life, respect for the environment, individual freedom and the ties of community - and about how we can reconcile them.

Reading Notes

Norman Beresford Tebbit, Baron Tebbit, CH, PC (born 29 March 1931) is a British Conservative politician and former MP. He proposed the "Cricket test", also known as the "Tebbit Test", where he suggested that people from ethnic minorities in Britain should not be considered truly British until they supported the England cricket team, as opposed to the country of their or their ancestors' birth.

The melting pot - is a metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, with different elements "melting together". It is particularly used to describe the assimilation of immigrants to the United States.

The first use of the concept of immigrants "melting" into the receiving culture is found in the writings of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782) Crevecoeur writes, that the American is one who "leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labour and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world."

  • How important are the shared national values according to the author?

  • What qualities does the author define as distinctively British?



Archbishop Cranmer

February, 2011

In recent years, we observe that ‘Britishness’ for Margaret Thatcher was about individual responsibility and industry - the Protestant work ethic; the place of the United Kingdom in the world; the maintenance of democracy; the flourishing of liberty; the importance of the family; respect for Parliament, Church and Monarchy; and a patriotism which was not ashamed to fly the Union Flag. For John Major it was concerned with warm beer and cricket on the village green; ‘back to basics’; traditional values. For Tony Blair it was about social justice and rebranding for the postmodern era: ‘Cool Britannia’; of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in support of an interventionist foreign policy to rid the world of evil dictators. For Gordon Brown it was... well, he never quite got there, but he did talk an awful lot about tolerance and fairness.

David Cameron hasn’t yet synthesised his views, but in 2007 he observed: “It is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around.” On social cohesion, he said that ‘integration is a two-way street. If we want to remind ourselves of British values - hospitality, tolerance and generosity to name just three - there are plenty of British Muslims ready to show us what those things really mean’. He was, of course, on the campaign trail, but he could scarcely have said anything more provocative to the indigenous peoples of these islands than to laud Islam as the paragon of family and community values to which all Christians must aspire. And yet he was right to observe that many British Asians do value what it means to be British far more than many of those with a genetic heritage going back millennia, and they have achieved an admirable level of integration within just one generation. But these developments have caused something of an identity crisis in the nation, spawning numerous books and articles which seek to define what is meant by ‘Britishness’.

First and foremost, Britishness is about tolerance: it is the attribute which has enabled five million immigrants and their descendants to comprise a tenth of the country’s population. This pluralism is a priceless ingredient of the nation’s culture, and it is incumbent upon people of all creeds, philosophies, ethnicities and political ideologies to tolerate those with whom they do not agree.

But British culture cannot be cohesive when there is diversity of language, laws, traditions, customs and religion. As far as England is concerned, foreign encroachments have been fiercely resisted since the Reformation, yet the accommodation of Roman Catholics has developed of necessity to the extent that they agreed to abide by the laws of the state. A logical corollary of this is that Asian immigrants to the UK ought now to adapt their cultural traditions and religious expression to accommodate ‘British toleration’ or conform to those aspects of ‘Britishness’ which make society cohesive. And so a Briton has the right to oppose or support British policy in Iraq and may campaign to that effect, write, agitate and stand for election towards the chosen end. But it is also elementary that he does not have the right to stone adulterers to death, hang homosexuals or blow up the underground or an aircraft. Toleration of the intolerant is distinctly un-British.

And so, secondly, we observe that the rule of law and equality under the law are core British values. There is no doubt that some religious practices may coerce some. But mindful of minority ethnic voting communities, politicians have trod carefully along the via media between religious liberty and cultural prohibition.

Over recent centuries, it is Protestantism which has defined the character of Great Britain: from the Armada, through the Act of Union in 1707 to the battle of Waterloo, Britain was involved in successive wars against Roman Catholic nations. It was a shared religious allegiance that permitted a sense of British national identity to emerge. Of course, history is peppered with myth, sentiment and flights of fancy - notions that somehow God had chosen England, and the nation is singularly blessed by virtue of the purity of Protestantism over the discredited and sullied Catholicism of continental Europe. This selective sense of religious history and an idealised perception of the moral purpose of the United Kingdom in the world are part of our ‘Britishness’. We have a cohesive religious base, which is intrinsic to the national psyche: essentially, whilst acknowledging the liberties of atheists and rights of secular humanists, to be ‘religious’ is to be British.

And so, thirdly, to be British is to be free - to believe, to own, to contract and to associate. The state only has authority to the extent granted by Parliament, which is subject to the assent of the people. The foundations of those liberties - Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, Bill of Rights, Act of Union - guard against state coercion. To abrogate them is to diminish our liberty and to deny our heritage. It is not British to be subject to foreign parliaments or alien courts - temporal or spiritual - especially where they seek to impose a doctrine or creed which is antithetical to that which we have evolved over the centuries.

To be British is sometimes to tolerate conflicting philosophies, mutually-exclusive theologies and illogical propositions. But not at any cost.

  • Can a culture be cohesive when there is diversity of language, laws, traditions, customs and religion?



27 Jul 2005

It cannot be said too often that terrorist atrocities are solely the responsibility of those who perpetrate them. To blame the invasion of Iraq, or the occupation of the West Bank, or poverty, or racism, or Western decadence, is both intellectually and morally wrong. What is reasonable, however, is to ask why modern Britain is breeding so many anti-British fanatics.

Part of the answer has to do with how Britain sees itself. The ancestors of the Leeds bombers, who arrived here in the mid-20th century from countries which had prospered under colonial rule, were infected by the self-belief of the British Empire. They were content, as it were, to buy into a nation whose subjects were so obviously proud of it.

Many countries try to codify their values in law. Some oblige their citizens to speak the national language; others make it a criminal offence to show disrespect to the flag. But statutory patriotism is an intrinsically un-British notion. We prefer simply to set out, in general terms, the non-negotiable components of our identity - the qualities of the citizenship that so many people crave for.

I. The rule of law. Our society is based on the idea that we all abide by the same rules, whatever our wealth or status. No one is above the law - not even the government.

II. The sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament. The Lords, the Commons and the monarch constitute the supreme authority in the land. There is no appeal to any higher jurisdiction, spiritual or temporal.

III. The pluralist state. Equality before the law implies that no one should be treated differently on the basis of belonging to a particular group. Conversely, all parties, sects, faiths and ideologies must tolerate the existence of their rivals.

IV. Personal freedom. There should be a presumption, always and everywhere, against state coercion. We should tolerate eccentricity in others, almost to the point of lunacy, provided no one else is harmed.

V. Private property. Freedom must include the freedom to buy and sell without fear of confiscation, to transfer ownership, to sign contracts and have them enforced. Britain was quicker than most countries to recognise this and became, in consequence, one of the happiest and most prosperous nations on Earth.

VI. Institutions. British freedom and British character are immanent in British institutions. These are not, mostly, statutory bodies, but spring from the way free individuals regulate each other's conduct, and provide for their needs, without recourse to coercion.

VII. The family. Civic society depends on values being passed from generation to generation. Stable families are the essential ingredient of a stable society.

VIII. History. British children inherit a political culture, a set of specific legal rights and obligations, and a stupendous series of national achievements. They should be taught about these things.

IX. The English-speaking world. The atrocities of September 11, 2001, were not simply an attack on a foreign nation; they were an attack on the anglosphere - on all of us who believe in freedom, justice and the rule of law.

X. The British character. Shaped by and in turn shaping our national institutions is our character as a people: stubborn, stoical, indignant at injustice. "The Saxon," wrote Kipling, "never means anything seriously till he talks about justice and right."

Not for the first time, we have been slow - perhaps too slow - to wake up to the threat we face. Now is the time to "talk about justice and right", and to act on our words.

  • How do you understand the words of the author: “… statutory patriotism is an intrinsically un-British notion”?

  • In what way are the British ‘core values’ different from the core values of other nations, or are they?

Go to TEXT 2 and do the exercises that follow:

Ex.1 In the text find words and expressions that match the following definitions:

  • shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional

  • to praise highly

  • sth regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality

  • to produce or generate a large number of

  • a component part or element of something

  • to be necessary for (someone) as a duty or responsibility

  • a gradual advance beyond usual or acceptable limits

  • to accept or act in accordance with

  • a proposition that follows from one already proved

  • to campaign to arouse public concern about an issue in the hope of prompting action

  • to persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats

  • loyalty or commitment to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause

  • to damage the purity or integrity of

Ex.2 Continue the strings of synonyms to the words in bold. Write 10 sentences to illustrate the collocations you could find for the words:

to laud, praise, extol….

paragon perfect example, model…

ingredient constituent, component…

encroachment intrusion on, trespass on…

to agitate, campaign, strive…

to coerce pressure, pressurize, press…

allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness…
Ex. 3 Explain and expand on:

  1. a patriotism which was not ashamed to fly the Union Flag

  2. For John Major it was concerned with warm beer and cricket on the village green; ‘back to basics’;

  3. For Tony Blair it was about social justice and rebranding for the postmodern era: ‘Cool Britannia’;

  4. integration is a two-way street

  5. He was, of course, on the campaign trail…

  6. But British culture cannot be cohesive..

  7. Toleration of the intolerant is distinctly un-British.

  8. …politicians have trod carefully along the via media between religious liberty and cultural prohibition.

  9. It was a shared religious allegiance that permitted a sense of British national identity to emerge.

  10. Of course, history is peppered with myth, sentiment and flights of fancy..

  11. We have a cohesive religious base, which is intrinsic to the national psyche

  12. It is not British to be subject to foreign parliaments or alien courts - temporal or spiritual

a set of values

shared national values

intrinsic, enduring, fundamental, moral, spiritual ~

to adopt / embrace / acquire ~

to cherish / foster ~

to encourage national ~

to sacrifice one’s ~

to be committed to democratic ~

to codify ~
SPEAKING-1 Сlass Discussion + Individual Statements
The Russian Government has put the concept of a national vision for Russia back on the political agenda, arguing the need to fill the current "ideological vacuum" in the country. It is widely recognized that reforms had left Russia without a unifying theme. To fill this void, a new national idea should be constructed, one based on "patriotism in the most positive sense of the concept."

What ideas can form the basis of the unifying theme in your country?

Do traditional values help maintain order?

Are family values equally important?
In a 2-minute statement suggest an idea for a unifying national theme (value) for your country. Consult MANUAL for guidelines on speaking
SPEAKING-2 Pair Work

  1. In pairs make a list of personal values.

Get ready to speak about two most important values that have shaped your life. Also think about specific ways they have benefited you in your life. Consider which one or two new values you would like to implement in your life.

  1. The following is a list of values characteristic of either western or eastern culture. In pairs define which belongs where organizing them into opposing pairs:

honor achievement

value rest


attempt to get some more

ideal – being successful

freedom of speech

accept what is

love first, then marry

want to know meaning

freedom of silence

wealth/poverty – results of enterprise

lapse into meditation

value activity

marry first, then love

learn to do with less

ideal – love of life

want to know how it works


retire to enjoy the rewards of your work

honor austerity

strive for articulation

cherish vitality of youth

wealth & poverty – results of fortune

cherish wisdom of years

retire to enjoy the gift of your family

seek change

Analyse the lists, generalise the information and draw a conclusion.

In your project you may want to develop one of the topics below or suggest your own:

  • Great Britain: a republic or a constitutional monarchy?

  • The ways in which Britain is different from the rest of Europe.

  • Britain – an island nation

  • How effective is the current British political/voting system?

  • Will English remain the world’s lingua franca?

  • Does the Commonwealth serve its purpose?

  • How has British culture influenced the world?

  • People who influenced British history

Consult Annex 5 of the MANUAL for guidelines on Project Work

Foreign nationals wishing to become British citizens will be required to know the first verse of God Save the Queen and key historic facts under a rewritten test, it has been claimed. Io

The new test focuses on the UK's culture and past rather than practical information, according to the Sunday Times.

Key battles, inventions, discoveries and culture form the base of the 45-minute test, which also requires applicants to memorise profiles of William Shakespeare and Sir Winston Churchill among others. The new test replaces the Life in the United Kingdom test introduced by the then Labour government in 2005, which included questions on welfare payments, borrowing money, dealing with the local council and the Human Rights Act.

A Home Office spokesperson commented: 'Putting our culture and history at the heart of the citizenship test will help ensure those permanently settling can understand British life, allowing them to properly integrate into our society.'

For getting a citizenship is the knowledge of the country’s history and culture more important than understanding social security schemes and being aware of one’s rights?
See how you can deal with some of the questions from the Life in the UK Practice Test:

  1. When are general elections held in the UK?

  1. At least every year

  2. At least every four years

  3. At least every five years

  4. At least every six years

  1. How is it decided which party forms the Government?

  1. The members of the House of Lords vote for their preferred party

  2. The party that wins the majority of the constituencies forms the Government

  3. The party with the most candidates forms the Government

  4. The party with the most votes forms the Government

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