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9 Apr, 2018 09:25

Don’t offend the PC brigade by teaching ‘British values,’ Scottish govt warns teachers

Don’t offend the PC brigade by teaching ‘British values,’ Scottish govt warns teachers

Is political correctness getting in the way of education? The UK security minister fears that it might be, after Scottish teachers were told not to use the term ‘British values’ in the context of terrorism, as the term may offend.

Security Minister Ben Wallace accused the Scottish National Party administration and Education Scotland of “putting PC politics before children’s safety” over the directive.

The guidance issued to teachers highlighted “problematic language” that should be avoided in the classroom. The advice warned that the idea of British values might “cause offense and could play into the hands of groups who seek to assert that there is an inherent conflict between being British and being Muslim.”

The advice was issued by Education Scotland, and was drawn up in partnership with the Scottish government. The directive said both recognize the “importance of using appropriate and accurate language.” The document also gave an overview of inappropriate terminology that shouldn't be used when discussing terrorism with students. It also encouraged teachers to “think carefully before selecting the right words.”

It also hit out at the wording of the UK government’s Prevent strategy – an initiative that targets extremist behavior. According to Prevent, extremism is “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values” – values that include things like tolerance, democracy and the rule of law.

READ MORE: Britain needs a counter-radicalization program for its politicians, says terrorism expert

Wallace slammed the directive, stating: “It’s shameful that people should put PC politics before children’s safety. And anyway, what’s the difference between Scottish and British values?”

The claim has been rejected by both terrorism experts and Muslim leaders. They argue that British values such as freedom of expression and justice resonate with Islamic teachings, instead of contradicting them.

Omar Afzal of the Scottish Muslim Council said the term ‘British Values’ is not offensive. He argued that examples in the Prevent guidance “are values that are universal,” and not belonging only to the British.

Director of the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University Dr Tim Wilson described the guidance as “heading off a perceived threat, rather than a real one.” He added that he was skeptical that the term “British values” could radicalize a child.

Mahmood Rafiq of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community told the Scottish Mail on Sunday: “British values, such as freedom of expression, fairness and justice – these do resonate with us, so I don’t think it conflicts with Islam. Yes, some people twist Islam and try to drive a wedge and confuse youngsters. But from our perspective there’s no conflict or confusion – British values sit well with Islamic values.”

A Scottish Government spokesman defended the directive, basing the use of language on “academic research and feedback” from communities. “[The research] suggests that the wrong language can cause confusion, unnecessary offence and – in the worst cases – amplify the divisive rhetoric used by terrorists and violent extremists,” he said.

“Our partners working to deliver Prevent in Scotland identified the need for guidance around language and terminology, and this was developed in close consultation with communities, stakeholders and academics.”

Education Scotland said the development of the guidance was a “collaborative effort” involving a range of partners and the Scottish government.

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