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Enid Blyton and a lesson in gender identity


I DO think it’s mean,’ said George, fiercely. ‘Why can’t I go when the others do? I’ve had two weeks at home and haven’t seen the others since school broke up. And now they’re off for a wonderful fortnight and I’m not with them.’

‘Don’t be silly, George,’ said her mother. ‘You can go as soon as that cold is better.’

‘It’s better now,’ said George, scowling. ‘Mother, you know it is.’

‘That’s enough, Georgina,’ said her father, looking up from his newspaper. ‘This is the third breakfast-time we’ve had this argument. Be quiet.’

Georgina would never answer anyone when she was called Georgina . . .

Five Have a Wonderful Time (1952)

For all her political incorrectness, Enid Blyton was well ahead of the game when it came to recognising certain differences between people. Issues of identity, including gender identity, were never a problem for her or for her readers. As children, most of us admired George for her determination and for her pluck. We did not require an LGBT classroom curriculum to work out that she was a ‘tomboy’ and that she was none the worse for it.

Our government, sadly, has jettisoned such common sense and allowed itself to be imprisoned by the ‘non-sense’ of the educational establishment, the Blob. Orders, under the guise of ‘guidelines’, have been despatched to schools for implementation in September. They place a compulsory requirement on schools to teach children from the age of four about mental health, relationships and online safety. In addition, sex education will be compulsory from age fifteen but is already embedded in primary and lower secondary schools.

Parents are becoming marginal figures in the bringing up of children. Even before the latest intrusion into family life was published, columnist Peter Hitchens described what is going on as a process of ‘nationalising childhood’. He might have added that it is also the theft of childhood.

In whose name does the government believe it is acting? The Department for Education has learnt nothing, it seems, from the wreck it has made of our schooling over the past three or four decades. Egged on by the Blob, and in a frenzy of educational iconoclasm, it is now determined to bring down the last bastion of a decent education and upbringing – the family.

Parents, though, are not surrendering. More than a hundred thousand have signed a petition that has forced parliament to debate their concerns. The government seems to be heedless of the likelihood that where schools lack parental support their sex, health and relationships programme will bring division and conflict to the school, not the harmony and peace to which pupils should be entitled.

Children, especially young children, need only learn the importance of treating others as they would wish to be treated. When I debated this suggestion with a leading advocate of the LGBT lobby, he/she told the audience that he/she was in full agreement. I had pointed out that the alternative way forward would be to place before children the LGBT viewpoint and the perspective of those billions around the world who criminalise homosexuality and do not recognise more than two genders.

Foisting on to four-year-olds the angst of adults is cruel and utterly misguided. Infants do not see the world in the same way as adults. They believe in fairies, Father Christmas, goblins and pixies. Having a friend who has two mums or two dads becomes worthy of their attention only when adults tell them that it is a problem that an all-wise teacher will unravel and fix.

Let children have a childhood and work out a few things for themselves. Parents, not the state, should offer support when it is needed. Having taught for thirty-five years, including five-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds, I am well aware that the quickest way to convince a child that he or she has a mental health problem is to subject them to a lesson on mental health.

How would the Famous Five’s George have turned out if she had been parented by the education department rather than by loving and sensible parents? It seems that Enid Blyton was not so out of touch as the Blob would have us believe.

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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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