Learning how to be British

The latest report on how to teach Britishness has been released. It argues that so far schools have failed to embrace the subject and called for a beefed up approach, full report here (pdf file). In the Observer, Conservative leader, David Cameron, takes up the theme as his party prepares to make its recommendations on the issue. In a somewhat curious contribution to the debate, he agrees with the central tenets of Labours approach – criticism of multi-culturalism, the need to learn English, teach British history and more celebrations of nationhood. However, Labour has gone about it in an insensitive and “mechanistic” way and ignored the need to address genuine divisions. Meanwhile, the Telegraph has been inspired to develop its own test on Britishness and it goes beyond names and dates, no peeking at the answers now.

  • Rubicon

    FD – the questions aren’t nearly as funny as the answers! Good to see the British can laugh at themselves – a very un-British thing to do! 😉

  • Aaron McDaid

    Got 305 out of 500 myself. Apparently, “You are not only British, but you understand what it means to be so”

    I knew I’d do reasonably well, but it’s still funny to see it say that.

  • Peter Smith

    “Britishness” to only be taught in ENGLISH schools while Scottishness is taught in scottish schools and Welsness in Welsh schools!.

    Stick your “Britishness” up your arse Broon!.

  • Garibaldy

    Teach citizenship, not Britishness. Or teach the children, which it seems a lot of schools in Britain seem to forget to do.

  • Rubicon

    Garibaldy – those are not mutually exclusive. The UK is struggling with both – Ireland might learn from their experience. Neither side’s nationality in Ireland has much to crow about when it comes to multi-culturalism – or any other policy that addresses nationality and immigration. We are yet to deal with our “immigration” that occurred more than 300 years ago. As for learning, I’m sure you don’t buy the NI Tourist Board’s marketing of this being the “land of saints and scholars”.

  • Garibaldy

    Rubicon,

    Agree we need to learn a lot on this side of the sea. Hence why citizenship is so important – to try and help forge a sense of communal interest and identity, and respect for others and treating them equally.

    I just worry that britishness is a codeword for a very reactionary form vision shaped by the daily telegraph.

  • USA

    Concepts such as “free speech’, “equal rights”, “tolerance and respect” are not uniquely British values, and I find it to be arrogant condesending twaddle to claim them as such.
    Citizenship within a democracy comes with rights, and with rights come responsibilities.
    Teach good “Citizenship” – and be done with the bullshit.

  • P O’Neil

    Jaysus, now I’ve heard everything. May be the Unionist community should be forced to attend these ‘Britishness’ class, and see how much they actually know about British history,culture and values, for their knowledge of the history and culture of the land in which their ancestors were planted is abysmal (Irish history did not begin with the Battle of the Boyne). I guess the one good thing is the lessons on Brit values and culture shouldn’t last too long.

    Britishness 101

    * Invade a foreign country.
    * Bring the rule of ‘law and democracy’ to the degenerate, sub-human natives. This may require some subtle persuasion in the form of military occupation, ethnic cleansing, the seizing of lands and a scorched earth policy, to name but a few appropriate methodologies.
    * Over time, these draconian measures should install on the degenerate native populace that they are backward, uncultured savages, who are incapable of governing their country and for their own good they should let us do it for them…
    * Install our own rule of law, and espouse a coda of values and virtues (tolerance, equality, liberty, freedom of speech, etc etc) that we ourselves, are pathologically incapable of living up to.
    * Treat the natives like the animals they are.
    * If the natives should get restless i.e. demanding their basic rights or, heaven forbid, govern their own country, they should be labelled as insurgents and dealt with appropriately.
    * If problems persist, divide and conquer. Creating a split along cultural / racial / sectarian lines is preferential, as this tends to keep the natives occupied.
    * Continue to live off the fat of the land, until the natives wise up and remove us by force.
    * REPEAT AD NAUSEUM…..

    If the British flotsam and jetsam washed up on our shores is an example of other British colonial exports, and the wider social elite, then ‘Britishness’ is less crème de la crème and more merde de le merde.

  • Jesus Christ

    P O’Neil: True words, old boy. Pity that Gerry Adams and Mary Double Chin have signed up as teachers’ assistants in this brave new world of ours.

  • scipio

    P O’Neill

    Overly Romantic Irish Nationalism 101

    1. Everything here was fine until those Brits came and spoiled it all.

    2. Ireland was a land of saints and scholars everyone was free well fed and tolerant

    3. There is only division and fighting in Ireland because of the brits – cf the Tain etc all Irish myths were full of happy peaceful people

    4. The irish have exported tolerance and good relations towards indigenous people in N America , Australia etc….

    5. There are no English words in the Irish Language (apart from Bailley (Baile) Iron (Irn) Road (Rod)…

    To paraphrase that dreadful bunch of Imperialist Brits Monty Python “What have the Brits ever done for us?”

    Quite a bit really – not all good by any means but this particular brand of ethnic fascism seems home grown – can’t blame the brits for that.

  • Londonderry

    Its times like this the Nationalist forget the Irish civil war.

    More irishmen have been killed by irishmen then irishmen have been killed by brits.

    4000 irishmen were killed in the Irish civil war. That is quite abit more than have been killed in NI.

    I guess the violence in NI gave them the wallpaper to cover this up.

  • John Bull

    Scipio – Everything you say is true, and indeed it is unlikely that pre invasion ireland was the land of milk and honey that some nationalists would have us believe. But we have only one ireland to place this theory against and refute/support it. People like P O’Neill, on the other hand, have roughly a quarter of the land surface of the earth and the history of 10’s of nations to make his point about the ‘form’ of the empire. Maybe ireland would not have been as nice & perfect as he believes, but the things he describes are , whether we chose to accept it or not, the formbook for the british empire, from Afganistan to Isreal to Zimbabwe. Ask your average burman, indian, st Lucian, native american, or aborigonie, to name but a few from hundreds of peoples/tribes about the british ‘sense of fair play’ and ‘tolerence’ that we so often hear of. If a sense of fair play is refusing to EVER accept responsibility for the worlds largest empire, refusing to acknowledge the mess we leave behind everywhere we go (east & west pakistan seperated by 2000 miles, anyone?)and of taking everything that is not nailed down (from slaves to diamonds and even whole archepeligos like Diego Garcia) then the British have it in droves. Its just sad to see, that otherwise sentient people cannot acknowledge this, without foaming at the mouth about what ‘the damned natives’ have done.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Londonderry mentions the Irish Civil War, but it involved a much smaller number of deaths than any other civil war I can think of, including the British Civil War and US Civil War. Proportionally, it involved less deaths than NIs Troubles, and certainly the civilian casualties were much fewer than in NI.

    Of course, any war is to be regretted, but the Irish Civil War was reasonably ‘civil’.

  • Londonderry

    Aaron

    Perfect example of Wallpapering right here.

    The Irish civil war resulted in DOUBLE the casulties of the NI struggles.

    ICW = 4000 deaths (give or take)
    NIS = 2500 deaths (give or take)

  • Dec

    Derry

    3500 would be a more accurate figure than 2500. (Though how you worked out that 2 x 2500 = 4000 is anybody’s guess.)

    Aaron’s point about the relative low cost of the Irish Civil War is correct. An estimated 500,000 died as a result of the Spanish Civil war.

  • Aaron McDaid

    That’s why I said ‘proportionally’. I don’t deny that more people died in the Irish Civil War when looking at the raw figures. My comment still stands, albeit with your extra detail. And the civilian casualties were much lower in the Irish Civil War (about 250) than in the Northern Troubles (at least 1000), no matter what way you look at the figures.

    Anyway, that is off topic, except that it shows that Ireland shouldn’t be taking any moral lessons from the British government on how to fight.

  • Londonderry

    right mate 3500 it is then. still leass than the ICW no?

    “(Though how you worked out that 2 x 2500 = 4000 is anybody’s guess.)”

    Reason i wrote give or take. was only going to type 2000 but knew i was 500-1000 short and forgot to change DOUBLE

    “4000 irishmen were killed in the Irish civil war. That is quite abit more than have been killed in NI.”

    What does this have to do with spain? or America?

    “Aaron’s point about the relative low cost of the Irish Civil War is correct”

    So the NI struggle has resulted in a “low cost” of life situation?

    What about them Troubles? Aye, but it was “low cost” mate, no worries!……Imagine that as a conversation.

    My main point was Irishman have killed more Irishman than Brits have. But you wont here that to often know will you.

  • Londonderry

    4000 deaths in 11 months is quite diffrent than 3500 deaths in 3+ decades.

    My point still stands, no?

    BTW Any amount of death whether it be 50 or 500 or 5000 is not “low cost”.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Londonderry:
    “Irishman have killed more Irishman than Brits have”

    Probably true for every country, not just Ireland. It’s probably the case that Brits and killed more Brits than Irish have. Britain probably lost more in its Civil War than they did against the Germans – details anyone? (Sorry for all the ‘probably’s.

    And then there’s your suggestion that NI’s Troubles were somehow less Irish than the (first) Irish Civil War. Even without the Irish Civil War, it’s still the case that the Irish (from the IRA to Loyalists) killed each other more than the British Army killed Irish. Assuming that is, that you don’t blame Britain for the whole thing.

    And anyway, according to the Britishness test linked above, I am British, so I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Britishness 🙂

  • John Bull
    When was the last time you spoke to a Burman?
    Taken everything that wasn’t nailed down?They seemed to have forgotten the railways!(and roads,hospitals and schools)
    The Red Peacock flag was the symbol of the anti-colonial movement now it is the symbol of the opposition.

  • Londonderry

    “Irishman have killed more Irishman than Brits have”

    Probably true for every country, not just Ireland. It’s probably the case that Brits and killed more Brits than Irish have. Britain probably lost more in its Civil War than they did against the Germans – details anyone? (Sorry for all the ‘probably’s.

    I was only suggesting since the turn on the 20th century.

    “And then there’s your suggestion that NI’s Troubles were somehow less Irish than the (first) Irish Civil War. Even without the Irish Civil War, it’s still the case that the Irish (from the IRA to Loyalists) killed each other more than the British Army killed Irish. Assuming that is, that you don’t blame Britain for the whole thing.”

    Of coarse NI troubles are less irish. NI is British. Seeing how Loyalists are simple that LOYALISTS they are British aswell. Why would i blame the British for 4000 irish deaths caused by Irishmen? makes no sense.

    What exactly are you getting at?

  • Londonderry

    I was only suggesting since the turn on the 20th century.

    War of independance, Irish civil war, NI struggle

    Sorry should have been more clear.

    Always blamining the British for the deaths of the Irishman. Made you need to look at yerselves abit, no?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Rubicon: “The UK is struggling with both – Ireland might learn from their experience. Neither side’s nationality in Ireland has much to crow about when it comes to multi-culturalism – or any other policy that addresses nationality and immigration.”

    Arguably, the whole squishy “multi-culti” regieme is part ofthe problem and not the anodyne that some would have us believe… when over a third of surveyed Muslim yourths say they would prefer Sharia law (and are a growing percentage) I would think that there is an elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge.

    Londonderry: “4000 irishmen were killed in the Irish civil war. That is quite abit more than have been killed in NI. ”

    Now express each as a percentage of the pertinent populations, so as to get a rate that is actually comparable, londonderry. Otherwise its apples and, well, oranges.

    There is also the small matter of Cromwell…

    Londonderry: “ICW = 4000 deaths (give or take)
    NIS = 2500 deaths (give or take) ”

    What was the Irish population in the Free State during the civil war? What is the population in NI during the more recent unpleasentness?

    The proper comparison should acknowledge the differing populations, Londonderry. Properly speaking, it should be.

    4000 dead / Free State population = Rate1
    3500 dead / NI population = Rate2

    Just guessing, since I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I *suspect* that Rate2 > Rate1

    Londonderry: “My main point was Irishman have killed more Irishman than Brits have. But you wont here that to often know will you”

    There is still the small matter of Cromwell, just for the recond.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Londonderry: “I was only suggesting since the turn on the 20th century.”

    Ah, the inevitable backstep…

  • Aaron McDaid

    Londonderry,
    The civil war thing was off topic, but this comment by you is returning to the topic: “Of coarse NI troubles are less irish. NI is British”

    Most Irish unionists and loyalists have, until quite recently, happily and correctly said they were Irish. Trying asking the people of England if they are British or English, and most will say “both, of course”. NI is just as Irish as Kerry. Pre-1900 for example absolutely everyone would have said Ireland was Irish, Scotland was Scottish, and Wales was Wales – but that is just a statement of fact and not a political opinion about the Union.

    If you’re in the UK, but not Irish, what are you instead? Are you Scottish? Are you English? Are you Welsh? Falklands maybe?

    Just as I’m Irish and European (don’t care much for the EU though) and an Ulsterman, I don’t mind if many in NI also add British to their list of attributes. Perhaps it’s the term they feel strongest affinity for, but they are no less Irish.

    Surely if Britishness is to be taught, it needs to be taught that it’s all a bit of a fudge. The UK is united by some shared values (if you can pin them down) and maybe language, but is nowhere near as homogenous a cultural and ethnic group as other states seem to be. I don’t mean that to belittle the Union. If anything, uniting such varied people in relative peace among themselves on Britain for a few centuries is a good sign and an example for the world. Modern Britain (since 1900 to choose an arbitrary date) seems quite happy and sensible about itself.

    Rather than Scots and English pretending they are the same they just get on with life together in peace and harmony and will probably continue for centuries more, even if Scotland secedes, while others try and fail to forge a false unnecessary shared singular identity (the EU?).

  • Londonderry

    “What was the Irish population in the Free State during the civil war? What is the population in NI during the more recent unpleasentness?”

    Free state population in 1926 was 2,971,992.

    Dont know NI population (say mid 70ish-early 80ish) but will try and get that.

    “Ah, the inevitable backstep… ”

    Was more of an assumption on my part, with he facts i was talking about i assumed i was clear, like i said im sorry i was unclear will try to be more clear in the future.

    “Most Irish unionists and loyalists have, until quite recently, happily and correctly said they were Irish.”

    Was using Loyalist as British for my whole “More irishmen killed irishmen….” point.

    kinda spliting hairs now.

  • Londonderry

    How exactly do you want to use Cromwell?

  • Londonderry,

    “Was using Loyalist as British for my whole “More irishmen killed irishmen….” point”

    A common misunderstanding of Unionists/Loyalists is that when Irish nationalists refer to the British we refer to either the British Government or to people from Great Britain (actually, not ancestorally). We don’t use British to refer to Irish Unionists, or Loyalists, who we consider Irish.

    Thus it’s common for Unionists to bring up things like “Brits Out” to comment that Nationalists are intolorent of Unionists, and whant them chucked out of the country. Not the case (save for some lunatic facists), we simply don’t see you as Brits, we are asking that the British government and Armed forces leave Ireland alone.

    I realise that to view some Loyalist/Unionists as Irish can be offensive to them, to other Loyalist/Unionists it’s offensive to deny their Irishness, rock and a hard place. But when Irish nationalists refer to the British, it’s not you they’re talking about, it’s just people from Great Britian, as a populace represented by their government and armed forces, and not even as individuals. In our eyes to paraphrase the UUP you’re “simply not British”. It doesn’t occur to us that you might think we are referring to you. Hence the point above describing the “troubles” as for the most part Irish v Irish, though I dispute that.

    We sure do a have a penchant for hating and betraying each other though, as the oldsaying goes “Put and Irishman on a spit and you’ll always find another Irishman to baste him”.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Londonderry: “Was more of an assumption on my part, with he facts i was talking about i assumed i was clear, like i said im sorry i was unclear will try to be more clear in the future. ”

    Blanket statements such as you made are rarely correct, if only due to the fact that there are so many different ways to address them. Leaving your grasp of statistical analysis aside, you specified no time period in your initial comment and then narrowly defined your argument, the better to cherry-pick your data.

    Cromwell and his merry horde certainly killed more Irishmen than the 4000 dead in the Irish Civil war, putting lie to your initial proclamation. As for the argument you actually made, I suspect you will find that my analysis is the correct one.

  • Ulster McNulty

    This is catching on, Michael McDowell is due reveal proposals for an “Irishness” test for prospective imigrants in a couple of weeks time.

    My big concern is that many immigrants will spend double the time studying for both the core British values and the core Irish values exams – time which could be better spent learning a handy skill, which could then be put to good use, when they move here.

    Here’s a sample of the real Britishness test

    http://www.britishness-test.co.uk/default.aspx?linkid=home

    Question Paper

    1)
    What percentage of the United Kingdom’s population is made up of ethnic minorities?

    A ) 5%

    B ) 8%

    C ) 15%

    D ) 29%

    2)
    Where is the Gaelic language spoken?

    A ) Highlands and Islands of Scotland

    B ) Wales

    C ) London

    D ) Ireland

    3)
    When did Britain join the European Economic Community?

    A ) 1945

    B ) 1949

    C ) 1973

    D ) 2004

    4)
    What is the title of the minister who is responsible for law and order and immigration?

    A ) The Home Secretary

    B ) The Foreign Secretary

    C ) The chancellor of the Exchequer

    D ) The Lord Chancellor

    5)
    Who is the Head of State of the United Kingdom?

    A ) The Prime Minister

    B ) The Queen

    C ) The Lord Chancellor

    D ) Her Majesty’s Government

    6)
    What are the two key features of the civil service?

    A ) Neutrality

    B ) Favouritism

    C ) Efficiency

    D ) Professionalism

    7)
    When is the Boxing Day celebrated?

    A ) 24th December

    B ) 25th December

    C ) 26th December

    D ) 1st January

    8)
    Where is the European Commission based?

    A ) Milan

    B ) Strasbourg

    C ) Paris

    D ) Brussels

    9)
    Who resides at 10 Downing Street?

    A ) The Archbishop of Canterbury

    B ) The Chancellor of the Exchequer

    C ) The Prime Minister

    D ) The Queen

    10)
    What proportion of women with children (of school age) also works?

    A ) Nearly half

    B ) Nearly a quarter

    C ) Nearly a third

    D ) Nearly three quarter

  • Bill

    At the moment Gordon Brown lives at 10 Downing Street do you think that this was taken into account when the question was set?

  • Kloot

    This one really threw me

    6)
    What are the two key features of the civil service?
    A ) Neutrality
    B ) Favouritism
    C ) Efficiency
    D ) Professionalism

    Is B not the only answer here!!..

    It also turns out the Gaelic is not spoken in Ireland!!

    Where is the Gaelic language spoken?
    A ) Highlands and Islands of Scotland
    B ) Wales
    C ) London
    D ) Ireland

    Correct answer is A apparently.

  • John Bull

    Manfarang: I am not saying infrastrucure wasn’t built, but the railways that you mention, for instance, were built in Burma mainly for logging. Last time i spoke to a burman? Last week, my work collugue was born in Burma, although its changed its name since. If the burmese had liked the brits so much, why’d they throw them out of their country at the point of a rifle?? The history i have seen almost always depicts the British leaving a nation this way. Again, its not difficult to name literally dozens of examples. But what exactly is your point? That the empire was there to civilise and teach the natives? My word, the british are a splendidly generous people, risking life and limb just to go to all these far flung countries to ‘educate and care’. I never realised the white man’s burden was so heavy for england. The french, spanish and portugeuse were shipping untold gold, silver and commodities back to Europe, but not the sons of Britian. They were different, out in the baking heat, risking fever, just to build the ungrateful natives hospitals and schools and to be rejected by the thankless inhabitants….You’ve won me round actually, i take back that the empire was a greedy power and money driven concept. Your so right, it was one big huge, (albeit, misunderstood) all emcompassing social club founded for the good of the natives to care for their welfare. Please Britania, how could i have been so harsh in my judgement?!?!?!!? oh yeah, the evidence….

  • John Bull
    It was the activities of the East India Company that established the British in Asia.Burma was once ruled as a province of India, a fact that caused great resentment among the local population.One of the reasons the British were able to colonise Burma was the harse rule of the Burmese king.A fact not lost on the rulers of neigbouring Thailand.
    Although Burma has been called the “Northern Ireland” of the British Empire.The British were driven out of Burma by the Imperial Japanese forces.The Burmese nationalists initially supported the Japanese but as the nature of Japanese rule became clear,the nationalists changed sides and fougnt with the British to achieve the true independence they desired.
    While the end of colonial rule was and is something to be welcomed, Myanmar is now one of the poorest countries in Asia whereas before the second world war it was one of the richest.

  • John Bull
    Harsh as in despotic!

  • kensei

    “It also turns out the Gaelic is not spoken in Ireland!!”

    The test is only about Britain. Of course they aren’t going to mention Ireland.

  • eranu

    6)
    What are the two key features of the civil service?
    A ) Neutrality
    B ) Favouritism
    C ) Efficiency
    D ) Professionalism

    Its not option C anyway !

  • Ulster McNulty

    Manfarang

    “…They seemed to have forgotten the railways!…”

    Quite right old chap!

    And I would also expect the south east Asians to feel grateful to the Japanese for their impressive railway building efforts during the short-lived Japanese imperial escapades in the region.

    Why, the Japanese Empire was almost even better than the British empire when I consider the wonderful railways they bequethed to the locals.

  • Ulster McNulty
    ‘the wonderful railways the Japanese bequeathed to the locals’
    Most of the Siam-Burma railway (the railway of death) was ripped up after the second world war.