How are we to even define ‘British Values’ never mind teach them?

Headteachers in the UK are being required to teach British values in their schools. Teachers and Heads of Department are charged with devising syllabi and schemes of work to deliver these curriucula. It is not impossible to define ‘values’. But how are we to define ‘British’ values, values which are common to all Britons, or intrinsic to British history and culture, and which are somehow distinct from French values, or the values of other European cultures, or indeed the values of 300 nations worldwide?
We can probably rule out ‘values which are common to all Britons”, partly because it is manifestly the case that individuals, for example, myself and Jeremy Clarkson, and organisations, e.g., the National Union of Teachers and the DfE, have conflicting values, upon which contradictory belief systems are founded. Also, if it were already true that Britons all share the same values, why we would be asked to teach them?
So we are left with the seemingly more achievable task of distilling and defining a range of values which are intrinsic to British history and culture. I say ‘seemingly’ because how are we to reconcile the values of a syphilitic, philandering King Henry VIII, estimated to be responsible for the execution of 72,000 people, with the emancipating values of Watt Tyler and the Peasants’ Revolt?
Or how about the values of esteemed British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, who wrote:
“I contend that we [Britons] are the first race in the world, and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race. . . . It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best, the most human, most honourable race the world possesses.” Cecil Rhodes, Confession of Faith, 1877. 
Are these values of the British Empire, British values? How are we to reconcile these values of conquest and supremacy – the same values that inspired the Crusades, the colonization and exploitation by Britain of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East – with values of freedom, independence and the right of nations to self-determination?
Do British values include those of equality, liberty and collectivism? These values are enshrined in the history of the Levellers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, the Trades Unions, the Cooperative movement, the Suffragettes and the Peace movement. But these movements have each been met with state violence and repression by the British Government of the day.
If those examples seem a very long time ago, how are we to celebrate the ‘rat race’ individualism of Mrs. Thatcher who deployed the power of the state, often in breach of the law, to crush the collectivist values of the Miners and trade unionism? How may we value her hypocritical yet nevertheless much vaunted commitment to the principle of the ‘Rule of Law’? We should remember that it was the mass, popular anti-Poll Tax campaign which brought about her demise and which saw 2 million protestors on the streets of Britain while millions of ordinary people refused to pay the tax and thereby flouted the rule of law. 
Finally, even a commitment to the value of honesty has been utterly undermined by the Blair government when it lied to Parliament and the British people about the existence and potential of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction which, they alleged, could be deployed against Britain within 45 minutes!
Are we not obliged to ask: whose ‘British’ values, those of the rulers or those of the people? There are repeatedly, throughout our history, two different, conflicting sets of values. There is no such thing as a unified set of British values. And we should be thankful for that because the world’s experience of what it takes to be British values is one of war, exploitation, pillage, oppression and genocide. 
Thankfully, there exists a very different values system stemming from the material existence of the ordinary British people, an experience that is much closer to the real experiences of humanity the world over. 
But these values are not peculiarly – or divisively – British. They are the shared, empathetic values of the human race. Here then, is our hope. We can distil and define a core set of human values, values which are at the heart of human existence, human survival, solidarity, cooperation, collaboration, continuation and progress; values which are not intrinsically divisive; values which promote the common good of all humanity. 
Unlike the search for ‘British’ values, this is an achievable and worthwhile project. Whether you work in a Secondary or Primary school, mainstream or special, Pupil Referral Unit or BESD school, inner-city or in the shires: teaching Human values as an aspect of PSHE or Citizenship will enhance our curriculum and outcomes. This is not the place to define those values; that is the work of another article to be written by someone better equipped than I. But it can be done, and it should be done.

www.2ndchancelearning.co.uk

www.2ndchancelearning.co.uk