By Dr. Matthew Wilkinson
14 December. Dr. Matthew Wilkinson, Director, co-presented a session of the Historical Association, Cambridge with its President, Dr. Sean Lang, and delivered a talk entitled ‘British Values: what are they? Are they real? Can you teach them?’
Matthew’s talk examined the political background and philosophical grounds for the Duty to teach British Values in schools from a critical realist perspective. Matthew suggested that only a ‘concrete universal’ approach which highlighted the universality of values such as democracy and rule of law, as well as the concrete historical specificity of the British contribution to those values could be intellectually coherent and avoid mindless parochialism.
Sean spoke about the historical changeability of all values, including ‘British’ ones, and cautioned defining the nation against a prescribed set of fixed values. He also compared and contrasted the British and French conceptions of national values.
Questions from the floor were intelligent, pertinent and interesting.