It is both rare and welcome to hear an educating and educated speech by the Secretary of State for Education at his party conference. Michael Gove's at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, particularly the section on the curriculum in our schools, repays careful study. He is generally right in his emphasis on the rigorous study of traditional subjects rather than wasting time on what he calls "pseudo-subjects". We would expect him, as a student of English, to focus on the teaching of language and literature — as he does. His choice, though, of the "greats" — Dryden, Pope, Swift, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Austen, Dickens and Hardy — could have been expanded to include Herbert, Donne, Newman, Hopkins, Eliot, Chesterton, Greene and Belloc.
It is, however, his comments about the teaching of history that are the most telling. He reminds us of that sundering of our society from its past which I have called "national amnesia", and asserts that until we understand the struggles of the past we will not be able to value our hard-won freedoms. All of this, and more, is music to my ears, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
We must ensure that the teaching of history is not just about a number of significant events and personalities and that there should be a connected narrative. But how is this to be achieved and what is the "golden chain of harmony" that can provide the connection? Surely, this has to do with a world-view that underlies the emergence of characteristically British institutions and values: the Constitution itself ("the Queen in Parliament under God"); a concern for the poor; a social security net, based on the parish church, which goes back to the 16th century; and personal liberties as enshrined in the Magna Carta.
The world-view that made these fundamental national building-blocks is the Judaeo-Christian tradition of the Bible. This is evident in the way the Anglo-Saxon assembly, the Witan, developed and the role of the Church in this development. Such a role has continued to be influential from the time of the Model Parliament of 1295 to this day. The question now with parliamentary reform hovering in the wings, is how the Judaeo-Christian tradition can continue to be called on, especially when proposed legislation raises important moral issues for the individual and for society.
Against slavery: St Anselm abolished the "nefarious trade" in Britain in 1102
Both Edward the Confessor and the saintly Alfred made sure that English Common Law was founded on Judaeo-Christian principles, while respecting the customs of the people inhabiting these islands at the time. Christianised Roman Law was studied at the universities and schools and was also mediated through the Canon Law of the Church, which dealt for centuries with matters such as marriage and family, provision for the poor, and as a recourse for justice when it could not be obtained in any other way. It is only recently that public doctrine on marriage, family and the protection due to the human person, derived from the teaching of the Bible, has been ditched in favour of libertarian novelties that refuse socio-religious sanction for sexual relationships and that are able to limit the notion of personhood to accommodate scientific and commercial interests or, indeed, the particular wishes of individuals.
- Theresa May Emerges From Thatcher's Shadow
- Not Tweets And Anger But Redoubled Vigilance
- Why France Is Revolting Against The Ancien Regime
- How The EU Elite Paved The Way For Populism
- Trump's America: The End Of Exceptionalism
- The Kaliningrad Contingency
- Mrs May Is Too Canny To Say Farewell To Arms
- To Understand Trump, Read Huxley — Not Orwell
- A Letter To Our Great-Grandchildren
- Trump Is No Loser, But Government Will Be Harder
- Trump's Appeal Is More Roosevelt Than Reagan
- The Trump Presidency: A Worst-Case Scenario
- We Cannot Take Liberal Democracy For Granted
- No Need To Fear Russia. The Bear Is Broke
- Who Will Do Justice To Our Judiciary?
- Trust Westminster On Brexit: It's All We've Got
- Back to the "Future Of Socialism", Mr Corbyn?
- Would The Little Lady Like A Wee Dram?
- The Coalition We Need To Defeat Islamism
- Are We Losing The War On Home-Grown Terror?