New rules bring politics into the classroom by stealth
Schools should be about education, not "social justice"
I was educated in what must have been the final days of a venerable British tradition — the teacher with overtly Right-wing political views, freely and entertainingly expressed from the front of the class on a regular basis.
OFSTED inspectors, the Bloomsbury Group, the Blair government, and indeed the entire Labour Party; all were frequent targets of Mr M’s hilarious barbs. I don’t think he could get away with it now, 20 years on. It would only take one malcontent with a phone camera to create a viral clip, or some humourless parents empowered by the modern vogue for snitching, and he’d be in serious trouble.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
But paradoxically, while Mr M didn’t hide his personal politics, there was never a genuine attempt to instruct his pupils politically or impose ideological conformity. His views did not affect his teaching or his marking. He praised the Left-wing historian AJP Taylor, and I distinctly recall his palpable contempt for the German conservatives who enabled Hitler’s rise to power. His classes may have appeared political, but really weren’t at all.
Contrast this with the new instructions issued this week by the General Teaching Council for Scotland that all teachers must promote “social justice, diversity and sustainability.” Here the opposite is true: while it may not appear to politicise education, it does, profoundly. Their arguments must be rebutted.
Firstly, they claim that political neutrality in schools is unachievable. By their account, what looks like neutrality — the avoidance of explicit politics in the curriculum — is a kind of hidden privileging of conservatism, because it simply upholds the political status quo. All teaching is ultimately ideological, then; the only question is which ideology gets to control the schools.
There is a grain of truth here, but a much larger dollop of evasion and rhetorical sleight of hand. The fact that any theory of education contains at least some implicit background assumptions does not mean that heavily politicised approaches to education are therefore unobjectionable. The extent to which education and instruction are politicised does matter, and the assumptions behind “social justice” and “diversity” are heavily political and hugely contested. In addition they are often party political matters.
The second argument you will hear is that these matters are not really politics at all. Who could possibly object to social justice or diversity? Aren’t these just synonyms for being a good person? We teach children literacy and good manners, so it stands to reason that we should teach them to be accepting and tolerant too?
This isn’t true either, of course. The beliefs that march under the banners of “equality and diversity” and “social justice” are highly controversial, highly debatable and in many cases at variance with factual findings from genuine academic subjects. To infuse those beliefs into the curriculum is not simply to introduce children to the world as it is, or to encourage them to recognise the dignity of their fellow human beings. Rather, it is a way of recruiting pupils to a particular worldview and a set of ideological commitments.
Mr M would have hated it.
What do they mean by “social justice”, exactly? Do they mean equality of outcome, or of opportunity? Does diversity extend to allowing kids to challenge these ideas, and analyse the challenges of putting them into practice, or is that verboten?
The language of diversity and inclusion is being used to homogenise and exclude, to prop up a shallow groupthink, and to deny the agency of individual humans. It’s been appropriated by corporate interests (aided by unthinking, docile bureaucrats) to distract from real and growing inequalities of wealth and opportunities, and their attempts to perpetuate a broken model of crony capitalism in which the cards are stacked heavily against all but a tiny elite.
This is all going to end very badly unless those of us decent, humane, compassionate people who can see what is happening start to find the courage to use our voice – at work, with our friends, our neighbours, in our clubs and societies – and face down the mob. This is true especially, but not only, of those of us in that group who identify as left-leaning progressives. We have to prove by example that most opponents of this fungal wokism are not racists, extreme libertarians, or relics of a by-gone age. This will require courage and, at first, a thick skin. But this is the only way we can help others find their voice and start taking back what is being stolen from us.
Very true. But I would offer two points in addition to your remarks. First, the mob we are dealing with is less powerful than it supposes. Like the Paris mob in the 1790s, it does not represent the majority, just a small army of fanatics operating in a key position. Then, it was geographical; now it is institutional. The Marxists have infiltrated, perverted and weaponised – whether directly, through manipulation or group think – most of our institutions. The answer can only be to purge or destroy those institutions, which requires a party with more backbone than the Tories and a leader. They do not have a leader at the moment, just a waffling front man. The simplest method of achieving this aim is drastically to slash the size of the state, to abolish the quangos, defund the polytechnics and restore free agency to corporate bodies of all kinds. Schools, for example, should be funded privately or by means of voucher. Hospitals should stand or fall by the profits they make from a regulated insurance market, with assistance to those who – for good reason – cannot pay their premiums. The remit of regulators should be radically curtailed in all areas. Second, once this has been achieved, the ring leaders of the mob will find it all but impossible to impose their agendas – especially if a raft of legislation enshrining liberty of conscience and outlawing political coercion is put through parliament. As for the Scots, we must lance the boil. They must re-join a unitary United Kingdom or attempt full independence. The current cowardly half way house just props up the SNP and incubates its Marxist drift. We must be as forceful, clear and unflinching as the left, fighting fire with fire. Only then will the madness end.
Not every social problem has a market solution. Believing society can be run completely as a free market is just as naive as believing socialism is the answer to every problem that arises. Most societies are a healthy mixture of the two
You deserve a lot of support here. Most people prefer to live in harmony with the people around them. Which has the unfortunate consequence that people willing to protest this kind of development often tend to be those who enjoy being different and provocative. Some revolt of teh moderates would be very useful.
Thank you. I agree.
“What do we want?”
“Gradual progressive change involving the maintenance of broad-based pluralist consensus taking all relevant factors into consideration and carefully balancing the costs and benefits”
“When do we want it?”
“In due course”
I have tried talking to people about it. Save for a few male friends and relatives, whenever I mildly raise my concerns about the dangers of Critical Theory or the rise of the Rainbow Police State I am accused of being a homophobic racist bigot. I believe we’re stuck in a closed ideological loop for now.
The whole purpose of education should be teaching how, not what, to think. Primary school children just need to be taught to be tolerant of each other’s differences but to use the right lavatories and changing rooms for their sex. Teenagers should be introduced to different ideas and be taught to deconstruct and analyse them and to arrive at their own conclusions. No opinion is ‘wrong’, but an educated mind accumulates evidence and arguments before expressing them.
As most teachers who came up through the grammar schools and universities as they used to be have now retired, it is unlikely that there will be anyone left who was taught to think themselves and knows how to do it.
“Who could possibly object to social justice or diversity?” Me, as those are mere code words for Lefty fasc* sm. It is like BLM, the words themselves repel argument – (what? You say B L do not matter?)
The old, Victorian Public School, saying on Education at the highest levels is
‘Education is not a ‘Putting in’, but a ‘Drawing Out’.’
Bit 360 from todays Liberal Post Modernism Fas* sts.
Scotland is becoming increasingly weird and the Scottish government increasingly intrusive.
Indeed, but the behaviour of the Scottish government (and subservient bodies such as the General Teaching Council) is more dangerous than the word “weird” suggests. The steadily increasing authoritarianism, centralisation, and intrusive controls over society (as in the recent suppression of free speech legislation) have made Scotland unhealthily close to the one-party Left Wing governments of failed states such as Venezuela.
It is a typical, Marxist sophistry to say that silence indicates approval, part of their “with us or against us” approach, which naturally polarises and embitters debate, taints everything with a suppositious political intent and does away entirely with liberty of conscience. If people are not convinced that the reach of the state is too long; that it has become poisonously biased and that it intends to indoctrinate the public – using oppressive and intimidating means to do so, goodness knows what it will take to open their eyes. But as in all such periods of “take over”, when the oppression is softly slithering into place like the coils of the silent constrictor, most of us are frightened mice, sighing from the mere relief that we have not, ourselves, been asphyxiated – yet. I imagine that the period February to October 1917 in St Petersburg must have carried the same mix of glimmering, fugitive freedom and heavy, underlying threat; not to mention the period 1931 – 33, in Germany.
silence indicates approval
Yes. Drilling down I wondered whether the ‘logic’ goes something like this; The existing state of political affairs is ideologically unjust. Impartiality does not change the existing state of political affairs.Therefore the avoidance or lack of evidence of partiality (impartiality) is in fact evidence partiality exists.
This rests on a subtle reification of ‘something not changing politically as they wish’ into the action of a ‘kind of hidden privileging of conservatism’.
If you have a choice of sending your children to a left wing teacher or a right wing teacher (if such a thing still exists), always go for the right wing. A huge part of the philosophy of the right is argument, discussion and debate. A huge part of the philosophy of the left is “anyone who doesn’t see things my way is evil and has to be cancelled”, or, in more extreme cases, killed. The left can live in a right leaning society; nobody can live in a leftist society, including the wrong kind of leftists.
Yes … but, Sweden?
I would be interested to see Sweden in 20 years time… Their success iro their semi-socialist experiments were based on homogeneity of society. That is all changing.
Dan Hannan has a useful definition of diversity: ‘people who look different but all think the same’.
Anyone ever watch Jordan Peterson on Youtube? I just discovered him, and what exceedingly intelligent, and positive things they are to watch. The degenerate C* ap on the streaming services is too oppressive, so I look to things made by individuals to stream, and his thousands of hours of soothing stuff is top notch.
And this issue is his cause celebre, the evil taking of the education system by the Marxist, Post-Modernism, Liberals – he says they are a minority of 2%, the actual Militants working intentionally for this goal of destroying society – And yet enough to take the entire education, MSM, Entertainment, Social Media, and now governments….
Their tool being naming their evil creeds things one cannot openly argue against – that simple device! Social Justice, CRT, BLM, Equity, Equality, Anti-Racist……
GLEICHSCHALTUNG !!! pardon you General Teaching Council for Scotland, does anyone have a tissue?
“By educating the young generation along the right lines, the people’s State will have to see that a generation of mankind is formed which will be adequate to this supreme combat that will decide the destinies of the world”
Herr Hit General Teaching Council for Scotland, 2021
“Aristotle — ‘Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.'”
No – that was the Jesuit Order surely? But still a good point.
Fantastic word! Exactly defines the goals of the Teachers unions. I did not know this term, thankyou, as I have said, learning a new word is something I find very rewarding, especially one as fitting, and historically important, as this one.
“Gleichschaltung, or in English, co-ordination, was in N* zi terminology the process of Naz* *ication by which A* olf Hit *er and the N* zi Party successively established a system of totalitarian control and coordination over all aspects of German society and societies occupied by N *zi Germany “from the economy and trade associations to the media, culture and education””
The Scots seem to be especially keen on this attempt at brainwashing-perhaps why their education system has plunged so detrimentally in international comparison. With so many Scots suiciding so dreadfully on drugs it seems that the new wave in schools might be about their replacement by foreign immigrants. Their population is about the size of Yorkshire’s at the moment.
Emperor Kranky asks that children only need know one question and its correct answer. Independance? Yes. what else could they possibly need to learn?
Firstly, they claim that political neutrality in schools is unachievable. By their account, what looks like neutrality — the avoidance of explicit politics in the curriculum — is a kind of hidden privileging of conservatism, because it simply upholds the political status quo.
It seems to me there is a hidden a priori assumption here – the curriculum is to support an ideologically political pedagogy. Thus, their argument follows from the assumption.
If, on the other hand, the a priori assumption is the curriculum does not support any ideological political pedagogy, the resultant absence of any explicit ideological political content does not uphold the political status quo.
This is analogous to an argument from ignorance IMO. All the avoidance or absence shows is the curriculums’s lack of explicit political content. The absence does not provide a reason for believing a hidden privileging exists or believing it therefore upholds the political status quo.
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe