On Monday 28th September (2020) Tory Education Secretary Gavin Williamson spoke at a Blue Collar Conservatism (BCC) conference as part of the Tories’ party conference. Endorsing the objective of Toby Young’s The Free Speech Union (FSU), Williamson said
“We’ve got to make sure we have that freedom of speech in universities, and that voices are heard whatever background they come from.”
He meant, as Young did, that universities should be coerced into yes-platforming far-right bigots.
As Sam Bright said for Byline,
“Williamson is rejecting the right – the freedom – for the majority of students to choose who they want to speak on campus. Under the guise of freedom and under the duress of a conspiracy theory [of left-wing censorship], Williamson is using the power of the state to bully universities and their students.”
Interference in decisions made by universities and/or students’ unions regarding outside speakers has been Tory policy for a few years. The Office for Students (OfS), a deceptively named astroturfing Tory quango designed to force unwanted fraudulent polemics onto an academic audience, was devised by then Universities Minister Jo Johnson (brother of the Prime Minister) and led initially by Toby Young before he was removed following opposition to his appointment due to his views on eugenics. OfS’s instruction to universities was “do as the government says or you’ll be fined.”
Toby Young invented FSU with the same aim as OfS; FSU’s key component is a legal threat to sue universities and other public institutions that refuse to be bullied into accepting invasions by unwanted screaming heads.
At the same BCC event Tory MP Esther McVey, co-founder of BCC, doubled down on the recently revealed Tory education policy of censoring political education in schools.
“I think you need to remove all of that [anti-Brexit rhetoric] from the classroom. I think [it] needs to be removed from the whole educational system – a left-learning bias or an educational bias in the whole of the education platform.”
To justify her stance McVey invented hearsay.
“I am now hearing that people aren’t teaching you what they need to – they’re overly indoctrinating you. It’s [school education] gone political, people are saying it has gone to the left, they’re forcing ideas on you.”
As further justification for her insistence on political censorship she said schoolchildren should not have to listen to political views that are different to their parents’ political views; McVey described such views as “beliefs.”
“And I’m thinking to myself, are people thinking, ‘Why do I want to be engaged in a classroom if somebody doesn’t think like me, doesn’t vote like me, and you know what, they’re now telling me what is it and questioning my belief or my family’s beliefs’.”
McVey suppressed logic to misunderstand what education is.
There is no political indoctrination in schools. Up to GCSE level there is very little political education except as part of the teaching of history. Teachers generally remain neutral. McVey, Williamson and their cohorts know there is no issue with indoctrination in state schools. Their opposition to something that doesn’t exist is, of course, not opposition but declaration of intent to introduce political bias in schools.
Williamson admitted the intent to indoctrinate.
“I’m sure you’ve spoken about it, I’ve spoken about it, of the importance of freedom of speech, of making sure people aren’t ‘no platformed’.”
That is, he, echoing the earlier views of (Jo) Johnson and Young, wants schools and colleges to be forced to yes-platform offensive, divisive voices.
Tories’ intent to control teaching is a demonstration of their fear. Censoring reading and teaching materials alongside imposition of certain political perspectives are acts not associated with confident governance. The Tory government is running scared.
Sam Bright for Byline