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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Hands off our culture – and our children

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A HUNDRED and thirty years after its foundation, Tate Britain has finally worked out what it’s for.  Built in 1897, with a mission to increase the public’s enjoyment and understanding of British art from the 16th century to the present day, it proclaimed its ‘Queer and Now’ festival marking Pride month: ‘We’re excited to welcome back LGBTQIA+ and its allies to place queerness at the heart of Tate Britain.’

Just to drive home the message, dedicated ‘vibe checkers’ were on hand on the day of the festival, June 10, to ensure visitors enjoyed their Pride events in a ‘safe, inclusive and respectful space’. These included talks on intersex history and ‘queering’ museum collections, and interactive ‘family programmes’, including queer liberation, designed to ‘unlock the alter-ego’. Free pronoun badges were available. The Tate group of galleries has shared resources for schools by the gender-inclusion charity Gendered Intelligence, where pupils can ‘write and draw what they feel about their bodies, gender and sexualities’.

Interactive Pride events for families? Resources for schools? This is an institution which receives more than £50million per annum in taxpayer-funded grants. The successful re-hang of the collection from ten years ago, which enabled visitors to ‘walk through British Art’, has now been ‘woked up’, with gallery walls boasting works related to slavery and empire, and a profusion of information panels. 

Art critic Alastair Sooke called it ‘a hectoring, history-obsessed slog’, suppressing any sense of savouring fine art’s subtle visual pleasures – surely its founding principle. He finds the modern exhibits ‘remonstrating and confrontational, cocksure yet boorish, uninspired and trite’. One is a smashed Georgian chair, telling us that English furniture in the 18th century was often made from mahogany produced by enslaved people in the Caribbean.

This obsession with slavery, race and LGBT is now aggressively imposed throughout most of Britain’s best-loved traditions and activities, clearly as a deliberate and effective means of destroying them. Take the National Trust, which has been losing members owing to its ‘woke’ ideology, highlighting links to colonial oppression and slavery, as well as homosexuality among the founding families of the stately homes.  Nor have cherished books been spared. The BBC saw fit to adapt Dickens’s Great Expectations by introducing foul language and anti-colonial messaging, referring to depravity in the British Empire. Now the publishers of P G Wodehouse’s novels have reissued volumes carrying trigger warnings over ‘outdated language, themes or characterisations’. Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie have had their works purged for potential offensiveness.

Naturally the Proms have attracted especially virulent condemnation from the ‘woke’. Previous makeovers added appearances from pop stars, rappers, hip-hop and breakdance to what the BBC itself describes as ‘the world’s largest classical music festival’. Innovations included ‘the South African Jazz Songbook’, ‘the first-ever gaming Prom’, and ‘an evening with a group of retro-futurist rockers’.

The ultimate insult was to cancel the anthems from the Last Night – surely one of the best-loved concert programmes of all time. It took a 100,000-signature petition to save Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia from the cultural dustbin, a U-turn which its woke opponents condemned as ‘jingoistic claptrap’.

This interfering censorship goes only one way. Criticising the value of ‘woke’ culture is totally off limits. We don’t want this plethora of progressiveness and censorship. Why can’t critics stop messing with our favourites and create their own, and do it on their own dime? Leave us the Turners, the Dickenses, the Proms and the National Trust as they were intended, in the true spirit of British tolerance.

And with one definite line drawn: keep your woke hands off our children.

A quick look at the changing contents of school and public libraries reveals all. While Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl are censored for using potentially offensive words, such as ‘queer’ or ‘gay’ or even ‘brown’, publishers are increasingly promoting woke-approved books to very young children, and accusing critical parents of homophobia.

Grandad’s Pride, by Waterstone’s children’s book prize-winning author Harry Woodgate (pronouns they/them), celebrates ‘the power of community and LGBTQIA+ history’ and features illustrations of two men kissing in bondage gear, and a trans man with surgery scars from breast removal. A Twitter comment said: ‘Well done children’s publishing. This is what kids’ books should celebrate – fetishes, misogyny and mutilation.’ A mental health professional strongly discouraged anyone showing such a book to their child.

This represents a deliberate attempt to introduce ever-younger children to grossly sexualised material, but the reality is even more disturbing. Sarah Newlyn in TCW  has exposed this ‘calculated strategy of targeting and indoctrinating children, and at the same time minimising parental influence’.Parental exclusion is also highlighted by commentator Matthew Goodwin, who reports on a mother prevented by a judge from seeing the material used to teach her daughter about sex and gender. Her daughter explained that an external company had been teaching pupils to be ‘sex-positive’ and that heteronormativity was ‘a bad thing’. This is child abuse by stealth.

Goodwin quotes a study by MP Miriam Cates which details in depth how unregulated third-party providers are routinely teaching in state schools about highly contentious concepts such as critical race theory and gender self-identification. Not satisfied merely to report, he identifies practical suggestions for parents to challenge these unacceptable interventions:

  • all schools to publish teaching materials regarding race, sex and gender, with a routine mechanism for parents to raise concerns;
  • a thorough government review of all such materials, but not via the Education Department who started this in the first place;
  • a statutory requirement for schools to report to parents about any gender distress;
  • a total ban on schools facilitating a child’s transition without parents being completely informed and in agreement;
  • a register and vetting of all external providers of such materials;
  • Encouraging whistle-blowing by parents.

These are actions that all parents, indeed all adults, should be willing to undertake, to ensure the safeguarding of children outside the home. As Sarah Newlyn has urged: ‘It is up to us parents, and our allies, to stand up to this and push back the creeping tentacles of state control of our children.’ It is practical and manageable advice. Yes, Matthew, we are definitely with you on this.   

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Janice Davis
Janice Davis
Janice Davis is a grandmother and former girls’ grammar school teacher

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