Tuesday, March 11, 2008

National Loyalty

Following my last post on National Loyalty Cards, there have been a couple of news stories about National Loyalty.

John Dunford: School is 'the last moral force'(BBC News, March 9th 2008)

Lord Goldsmith has another idea: School-leavers should be encouraged to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and country. Dr Dunford thinks this is "a half-baked idea". (BBC News, March 11th 2008).

Both men have some purpose or cluster of purposes in mind. Dunford talks about developing social skills such as eating a meal together. Goldsmith talks about developing a sense of belonging. Both see social institutions (schools, oaths) fulfilling these purposes.

The UK is not alone in these concerns. The Food Programme (BBC Radio 4) recently reported on the perceived social importance of lunchtime in French nurseries, where a four-course lunch is eaten at a leisurely pace every day. Is that civilization or decadence?


Scribe said...

Yes, I agree with you - school is the last institutional moral force, I suspect would be a better phrase. True, I think we have less overall "moral teaching" in place - morals have been replaced with the sibling concepts of "efficiency" and "economy", but that's not to say there's a fundamental lack of moralistic concern. Most kids are brought up pretty OK really. Pushes for tackling more environmental issues are ubiquitous (even if their implementation is fuzzy). Public-good services, such as democratising websites, are given some publicity...

I think the danger lies in this ever-present gap between what we say and what we do. Films are a great example of this gap IMHO - they lay out morals, principles, and desired characteristics, but how many people actually act like the people we admire in films? It's this disjunct between ourselves and our "dreams", or our stories, that is more damaging than a particular lack of institutionalised moral drum-beating.

The next question is why have they disappeared and, more importantly, why is it important to bring them back? Conserving principals just because we feel they're lacking is a dangerous game - you can't force people to be sociable, as many "team-building" work days out will attest to...

Richard Veryard said...

Efficiency is an interesting one. For some people, the avoidance of waste is a moral imperative (end in itself) not just an economic one (means to some other end). In the workplace, a positive approach to efficiency mobilizes the whole workforce to find cost-savings, whereas a negative approach (sadly more common) divides the workforce against itself and against "management".