The Introduction of 'British Values' Into Schools - Why Now?

Alistair James Smith

Abstract


In the UK in 2014, the government introduced a directive that ‘British Values’ were to be made a compulsory aspect of all State-funded education. This was mainly seen as a response to the controversial ‘Trojan Horse’ affair, whereby a number of Islamic schools in Birmingham were purported to be implementing a plan to systematically ‘radicalise’ their students. While a public inquiry found no evidence of such radicalisation, the accusation and the subsequent British Values directive sparked a number of debates in the media and in the public sphere on the place of religion and the role of the State in the formation of citizens and their identities. This paper argues that the media representations of these debates have been insufficiently penetrating, and the issue exposes deeper systemic problems in the history of the liberal democratic State and contemporary moral discourse. A historical investigation of how the British Values directive came to be introduced into schools is therefore provided, in order to expose why it came to be seen as a legitimate and necessary action. The paper has three objectives. First, it will outline the philosophical and conceptual approach taken to the historical investigation, building on a set of ideas introduced by Alistair MacIntyre concerning the loss of moral coherence in modern liberal democracies. Second, it will examine what light this philosophical approach throws on the contexts and conditions out of which the 2014 British Values initiative was born. Third, it will focus on two other discourses in British political theory, Realism and Multiculturalism, that appear to have emanated from those same contexts and conditions, and which attempt (with varying degrees of success) to move the situation forward. The paper will end with an open question about whether the teaching of British Values in schools is really the best way forward.


Keywords


Emotivism; Islamism; Religious Education; Citizenship; Trojan Horse Affair; British Values in Schools; Multiculturalism; Realism

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