The focus of this study is the development of the values of trainee teachers in the social democratic era of the 1960s in England. The study explores if there was a moment in teacher education during the 1960s when unique conditions created a seedbed for a values-based Gramscian dialectic between social democratic ideology and the culture of vocational pragmatism which was organically situated within the lived values of the institutional ethos, course content and school partnerships developed by colleges of education. Evidence is sought for the nature and expression of this dialectic within college of education archival material. There follows a discussion in which the evidence for the 1960s social democratic dialectic is contrasted with the absence of a neo-liberal dialectic in today’s teacher education. This absence has implications for the work of teacher educators in addressing the development of trainee teachers’ values from within the current highly instrumentalised training model. The author concludes by making recommendations about how teacher educators in their pedagogy, research and school-based work can unsettle the post-hegemonic status of the neo-liberal ideological project.