The Times Educational Supplement (TES) on January 7th carried this call to arms: “Teachers need to step up: they can help to fight the Donald Trump and Brexit reactionary revolution…In this post-truth era, it's up to teachers to ensure that young people are being empowered and encouraged to challenge and question.”
The author was Oliver Beach, former star of the BBC reality television show, Tough Young Teachers and an ‘ambassador’ for the esteemed, even revered, Teach First programme, which recruits bright new graduates into teaching. His regular pieces for the TES provide an interesting insight into the mindset of many teachers.
What he has to say may surprise some and should, certainly, concern anyone who still imagines that the classroom is some benign area of political neutrality, as the law of the land requires. Far from it!
Olly does not pull any punches in his distaste for what democracy has produced: “The success of the Right in gaining the highest political power with a narrative of pro-guns, anti-gays, limiting women’s reproductive rights and building physical national borders will give new momentum to those with similar views here and across Western democracies. “If he can do it, why can’t we?" they’ll cheer as they grab their pitchforks.”
He sees it as the duty of teachers to man the educational barricades and to lead the fight back: “Educators must be curating minds that question their realities, not just accept them. We must reject echo chambers, post-truth proselytes or sycophants. We don’t need more Donald Trumps, Nigel Farages or Marine Le Pens; we need Martin Luther Kings, Harvey Milks and Rosa Parks. And we need them now. Teachers are essential if they are to emerge.”
If you we were thinking that pupils should be mastering basic literacy, numeracy and the National Curriculum, you could not have been more wrong. Kids need to be mobilised to question, reject and overturn democracy. Olly wants teachers to realise that the “next world leader is sitting in a classroom today.” That world leader needs to be ‘got at’ today and brainwashed to be ‘on message’. This is how to make social change and revolution deep-rooted and permanent. Get the kids! Revolution starts in the classroom!
Olly, himself, though, will not be on the classroom front line.
In February 2014, Teach First provided updates on how the six Tough Young Teachers were getting on. It boasted of Olly that, “with characteristic ambition and drive he’s working towards a longer-term career in teaching.” A couple of years on, though, and Olly has thrown in the towel. He explained his decision to the TES: “A pupil's ability to access opportunities shouldn't depend on the depth of their parents’ pockets…That's why I am leaving the classroom to address this gap.”
Olly has set up a charity that he says, “is geared to addressing the gap in access to opportunities. “It turns out that he was not as “tough” as the television show and Teach First suggested. At least, he now has more time to fan the flames of anti-democratic social revolution that many wish to promote in our schools.