Tory government directing political education in schools. Part 2

When fascists attempt to enact political indoctrination in schools they have two aims.  There is the simple aim of trying to instill a preferred political perspective in children.  However, even the most deluded libertarian knows that children do not necessarily consume all the instructions they receive and that they acquire a range of perspectives beyond the classroom.  The key aim of the indoctrination is its part in culture war propaganda. 

As distraction, as dumbing-down of political discourse and as a tool to oppose unconservative philosophy, Tories’ culture war’s elements are all absurd and as incompatible with intellectual maturity as it is possible to be.  Since Johnson became Prime Minister a constant theme of government propaganda is nationalist posturing with idiotic symbolism.  Drowning in a wave of flags government ministers harp on about patriotism in a tried and tested method of assuaging general disgruntlement by offering an entirely illusory sense of belonging. 

Faux patriotism helps the Tories’ fight their culture war against political views that challenge libertarian analysis and objectives.  Recent actions to inculcate blinkered perspectives included

  • Oliver Dowden (when Culture Secretary) stated his intent to invent Heritage Advisory Board that will stop heritage sites and museums from presenting full uncensored history of people and events related to the site or museum – Dowden’s HAB
  • Robert Jenrick (when Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary) said the law would be changed to “protect” statues.  His proposal was a reaction to anti-racist protesters dumping a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in the river in Bristol – Jenrick and statues

Tory government interference in education is part of its culture war.  Current Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi took a break from checking the temperature in his horses’ stables to present a fraudulent account of politics in schools and an even more fraudulent depiction of Tory preferences for what can and what can’t be part of state education.

Like the ham apoplexy of Dowden and Jenrick, Zahawi’s comments were a performance.  He has no knowledge of what happens in state schools and he couldn’t care less.  He invented a problem as an excuse to promote his political bias.

His statement is quoted in full at the end of this blog; it was published in Murdoch’s Sun.  The Sun published the statement with each sentence in a separate paragraph; the paragraphing was done by myself.

His analysis was couched in a typical modern libertarian setting that creates fantasies of state schools being riven with undercover Marxists directing young minds. 

While there is a clear need for schools to address political issues in the classroom from time to time, this must not be done in a partisan way.  No school should be encouraging young people to pin their colours to a particular political mast.”

Parents and carers need to be able to trust schools to be totally impartial.  They need to be confident that their children can learn about political issues and begin to form their own independent opinions, without being influenced by the personal views of those teaching them.”

At state Schools up to GCSE (16 years old) there is very little politics in any subject.  Teaching of history, inevitably, includes political aspects.  It is false to claim that teachers attempt to direct pupils toward particular political views.  Zahawi knows that there is no such direction.  

He accepted that “when teaching about racism for example, teachers should of course be clear that it has no place in our society” with a caveat that teachers “should avoid advocating for specific organisations that have widely contested political aims or views.”  The latter comment above was clearly a reference to Black Lives Matter, an anti-racist campaign that libertarians choose to describe as support for a particular organisation.  All who support Black Lives Matter are not expressing support for a “specific organisation.”  Again, Zahawi knows that. 

He stressed “impartiality” throughout his statement but also threatened teachers with the upcoming issuing of “guidance” to state schools.

I want to support teachers and make sure that they are equipped with a framework on how to deal with such matters, and the new guidance that I will publish next week will make things easier in our classrooms.  The new guidance I will be issuing also clarifies the requirement for teachers to make a balanced presentation of opposing views on political issues, so that the complexity of many of these important questions is understood.”

Zahawi’s use of language (underlined above) was not banal.  Teachers do not need a “framework” from the Tories or “guidance” from them on how to educate.  Teaching, by definition, is “balanced.”  For a Tory minister to offer “guidance” in “balance” would be hysterically funny if it weren’t sinister.

Guidance” from a Tory Education Secretary is never anything but political direction.  When in that role Gavin Williamson demanded that schools should not use teaching materials that criticise capitalism: Tory government directing political education in schools.

Impartiality” and “balance” are concepts that authoritarians (mis-)use and abuse as batons to quash dissent and to enable extremism.  The new order at BBC, orchestrated by the three Tory amigos Tim Davie, Richard Sharp and Robbie Gibb, is imposing both concepts in as fraudulently a methodology as possible.  “Impartiality” at BBC disallows certainty of observation, particularly on social issues, and “balance” enforces visibility of extremism and of stupidity as (wrongly) equitable with facts.  Zahawi’s choice of those words was for the same reasons.

His support for “presentation of opposing views on political issues” above contradicted Williamson’s “guidance” on the banning of certain political perspectives in schools as did Zahawi’s comment that “schools should encourage a range of political issues and viewpoints to be discussed in classes.”

The Education Secretary is addressing a problem that doesn’t exist.  He knows it doesn’t exist.  He is performing.  His ethos requires enemies.  Teachers who are unconservative are an easy invented enemy of libertarians.  In USA, in Texas, book-burning is happening.  Zahawi hasn’t advocated that tactic, yet.

Zahawi
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi

Full statement from Nadhim Zahawi
Whenever I step through the doors of a school, I am always struck by the passion and enthusiasm of children in our classrooms.  Kids up and down the country want to make a difference to the world, whether through inventing life-changing technology, addressing the problems facing our climate or supporting their communities.   As children grow up, that means tackling some of life’s big questions.  And as kids go through that process, they will start shaping their own political views.

Some will decide, like I did as a young boy, that the Conservative Party is the home for them.  Others will form a strong allegiance to the Labour Party – or the Greens or Liberal Democrats.  This is all part of a vibrant democracy.  We have more in common with each other than what separates us.  While I may vehemently disagree with some of my Labour colleagues, many of them are my friends.  The House of Commons is full of good people who disagree but are united by wanting the best thing for this country.

In our schools, brilliant teachers explain incredibly sensitive issues that attract opposing views in a balanced and measured way.  It is a difficult job, and I commend them for the incredible work that they are doing.  While there is a clear need for schools to address political issues in the classroom from time to time, this must not be done in a partisan way.  No school should be encouraging young people to pin their colours to a particular political mast.

As the Secretary of State for Education, I want to make sure that each and every child is given the opportunity to come to their own opinions without being swayed by what others think.  Children need to form their own views at the same time as they learn to respect those of others.  This is often seen in the hustings that take place in our schools at election time, which showcase all points of view and a range of policies.  I always make sure to participate in these events in my own constituency.

This is how we prepare young people to take their place as a well-balanced and tolerant member of society.  That is why parents and carers need to be able to trust schools to be totally impartial.  They need to be confident that their children can learn about political issues and begin to form their own independent opinions, without being influenced by the personal views of those teaching them.

Put simply, it means education, not indoctrination.  Legal duties on political impartiality have been in place for many years.  But I know that there can sometimes be uncertainty in interpreting them when confronted with specific issues like the legacy of the British Empire or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  When teaching about racism for example, teachers should of course be clear that it has no place in our society – but should avoid advocating for specific organisations that have widely contested political aims or views.

Schools should assess all the materials they use where political issues are raised to make sure they are appropriate.  And in the rare cases where parents or carers have concerns about teaching of politically contentious issues, the guidance will provide a common framework for discussion and de-escalation, meaning that families and schools can support each other to make sure that we get this right.

Of course, schools should encourage a range of political issues and viewpoints to be discussed in classes.  And political impartiality requirements do not mean they need to avoid difficult or sensitive subjects from being debated.

I want to support teachers and make sure that they are equipped with a framework on how to deal with such matters, and the new guidance that I will publish next week will make things easier in our classrooms.  We must never be afraid of debating, or respectfully disagreeing with one-another.  The new guidance I will be issuing also clarifies the requirement for teachers to make a balanced presentation of opposing views on political issues, so that the complexity of many of these important questions is understood.

It is not for teachers – and certainly not for politicians such as me – to tell young people what they should think on political issues, or how they should vote.  The next generation are more than capable of making these decisions on their own.  We must encourage them, support them, listen to them and equip them with a world-class education that allows them to reach their own political conclusions.  That is how we will deliver rounded and considered citizens, and shape the political leaders of tomorrow.”

Recommended reading
Karam Bales

Tory government directing political education in schools. Part 2

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