In this article, I identify a broad, international ‘rhetoric of common values’, which hinges on the poorly supported assumption that values should be promoted because the sharing of values are the basis for social cohesion in groups. Through discussing two cases, I identify, analyse and critique key features of the empirical phenomenon that I call the rhetoric of common values. The two cases are the British government response to the so-called ’Trojan Horse’ incident in 2014, and Norwegian core curricula since 1974. Previous research has critiqued the use of the term ’fundamental British values’ as being unhelpful when schools teach controversial issues. The results of my analysis provide international breadth, some historical depth and metaphorical structure to our understanding of how the rhetoric of common values is used in education policy today. The article focusses less on dilemmas faced by teachers and more on the context of choice established ‘upstream’ by education policy. I argue that it is timely and important for teachers in religious education to understand the rhetoric of common values. It is a contemporary and politically relevant way in which religion is mobilised and politicised for exclusionary forms of national identity. Avoiding the rhetoric of common values does not mean avoiding values in education policy. The rhetoric of common values identitizes values. This causes the terms ‘values’ to be mobilised in boundary work separating ‘us’ from ‘them’, thus undercutting a better role of values in education policy: to reflect upon, and make relevant in life, guidelines for future action.
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