Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Chris McGovern: Just about every statue in the land is at risk if they take out Cecil Rhodes


Would you believe it? Cecil Rhodes is back in the news! One statue of the great imperialist, at the University of Cape Town, has already been toppled and another, at Oriel College, Oxford, faces a similar fate. “Rhodes must fall” is the rallying cry and it has attracted significant support. I am not a fan of Rhodes’s xenophobia and racism and am more inclined to agree with Mark Twain’s assessment:

“I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake”

Nevertheless, there is something deeply troubling about this latest furore. It represents another triumph for political correctness in our education system. It is dishonest for liberal fascists in Britain to single out Rhodes. Of course, many of his views are objectionable today, but if we are to judge the past from the perspective of 21st century democrats we will have to have pull down an enormous number of statues.

Outside Parliament, for example, we find Oliver Cromwell and Richard the Lionheart. The former massacred Catholics in Ireland and the latter slaughtered Muslims. Statues of Churchill and of Gandhi stand in nearby Parliament Square. Modern historians have seen both as having racist views.

And what about the ‘black’ heroine, Mary Seacole, from Jamaica, whose statue will soon overlook the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament? She was proud to support the British Empire against Russian imperial ambition during the Crimean War and in her autobiography was happy to use the term “nigger” and described herself as “only a little brown” and with “good Scottish blood coursing in my veins”. Among other racially charged views, she saw the Turks as “degenerate descendants” of the Arabs, living in a country where “the fleas are the only industrious creatures’. Hardly politically correct but quite the norm for her time!

Failings in education and a perceived need to get on a South African bandwagon have led to Rhodes being singled out at Oriel College. In our classrooms these days British colonialism is too often the focus for intolerant and ignorant ‘hate treatment’. In contrast, the ancient world of Greece and Rome continues to be admired, in my view rightly, even though it was built on slavery. Who is calling for the destruction of its statuary, other than Isis?

Sadly, our pupils no longer learn that the Empire and its dismantling was, on the whole, probably the most extraordinary ‘achievement’ of any nation in the history of the world. Where there were sins and deficiencies, they pale in comparison with those of other imperial powers. The achievements and benefits of a British legacy are more readily accepted, even admired, in many of the former colonies themselves. How else are we to account for the Empire’s most important legacy – the Commonwealth of Nations?

Our schools need to move on from a mistaken PC ‘guilt complex’. Our young people cannot build a future for our country on the basis of a misplaced self-hatred. One of the most popular school history textbooks is “Minds and Machines, Britain 1750-1900”. It is illustrative of how teachers feed this self-hatred.

Two of its authors played a key role in putting together the latest History National Curriculum. In order to damn the British Empire it tells children that “we have tried to imagine what they [rulers of the Empire] would tell us if they could come back from the dead”. On this basis pupils and presented with pages of fake evidence. This, for example, comes from the quoted but made-up, fictional words of Cecil Rhodes:

“… I made a fortune by mining for gold and diamonds. But that was not enough for me: I wanted to change history. We British were the best people in the world so I wanted us to control as much of the world as possible! I made a mining deal with an African chief. When his tribe rose up against my men we crushed them and took their lands…”

In response we have fake evidence from “The ruled” such as these fictional words from Chief Lobengula:

“I was the chief of the Matabele tribe in Africa…My men bravely stood up to the British who cut them down with their cannons and machine guns…”

Fed on an educational junk food diet of fake, made-up and highly manipulated ‘evidence’ from the ‘undead’ such as this, it is small wonder that some impressionable youngsters wish to lash out a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

If the Education Secretary seeks to understand the current outbreak of liberal fascism at our universities she should look more closely at what is being taught in our classrooms and is being lauded by Ofsted.


(Image Courtesy Anders Sandberg, Flickr)

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
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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