Posts Tagged ‘Local Education Authority’

Right Planning War on Teachers’ Union Over Wokeness?

October 9, 2022

Sorry I haven’t been posting much over the last few days. I had a hospital appointment Thursday and although it wasn’t anything serious, I haven’t felt much like posting anything online afterwards. But I felt I had to post about this. I was watching one of the videos from the New Culture Forum yesterday. It’s the cultural offshoot of the Institute of Economic Affairs and has been set up to defend traditional British culture from left-wing ideas and ‘wokeness’. In this particular video, they were discussing various topics that had arisen over the past week. One of these was a video produced by biracial Tory Calvin Robinson about how British children’s education is being ruined by left-wing teachers pushing Critical Race Theory and so on. Now I do agree with them about Critical Race Theory. I think it’s just a form of militant anti-White racism based on a mixture of Marxist legal theory and postmodernism. It considers that all Black people are automatically oppressed because of their colour, while White people are privileged and should be made to feel ashamed and humiliated because of this. It’s divisive and I see absolutely no value in it whatsoever. But Critical Race Theory is only one of their targets. The broader target is the teaching profession itself, which they decided is far too left-wing and needs to be comprehensively attacked.

My mother was a primary school teacher, and I did my first degree at a teacher training college, which has since become one of the new universities. I realise that this is nearly forty years ago, and I honestly don’t know how much has changed or not. I did an MA in history in 2004 and then a Ph.D. in archaeology at Bristol university, graduating ten years ago. My experience of university is therefore dated and limited. But this contradicts some of the assertions that the New Culture Forum were making. They claimed that 85 per cent plus of teachers were left leaning. Perhaps they are. And so, the arch-Tories claimed, they wished to indoctrinate children with woke doctrines like CRT, Postcolonial Theory and so on. They also asserted that they were generally indoctrinating people with the left-wing attitudes that only people on the left support the NHS and are caring.

Now my experience is that teachers, whether left or right, go into the profession for the simple reason that they want to stand up before a class and teach. And what they want to teach is the traditional academic subjects – the three ‘Rs’, history, science, geography or whatever. They don’t want to push Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory or Queer Theory. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, feminism and so on used be part of what was called ‘the hidden curriculum’, the set of values that the educational system sought to impart to its pupils. From what I can see, the overt teaching of issues like anti-racism was imposed from outside the school by the local education authority and involved outside groups. After the 1981/2 riots, for example, the school at which my mother taught was visited by such a specialist group to teach the children to be anti-racist. As far as I can make out, this came from above, from the council or LEA and that neither the school nor its headmaster had anything to do with it. Today there are concerns about schoolchildren in Brighton being taught Critical Race Theory, and one man has taken his child out of the local school there and was protesting against it. But the leader of Brighton council is a member of the Green party, and this seems to be part of Green party policy down there. The New Culture Forum, as could be expected from a group of high Tories, declared that it was the fault of the unions. Well, the National Union of Teachers, from what I can remember, is very hot on anti-racism and so on, but there were a variety of different teaching unions, and I don’t think they were all the same.

As for universities, some lecturers are admittedly very left-wing. Others are, or used to be, Tory. And others keep their political and religious opinions out of the classroom. With some of the ‘woke’ courses that are being made mandatory at certain universities, such as anti-racism awareness for freshers, the impression I get is that they are being imposed by the administration. This seems to be largely a response to criticism from the Black community. Blacks tend to get lower grades than Whites, and so universities have been under pressure since the 1980s to implement affirmative action programmes to admit more Black students by lowering the grades required. And it’s also being done in response to complaints that Black and Asian staff and students also suffer from racial abuse and so on. This aspect does indeed come from the Black sections of the unions, as reported by the Guardian.

The impression that teachers have been indoctrinating vulnerable little minds with Communism has been around since the days of Thatcher, when her government started a moral panic about Peace Studies. I think this latest round of political suspicion and witch hunting is partly a result of concerns across the Atlantic about the promotion of Critical Race Theory, Black Lives Matter and Queer Theory in schools. There have been a number of videos put up on right-wing YouTube channels commenting on TikTok videos by gay/trans teachers informing the world about their sexuality and how they’re trying to teach their class about it, as well as news stories and controversies about Drag Queen Story Hour. But while this goes on, I’m really not sure how widespread it is. I’ve watched videos that have claimed it’s near uniform because of the influence of these doctrines and left-wing staff on the American teacher training courses. But I’m not American, and my contact with the American education system has been limited to American exchange and other students at the universities and colleges I attended.

I am also unsure how far the local authorities can be blamed for the schools in their area teaching left-wing doctrines like Critical Race Theory. I was at school just before the National Curriculum came in, when schools had far greater freedom to teach what and how they chose. This freedom has been limited by the National Curriculum. Also, schools have been part-privatised by being transformed into academies. This system was intended to take them out of local authority control. But if schools are teaching subjects like CRT and Queer Theory, it has to be due to the wishes of the academy chain itself. These are private companies, which makes it difficult for Tories like the New Culture Forum to blame the state or left-wing local authorities. It’s no doubt why they’re blaming the teaching unions instead.

So, what are their solutions to all this? They discussed home schooling but rejected that on the grounds that working class parents have neither the time nor the books required to do it. They concluded that if the education system could be rescued at all, there had to be a battle with the unions ‘like the miners’ strike’.

This is very ominous.

I’m not in favour of anyone imposing their own personal political opinions schools. But I’d say that the most pressing issues in education aren’t about Critical Race Theory and so on. They’re the constant issues of underfunding and poor pay for teaching staff, lack of resources and teaching materials and inability to retain staff. There are concerns that children’s, and particularly boy’s personal development and educational performance is being harmed by the lack of male teachers. But one solution to that would be to raise salaries to a level where they would be attractive to men, where they felt that it was worth their while economically to go into teaching rather than a better paid profession. Or launch a campaign that would otherwise attract more men in the same way that other, traditionally masculine professions, are trying to attract women. As for universities, the main issue there in my opinion is the extremely high tuition fees. As far as I can see, the money from these isn’t going to teaching staff, who can be quite poorly paid. One of my friends was an assistant lecturer for a time in the ’90s. It all seems to be going on the bloated salaries of university chancellors and administrators. These seem to me to be the real issues, though I’m not discounting the harm done by the introduction of specifically woke courses. And whatever the New Culture Forum may say, no, the Tories do not support the NHS.

Their talk of attacking the teaching unions is frightening, because it means another Tory assault on state education generally, at a time when education is in crisis because of Tory privatisation policies.

Get the Tories out, renationalise schools and get rid of tuition fees!