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From the Bradford riots to Black Lives Matter: reflections on fundamental British values, Dr Ümit Yildiz

posted on 2021-05-18, 15:11 authored by Umit Yildiz

Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer, mass anti-racist demonstrations spread from the streets of the USA to Britain. The removal of the statue of slave trader Colston in Bristol by Black Lives Matter protesters was a reminder to the British public that the roots of racism on both sides of the Atlantic lie in the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism. This grassroots struggle has boosted the existing movement to decolonise education in the UK. “However, this task is more complex than removing statues, as the remnants of colonialist views are so entrenched within the education system that they can seem innocuous. The promotion of fundamental British values (FBVs) is an example of this.

Dr Ümit Yildiz

Although the notion of FBVs first appeared in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government’s revised Prevent strategy in 2011, the seeds of its definition were sown after the summer of ‘race’ riots in northern towns in 2001 and the September 11 attacks in the USA. The Prevent strategy stated that FBVs are ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’. In 2012, the Teachers’ Standards included these values and required all teachers ‘not to undermine fundamental British values’. In November 2014, the Coalition government produced guidelines on promoting ‘fundamental British values’. In September 2015, the newly elected Conservative government transformed this guidance to a full duty, as defined in Section 26 of the new Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. Since the introduction of FBVs in the educational sphere school managements, educators, teacher trainers and academics have been interpreting this policy and the related values. These interpretations have been varied; some highlighted its importance, some criticised its muddled meaning and some raised the question: if teachers do not promote these values what should they be replaced with? I will challenge these interpretations from an anti-racist and anti-imperialist stand point and offer an alternative perspective on the notion of FBVs. I will consider the ontology of the notion of FBVs and analyse why it is defined as such, what makes the notion of FBVs problematic and why educators should collectively reject its promotion.


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