Education or Echo Chamber? The grim realities of classroom indoctrination
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BY SERENA LIT
The growing intolerance of right-wing values at British schools and on university campuses is well-documented. Perhaps this is yet another problem imported from our American cousins, where the bias is so prominent there are now multiple groups campaigning to end it. Irrespective of the reason why educators now feel it appropriate to choose the values of their pupils, the government has a moral obligation to intervene when student welfare is threatened.
There is an emerging faction within the teaching profession who see young people as instruments to further a partisan agenda. Unsettlingly, these individuals are seldom exposed because for the most part they are able to act under the pretence of ‘educating’. Only the most startling cases make the papers and provoke conversation, though the topic is always forsaken quickly as the tabloids inevitably move on to pursue the next headline. Unfortunately, for the young people subjected to this damaging behaviour, it is not so easy to forget and move on.
Corrupt teachers appear to be using a curiously effective carrot and stick approach when it comes to proselytising their classes. I observed the carrot method first-hand at a local school hustings, where teachers openly praised pupils for heckling the Conservative parliamentary candidate, Seena Shah. Conversely Bob Stewart MP once revealed his 13-year-old son had been on the receiving end of the figurative stick, when one of his teachers instructed classmates not to talk to him “because he is the son of a Conservative MP”.
It is entirely possible some teachers have become emboldened by the likes of prominent Labour party activists, such as Sion Rickard, who have encouraged both the brainwashing of children and punishment by ritual humiliation for non-conformists. These sentiments come as little surprise, of course. There was once another ambitious socialist party, albeit on the other side of the North Sea, that believed in the same.
The situation isn’t much better at British universities. Here the toil of the corrupt teacher pays-off and manifests, as students work in tandem with staff to jettison Conservative points of view. The University of Sussex infamously advertised an event that aimed to teach staff about “dealing with right-wing attitudes and politics in the classroom”. As if right-leaning students are a problem that needs solving. At my own alma mater, there was recently an online petition circulating that called for the de-ratification of the university’s Conservative Association.
A report published by the Adam Smith Institute summarises the problem best: “Social settings characterised by too little diversity of viewpoints are liable to become afflicted by group think, a dysfunctional atmosphere where key assumptions go unquestioned, dissenting opinions are neutralized, and favoured beliefs are held as sacrosanct.”
Policies like ‘no platforming’ and ‘safe spaces’ may have been intended to keep out viewpoints that have no right to be expressed in civilised discussions, but they are now being weaponised to silence anyone with different views to those of the woke masses. The treatment of former Conservative Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, by students at the University of Oxford is just one example of such injustice. Rudd had been invited to speak about her experience as a female MP and Minister for Women and Equalities by a student group, but her appearance was cancelled last minute to placate protestors.
This event came after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a full working guidance for all institutions and student unions, in order to preserve freedom of expression. One only need look across the Atlantic and see the worsening situation on American campuses to understand the importance of protecting free speech now. The fact the EHRC has readily taken unprecedented steps to safeguard personal liberties shows how bad the problem is. It’s no wonder groups like Turning Point UK are growing in popularity for their commitment to ending the “culture of fear” that has rendered students afraid to express Conservative views.
University should be all about fresh thinking and challenging conventional wisdom. For this to happen, students must be exposed to a plethora of ideas, even ones with which they or their teachers may disagree. We must preserve our vibrant, curious, and intellectually diverse academic communities, and that means debating Conservative and right-wing standpoints in the classroom and on campus.
The government has now made clear that they are willing to intervene should institutions prove unable to adequately defend free speech and free thinking . I for one hope they are equally forthcoming in commissioning an independent review into the extent of left-wing bias in the education sector and taking appropriate action once the outcome is known. History serves as a disturbing reminder of what could happen when education is reduced to a ball in a political game.
Serena Lit is the YC Chair of Brentford and Isleworth Conservatives. Follow her on twitter: @serena_tara_lit