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Does Britishness exist? Can it be taught? Letters to the Times

The Times has published a number of Letters to the Editor on Britishness, a word whose awkwardness might have dampened any letter writer's enthusiasm. The responses were practical and sincere. A few examples:

Sir, I agree with your dismissal of the plans for the teaching of “Britishness” (leading article, Jan 26); we are also entitled to be sceptical of the concept itself, particularly since it has become the plaything of politicians.

We should instead restore history as a compulsory part of the curriculum up to the school leaving age and ensure the proper teaching of the subject, as a narrative rather than as a series of unrelated themes.
DAVID WOODHEAD
Leatherhead, Surrey

Sir, How are schools supposed to deliver “Britishness” in their citizenship classes? These are already the catch-all curriculum component designed to educate children on everything from the dangers of drugs to the inevitability of the European Union, and staff frequently feel ill-equipped to deliver them effectively. . .
ADRIAN HILTON
Head of the Faculty of Politics and Philosophy
Slough Grammar School
Slough, Berks

Sir, Trying to rekindle a sense of “Britishness” by compulsory lessons in schools will ostracise an already alienated youth. I fear these lessons are going to put emphasis on the differences that exist in our society and through this further divide the nation.

While I very much support people learning about their history, I feel that this is going to be an exercise in glorifying Britain with a distinct lack of criticism for our mistakes and wrongdoings. After all, looking at our faults is how we learn to progress in the right direction.
ALAN SPALL
Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir, There is no tension in schools between teaching (in a variety of contexts) British culture and detailed studies of other cultures; they are complementary and mutually supportive. Rudyard Kipling put it clearly: “What should they know of England who only England know?”
MICHAEL MARLAND
Retired headteacher
London N1

Sir, Britishness cannot be simply aquired. Learning about culture and history has nothing to do with Britishness, which comes from the heart.

It is about a love of Britain (even when it seems there is little to love) and a feeling of belonging.
JOE HENNEY
Watford

Sir, As a former immigrant, but now a citizen, I believe the criteria of Britishness are, first, laugh at yourself and, secondly, do so in English.
MARILLA SPELLER
Pitch Green, Bucks

This website and its sections on Freedom, Heroes, Artists, Inventors, Sports and Style, and Brits Worldwide attempts to answer a different question. Our focus on the positive is deliberate, and in the tradition of Maslow who noted that we spend a great deal of time dwelling on what went wrong and why, but very little investigating what went right, particularly as this concerns ethical, happy, and fulfilled human beings and contributes to ethical, meaningful, and joyous human societies.

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