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Chris McGovern: Another day in the death of childhood. Toddlers compelled to sign a PC tract

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On Saturday morning I received a call from LBC Radio. I was asked to comment on a story that had appeared in The Daily Mail. I was not sure if I was dreaming or if, Groundhog Day style, April Fools Day had come around again. In order to secure a place at Turnham Primary School nursery in south London, 3-year-olds will be required, to sign an “agreement” promising to “ refrain from using … transphobic language”. Each child will be required to print their name and provide their signature before starting at the school.

This is all in line with the new, ‘British Values’ agenda now being imposed on our schools. Ofsted inspectors are enforcing it and, clearly, Turnham Primary does not wish to ‘slip up’. Its “Home-School Agreement” is bang on  message:

“Be tolerant of others whatever their race, colour, gender, class, ability, physical challenge, faith, sexual orientation or lifestyle and refrain from using racist or homophobic or transphobic language in school.”

How 3-year-olds are expected to comprehend what they are signing up for is unclear. Most will not be able to able to write their own name let alone to decipher the adult terminology. What a frightening time 2015 can be for children! Fear of transgressing politically correct ‘rules’ they do not understand is likely to traumatise some sensitive toddlers and emotionally disturb and disorientate many others. No wonder parents described the requirement as “bonkers” and that one told the Mail:

 “How am I meant to explain it to my three-year-old that he must sign on the dotted line not to do something which he is not even aware exists when he can barely hold a crayon? This just fills me with dread…”

Children need to treat each other with kindness. This is the all-encompassing message that even toddlers understand. It is simple and it is sufficient.

On his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in1978, Isaac Bashevis-Singer explained why he writes for children. What he said has significance beyond literature. It was a warning of the chasm opening up between politically correct adult zealotry and the innocence of childhood.

“Children don’t read to find their identity. They don’t read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation. They have no use for psychology. They detest sociology. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff. They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides, or footnotes. When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority. They don’t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity.

“Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only adults have such childish illusions.”

What are we doing to our children? Why are we requiring them to see the world through the eyes of adult? Why cannot we not allow them to have a childhood?

The story from Turnham Primary School represents today’s political correctness in action. It is an extremely disturbing example of our society’s direction of travel.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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