No, the government has not banned anti-capitalism in schools

“Is this still fascism? US commentators ask whenever Trump opens his mouth. In the overactive imaginations of those panicking at the prospect of a second Trump term, fascism is on the rise. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the launch of Trump’s “1776 Commission”, a White House investigation into the teaching of history, and a direct response to the 1619 project set up by the New York Times, is regarded as conclusive proof that “America is flying towards fascism”.

The word f is also increasingly used to describe developments in the UK. Boris Johnson is a “proto-fascist,” according to former ghost chancellor John McDonnell. Meanwhile, a handful of thugs harassing asylum seekers is seen as evidence of British Imperial fascism. So when the Department of Education (DfE) warned schools last week against using “resources produced by organizations that take extreme political positions on issues,” and defined “anti-capitalism As an example of an extreme political stance, the horn “fascism” sounded loud.

McDonnell was quick again. “This is a new stage in the culture war and this drift towards extreme conservative authoritarianism is accelerating and should be of concern to anyone who thinks democracy requires free speech and an educated population,” he said. . work Beth winter called the new directive “grim and alarming”. But McDonnell then went beyond the allusion to fascism to offer his own interpretation of the guidelines: “On this basis, it will be illegal to refer to large swathes of British history and politics, including the history of British socialism, the Labor Party and trade unionism, all of which have at different times advocated the abolition of capitalism.

McDonnell’s word was soon taken as law. A writer at Canary tweeted: “Under new guidelines, the Johnson government is banning the works of William Godwin, William Morris, JB Priestley, Noam Chomsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Orwell and many others who have criticized the model from schools in England economic order. ” Joined us by author and host Stuart Maconie: “It’s so ironic it would mean there would be no teaching at George Orwell.” Teachers everywhere have lamented the ban on teaching poets like Wordsworth, Shelley and Coleridge and subjects like the peasant revolt, the labor movement and Marxism in history. The parallels between Trump and Johnson wrote themselves: two demagogues implementing fascism in the school curriculum.

Prohibition Farm animal English lessons and Russian Revolution history lessons would indeed be really alarming. But that is not what is happening. John McDonnell is simply wrong and fearmongers on Twitter are spreading fake news. The new orientation curriculum says nothing about English or history – it specifically refers to “relationships, sex and health education.”

It is in this context that the DfE warns against the use of resources produced by organizations that: wish to abolish or overthrow democracy or capitalism, or end free and fair elections; who oppose freedom of expression; who use racist language; and who approve of illegal activities. Specifically, the guidelines warn that children should not be tricked into believing that their preference for particular clothes or toys means that they may have a different gender identity. All of this comes with a reminder that teachers should note their duty of impartiality and the need for a balanced treatment of political issues in the classroom.

The new DfE guidelines send a wake-up call to schools that uncritically support groups like the transgender children’s charity Mermaids or Black Lives Matter. And, unfortunately, this is necessary. For too long, the DfE itself has forged links with certain organizations and allowed them to directly influence what children learn in relationship and sex education classes. In turn, too many school leaders see inviting LGBTQ activists to speak to students as a quick and easy way to tick a diversity box. Lessons on gender, relationships and, more recently, race and racism, are seldom subjects of debate but an opportunity to instill particular values.

English teachers can still teach Orwell and Shelley. Indeed, I wish they would: Priestley’s An inspector calls seems to be the ubiquitous choice for 2020. And history teachers can still cover the Russian Revolution and Chartists. Good teachers will encourage children to engage in literature and other resources before they think critically about the text and their own society. It is nothing like treating children as an audience captive of your own opinions.

Government ministers should not need to specify which organizations or resources can and cannot be used in schools. Teachers should be trusted to decide what is right for their students. But it depends on a clear distinction between education and indoctrination, between teaching and activism. The blurring of the lines between these activities is not the fault of the teachers alone. The very existence of relationships and sex education – a made-up subject that is all about influencing children’s behavior and deliberately changing their views – lends itself to imposing political values ​​and perspectives. Worse yet, when traditional subjects like English and history are no longer seen as useful for themselves, they also become hollow receptacles for political purposes.

The government should not dictate acceptable resources for education. But rather than screaming fascism over fabricated decrees and bad faith interpretations of advice, let’s campaign to do away with the whole notion of relationships and sex education. Children would then have more time to learn and think critically about all kinds of topics – even anti-capitalism.

Joanna williams is a sharp columnist and director of the Ceo think tank.

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