WE ALL know Animal Farm is an allegory of Stalinism and its betrayal of the Russian Revolution. Well, not quite all. It’s sometimes taught as based on any tyranny, even on Hitler’s rise to power and the ‘danger from the far Right’, with Squealer modelled on Goebbels. There seems a marked reluctance in some teachers to explain it as a parody of Communism – and even more reluctance to identify that as the ‘danger from the far Left’.
This is shared not to get laughs, nor to bring the teaching profession into disrepute. Either teachers are confident in the views I reveal and happy to see them shared – as some do with pupils – or they’re not, and glad to see them exposed.
I was on a diversity awareness course where the ‘facilitator’ revealed that gravity was ‘invented’ in Africa. Somewhat stunned, I was grateful when my obvious incredulity was explained to me: ‘It can be difficult to accept things which challenge our Eurocentric view of history.’
Thus enlightened, I then heard that Darwin’s Origin of Species was published to justify the British slave trade scientifically. I queried how this ridiculous assertion fitted with its date of publication, 1859, and the 1833 abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Another chorus of anger. I was asked if I understood how horrific slavery was; what it EVEN MEANT TO BE A SLAVE.
More recently, I was surprised to find that society can be divided into the selfish (capitalists) and the unselfish (socialists). A bus driver refusing to allow an unfortunate woman to board without a fare – and the assault she then suffered – demonstrates this neat dichotomy. So does the lack of infinite funding for the public sector.
I know of Macbeth being taught as a play written to expose the evils of inherited power, privilege, position. A bizarre interpretation, since not a line in the play can be linked to this. And doubly odd, given that most teachers claim what they say is always ‘evidence-based’.
Then there’s Brexit. I was amused to be asked, in conversation with a science teacher (loftily describing himself as ‘used to actual evidence’) how it felt to be in the minority which voted for Brexit? I informed him of the 2016 result.
‘You know what I mean – the minority of . . .’
‘Teachers; the middle class; decent people?’
I’m proud to be a teacher and pay tribute to the decent and diligent colleagues I’ve often worked with. Many of them wouldn’t dream of such indoctrination. A fair few are scrupulous about attempting balance.
Unfortunately, this fairness has been damaged by an influx of ‘woke’ graduates with no apparent belief in basic freedoms of thought and speech. Some also seem to think they’re fighting much of the population, that it’s their responsibility to re-educate children of Brexit voters, countering their parents’ ‘bigotry’. To a hammer, everything is a nail.
In my time teaching, I can’t recall another teacher explaining to pupils their fundamental rights to freedom of thought and speech. In my discussions with pupils, most show these don’t exist in any meaningful sense for them. Many see no reason why they should, their understanding being subsumed by a constant fear of ‘causing offence’. Small wonder, when many teachers spend so long discussing this, but little (if any) time explaining freedom of speech. I’m sure many parents reading this will have received phone calls claiming their child has caused ‘offence’. I wonder how many queried exactly what happened, making sure that their child didn’t simply question the teacher’s opinions, then get branded ‘offensive’? There’s a tendency for teachers to claim pupils in general have been ‘offended’ as a way of censoring essential debate and protecting their own opinions.
Teaching is so overwhelmingly a Left-liberal monoculture that any discussion of cultural and political issues takes place in an echo chamber. The few dissenting voices are all too easily silenced or simply self-censor. There are implicit Left-liberal political and social beliefs and the assumption that all pupils and teachers share them. That, depressingly, is the position in our state schools.
Until they, and our universities, actively teach and encourage diversity of opinion and freedom of expression, nothing will change.