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"Patriot: one who defends or is zealous for his country's
prosperity, freedom or rights" (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

 

 

 
The Press Association reported on Friday about the government's desire that school history lessons should help children develop a sense of their British identity and a love of their country.
 
Sounds reasonable to most of us, I imagine, but it hasn't gone down too well with some educationalists. Academics at the Institute of Education in the University of London warned that pupils should not be encouraged to love Britain because of its "morally ambiguous" history. Michael Hand and Jo Pearce, said patriotism should be taught - but as "a controversial issue".
 
Dr Hand said "Gordon Brown and David Cameron have both called for a history curriculum that fosters attachment and loyalty to Britain. But the case for promoting patriotism in schools is weak. 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."
 
Hand and Pearce 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.
 
It doesn't take too much brain-power to work out the reason behind this astonishing revelation, and fortunately The GOS is equal to the task.
 
These teachers don't want to teach their pupils to love their country because they're really, really stupid.
 
Simple as that. They're stupid because they don't understand what patriotism means. I expect they think it means rushing round the streets in union-jack t-shirts, beating up wogs.
 
So, for all you London teachers, here's some information: patriotism means being supportive of the country that raised you. It doesn't mean hating everyone else. It doesn't mean starting fights. Especially it doesn't mean that if you were born somewhere else and emigrated to this country, you should dislike and distrust this country for being so kind as to take you in.
 
The Wikipedia definition is "Patriotism denotes positive and supportive attitudes to a 'fatherland' by individuals and groups." Leaving aside the emotive connotations of the word "fatherland" which was annexed and abused by the Nazis, what's wrong with that? Positive and supportive attitudes? Quite right too. Bring 'em on.
 
For two or three hundred years it's been the delight of the sneering classes - the intelligentsia, the arty-farty, the literary crowd - to belittle the ordinary man's love of his home, from Samuel Johnson ("Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel") to Bertrand Russell ("Patriots always talk of dying for their country, and never of killing for their country"). Have a look at this Wikipedia entry for some examples - and what a load of self-regarding piffle they are (lots of entries are from one person. Who the hell is Emma Goldman, and who the hell cares what she thinks?*).
 
People who are truly wise, and not just trendy followers of the latest intellectual fashion, see a little more clearly: "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it" - Mark Twain, and "Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure I love my country with all her faults. I'm not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be" - John Wayne.
 
But it was Seneca who put it in the most useful form, two thousand years ago: "Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own".
 
That's it in a nutshell. You love your country because it's yours. Just as one loves one's family, one's parents, one's children. You love them because they're yours. They might be a nuisance, the children may be naughty, your father may have got far too opinionated as he's got older, your daughter may have an unsuitable boyfriend, your son may have failed all his GCSEs - but you don't stop loving them. They're yours. And if you don't keep loving them, how the hell do you ever expect to make them any better?
 
How long will it be, I wonder, before those trendy, thoughtless, pointless London teachers start to "alert their pupils to the dangers" of loving their parents? After all, those parents might smoke, or drink more than a thimble-full of wine a day, or drive a 4x4. They might be fat. In this right-on, censorious modern society, they might not deserve to be loved.
 
Bastards. Stupid bastards.
 

 
(For some intelligent and thoughtful discussion of this subject, see this American blogsite).
 

 
* The GOS says: Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches, an advocate of politically-motivated murder and violent revolution. She was born in Lithuania, raised in Russia, moved to America, was imprisoned for, among other things, plotting a political assassination, and deported back to Russia.
 
And nobody cares what she thought.

 

 
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