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Helen Szamuely has 4 suggestions to help develop a sense of British national identity. This article was published in the July 2006 issue of Sovereignty, and was excerpted, with permission, from a longer article, which appeared originally on on 18 May 2006 and also on on 19 May 2006.

The real problem is that at the heart of the European project lies a desire to do away with the national identities of European nations on the slightly insane basis that wars and massacres have been caused uniquely by European nationalism.

But national identities were real, if poorly defined; European identity remains a chimaera. So, at a time when we in the West are being challenged by determined groups whose aim is to undermine and destroy our values, we can present only a weakened version of what we might or might not be fighting for.

None of the so-called European or, for that matter, British values can stand up to any kind of examination.

Tolerance? Tell that to the Catholics of Elizabethan England [or the Protestants under Mary IEd] or the victims of the Gordon riots. Freedom of speech? I have already referred to our libel laws.

Parliamentary government, constitutional democracy, the pride of the Anglosphere? What of all that legislation that cannot be thrown out or reversed, that arrives through the managerial governance of Brussels? What, for that matter, of the ability the Executive in this country has of emasculating the Legislature and, controlling the Judiciary?

One can go on like this for a long time. Perhaps, I should now turn to more specific points and make some suggestions about what could be taught as subjects, that would bring about an understanding of those nebulous core values.

First and foremost, there is the English language that has not been taught properly in our schools for several generations. Britain may be the only country in which people are proud of not knowing how their language -- one of the greatest treasures of world culture -- works; proud of not understanding the grammatical structures and of having no idea of the punctuation.

In addition, there is a strange notion abroad that it does not matter whether you learn the language or not.

So, here are my first two suggestions:
Restore the teaching of the English language to the schools of this country and ensure that no 16-year old leaves without knowing how to read extensively and write correctly.
Given the facts of the teaching of English for the last few decades, we may well have to introduce wide-spread remedial teaching.

Secondly, stop wasting taxpayers' money on producing official material in twenty-seven different languages. If private firms want to recruit for their own purposes in other languages, that is their business. But it is not the job of a local council or of the NHS to encourage ignorance of the language of this country.

If people do not want to learn, they should not be forced. First generations of immigrants often did not learn the language of their new country in the past either. But such people will have to rely on the assistance of their friends and families to guide them through officialdom.

Next point: history. Readers of this blog are probably aware of me snarling about the lack of historical knowledge in this country.

We need to know the history of Britain and of other countries because no country develops or evolves in a vacuum. Luckily, as someone has once pointed out to me, the history of Britain is the history of the world.

So, here is my third suggestion: teach children history from an early age. Not bits and pieces about the Tudors and the Second World War but history from beginning to as close as possible to our own day. It can be done. Other countries do it.

There is no need to keep exalting British achievements or explaining how everything Britain did was for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Children will make up their own minds on the basis of reasonably accurate information and will acquire a clear idea of their identity. The history of Britain and of the British Empire is the history of many peoples and many nations. There is room in that narrative for all.

Next: constitutional matters. It is not citizenship, a nebulous concept if ever there was one, that we need to teach but a clear, factual knowledge of the constitutional structure of this country, of the various institutions within it and the international organizations to which it belongs.

The school in which I took my A-levels had something called Civics for the sixth-formers. It was a purely factual class and the head teacher who took it, went through British legislation, other countries' legislation, the structure of the UN, NATO and the then Common Market.

Jolly useful, it was, too.

Of course, these matters should be taught truthfully. There is very little point in affirming that Parliament legislates in this country when the truth is that Parliament has no right to reject EU directives and regulations.

Above all, we must stop being the only country in the world where generations are growing up without knowing who the Head of State is, what the National Anthem is and how did the Union Flag come to be what it is. Believe me, every French child knows the Marseillaise and the history of the tricoleur.

If, on top of all that, schools, parents and other establishments insist on certain standards of behaviour and, of course, resume teaching other subjects as well, we might find that those core values develop all by themselves without any intervention on the part of the politicians, who, as we know, have no values whatsoever.

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