Ask a Scottish person to describe their identity and the reply would be Scottish. Similarly, a Welsh person asked the same question would say they’re Welsh. If the same question was asked of a Cornish person they would say Cornish, obviously – or would they?
Flag of Kernow
‘I am Cornish but I am English’
The question is asked because many Cornish claim ‘I am Cornish, but I’m English’. Why? We never hear ‘I am Welsh but I am English’. Yet, despite Cornish people having a distinct Cornish heritage, similar to that of the Welsh, belonging to families that have distinct Cornish surnames that can be traced back over the centuries, there are Cornish people that can readily accept the identity of another people. For while they are frequently heard declaring their pride of being Cornish, or delivering a passionate rendition of ‘Trelawny’ and the 20,000 Cornishmen, when asked about how they define their ethnicity, those same Cornish people may well say ‘English’.
On a certain ‘Cornish’ rugby forum one poster has claimed that Cornish-born player Jack Nowell, playing for the English national team is ‘an inspiration for Cornish youngsters everywhere’. It’s doubtful that a Welshman playing for the English national team would be held aloft as a figurehead of Welsh identity, an inspiration for Welsh youngsters everywhere. In fact, those who visit the message board might be puzzled and question as to why, on a Cornish forum, there is strong support of the English national team rather than that of their Celtic cousins in Wales.
This peculiar conflict of identity has been associated with cognitive dissonance; a frame of mind that affects some Cornish people. It relates to the discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs (I am Cornish and I’m English) at the same time, or is confronted by new information that ignores or denies any information that conflicts with their existing beliefs.
Local media in Cornwall
The origins for this ‘Cornish / English’ dissonance may be partially explained by the various local media publications. Most of the glossy magazines distributed throughout Cornwall and have ‘Cornwall’ in their title, do little towards enlightening their readers about Cornish history and culture, but rather existing merely to promote the area as a lifestyle choice, the preferred area for those wishing to purchase 2nd houses, or holiday lets within the Duchy.
Local newspapers also rarely promote Cornwall’s unique identity in a positive light. On such occasions when a story involving Cornish culture or identity arises it’s treated as something quirky, and sometimes the use of ‘quotes’ is employed. This tactic is used to give the impression that the writer of the article understands a questionable nature of that particular piece of news, then uses quotes as a means of influencing opinion against a view that the writer opposes by sowing the seeds of doubt into the minds of readers.
An example is this rather poorly written headline from the Cornish Guardian web site whereby ‘quotes’ suggest a questionable nature of the article:
‘The Cornish identity has been given official status today with news that the Duchy is being ‘National Minority’ status under EU law’
The actual source of the news item from the UK Government press release about recognition of Cornish ethnicity contains no erroneous quotes:
‘Cornish granted minority status within the UK’
National School Curriculum
The most likely cause, and major factor of why some Cornish people have this ‘conflict of identity’ can be directly attributed to the National School Curriculum that is overtly English.
Failing as it does to include any Cornish history in context with its progression during the Roman occupation, the later arrival of other groups, particularly those people from Angelin and Saxony and the upheavals that followed, will go some way towards explaining how Cornish identity, rather than being at the forefront of Cornish history, in Cornish schools, is kept well away from the inquiring minds of Cornish school children; effectively denying children of their cultural identity that will help to ensure they become more compliant towards the acceptance of an ‘English’ identity.
Perhaps the heading of the article should not be ‘Who do the Cornish think they are’ but rather ‘What the Cornish are taught to become’
Cornish children have been assimilated.
As they age and learn more about their Cornish history, their minds will be in conflict with what was taught (or not taught in this case) at their local school. Not having Cornish history as part of their local school history lesson, but instead to be taught from an English perspective, amounts to the assimilation that is in contravention of the very Framework Convention (FCNM) to which the UK Government applied its signature:
Articles from the Framework Convention document:
Article 5 1. The Parties (referring to those States that have signed up to the FCNM undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and to preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language and cultural heritage.
2. Without prejudice to measures taken in pursuance of their general integration policy, the Parties shall refrain from polices aimed at assimilation of persons belonging to national minorities against their will and shall protect these persons from any action aimed at such assimilation.
If the Cornish would accept their Cornish ethnicity, it would serve to grow the Cornish minority rather than see it decline.
The notes below are from the consultation document towards the National Curriculum in England 2013, which states state-funding schools must balanced and broadly based. Teachers should take account of their duties that also covers the culture and ethnicity of Cornish minority school children:
2. The school curriculum in England
2.1 Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:
promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.
Promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society.
Responding to pupils’ needs and overcoming potential barriers for individuals and groups of pupils
4.2 Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, and religion or belief.