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Brainwashed at school
A recent article by a student blogger for The Daily Telegraph has accused an A-Level Politics syllabus and the Further Education sector in general, of extreme biases in favour of the Left and even “indoctrinating” students into a left-wing mould. This article presents a refutation.
It is common knowledge on the Right that education in Britain from the reception class to the PhD supervision is dominated by forces of the political Left. One Daily Mail article from August 2012, praising government plans to rewrite National Curriculum guidelines on competitive sports, referred to the “culture of ‘prizes for all’ which has afflicted some schools since the educational establishment decreed no one must fail in the 1960s.” It is part of a wider conviction that the Left, through the teaching unions and through influence in policy-making, has engineered the machinery of political indoctrination through the state education sector.
This is the position advanced by undergraduate Carola Binney in a recent article for The Telegraph, which alleges from the by-line that eighteen year-olds are strongly influenced by “Left-wing propaganda” on an Edexcel A-Level Politics paper. The horrifying broader implications of the biases perceived on a single exam paper by a Tory student are made clearer in a supporting article by Dr. Martin Stephen, a former High Master of St. Paul’s School. Indeed, he draws the connection between Binney’s biased exam paper and the cultural apogee achieved by the Left everywhere else in education:
“The British school system is currently dominated by a lobby… a whole host of knee-jerk responses that happen also to fit neatly into a champagne socialist agenda… Competitive sport is bad because some children will feel a failure. Testing is bad because it stresses the little ones”
To make the leap from criticising an issue of bias in one exam paper to proposing the existence of an institutional conspiracy to subvert the purposes of education and direct the nation’s impressionable youth into the clasping jaws of socialism would be more than one article’s work for the politically uncommitted.
The issue of bias in teaching and exams is a serious matter and understandably enflames tension between students and teachers who possess committed views on a subject. Courses which touch on already strongly-held views, such as Politics, Religious Studies and even History can become points of clash over partisan biases in how topics are instructed, examined or marked. But it is obvious that where biases do exist, they are not part of a larger institutional programme of politicised education – if exam papers and lessons where biases were found were grouped together, they would lack any ideological coherence or evidence of design by higher powers. Powerful as the teaching unions may be, they do not have the power to set curriculums or state education policy in general, their primary concern being the working and living conditions of members rather than controlling what children are taught.
As far as ‘indoctrination’ goes, the very accusation itself is insulting to the victims of real campaigns of brainwashing and to the intelligence of readers with any understanding of modern British political history. At first instance, it is plainly obvious that the ‘indoctrination’ associated with dictatorships left and right does not currently occur in British state schools. The word itself commands images of the warped relationship between totalitarianism and youth; think of East Germany’s Pioneer movement, the military-controlled schools of South American juntas and the Khmer Rouge’s barbarous re-education camps. Consider, for instance this statement made by the Nazi government when implementing changes to German school curriculums:
“German youth must no longer as in Liberal era… be confronted with the choice of weather it wishes to grow up in a spirit of materialism or idealism, of racism or internationalism, of religion or godlessness, but… according to the principles of the ideology of National Socialism”.
Then consider the following excerpt from Section 406 of the Education Act 1996, which remains in force today:
“The local education authority, governing body and head teacher shall forbid—
(a)the pursuit of partisan political activities by any of those registered pupils at a maintained school who are junior pupils, and
(b)the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.
If the Left really has been shaping children for the revolution since Marc Bolam’s earliest appearances on Top of the Pops, it has obviously not gone very well for them.Tweet Share3
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