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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 02:31 GMT
Call for school patriotism debate
classroom scene
Children learn about Britishness in history lessons
The subject of teaching Britishness in schools has taken a fresh twist with claims that patriotism should be taught as a "controversial issue".

The government wants children to develop a sense of British identity through history lessons.

But academics at the Institute of Education say pupils should not be encouraged to love Britain because it has a "morally ambiguous" history.

They also found just 9% of teachers think schools should teach patriotism.

A report published by Michael Hand and Jo Pearce from the Institute of Education at the University of London said the case for promoting patriotism in schools was "weak".

Since all national histories are at best morally ambiguous, it's an open question whether citizens should love their countries
Dr Michael Hand, Institute of Education

Dr Hand said: "Patriotism is love of one's country, but are countries really appropriate objects of love?

"Loving things can be bad for us, for example when the things we love are morally corrupt.

"Since all national histories are at best morally ambiguous, it's an open question whether citizens should love their countries."

The researchers questioned more than 300 teachers in London secondary schools and pupils aged 13-14.

Three-quarters of the teachers felt they had an obligation to alert their pupils to the dangers of patriotic sentiments.

Only 9% of teachers thought schools should actively promote patriotism.

Dr Hand said: "Students tend to feel strongly that their feelings about their country are their own business and schools have no right to try to influence them."

Almost all the teachers questioned felt that they should present a balanced set of views on patriotism, while nearly half said schools should remain "strictly neutral" on the issue.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "There is nothing wrong with being patriotic and proud of being British.

"We firmly believe that in today's diverse society all children should learn about events and themes which have shaped this country.

"At the same time it is important that children learn tolerance, respect and understanding of other cultures and countries.

"We see no contradiction between the two."

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28 Sep 06 |  Education
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27 Sep 06 |  Education

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