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How the ‘anti-racist’ bandwagon captured the classroom


This is the last of a three-part series in which Frank Palmer examines how schools became places of anti-learning. You can read the first here and the second here

Power lies in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing – George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

MY previous two articles traced the gradual assault against a traditional knowledge-based education. This left the gates wide open for hard-Left political agitators to attempt even greater subversion, which gained ground in the early 1980s in the name of so-called ‘anti-racism’.  It was at this point that I decided to resign from the teaching profession and join a think tank of academics formed by Roger Scruton.

Sensible, decent people are now astonished at the sudden destructive prominence of anti-white and anti-Western values by the BLM anarchists and proponents of ‘critical race theory’. But these forces have been waiting for their chance for a takeover for many years. The seeds were sown some years earlier but when our think tank produced a book, which I edited, called Anti-Racism – an Assault on Education and Value, our warnings were not sufficiently heeded.

Before I gave up teaching I saw blatant attempts to stir up racial conflict and to make white pupils (and indeed white teachers) feel guilty for being white. ‘All whites are racist’ is nothing new. Although the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was the worst, more and more Local Education Authorities and government departments were indoctrinating employees with the ‘non-negotiable’ premise that ‘we live in a racist society’ through ‘racism awareness’ courses which purported to reveal ‘unconscious’ racism that is ‘hidden’ from all but the re-educated eye.

There was attempted censorship of many children’s books. The chairwoman of the publicly-funded National Committee on Racism in Children’s Books estimated that 95 per cent of children’s books in the UK contained ‘racial bias’ (Asian Herald, November 12, 1984). Literary merit was not a consideration: the criteria were undeniably political. Not only the innocuous works of Enid Blyton, but great works of literature by Jane Austen and even Shakespeare were deemed suspect. It was so extreme that the Bishop of Stepney spoke out against ‘the throwing away of literature’ including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (The Times, November 28, 1985). These tinpot bodies, such as the Children’s Rights Workshop, flourished.

More ‘useful’ materials were ushered in. The call for ‘global transformation’ was trumpeted to schoolchildren through Young World Books, sponsored by an organisation called Liberation, offering to top up library shelves with ‘anti-racist fiction’ that revealed its dour and provocative message.

In circulation from the same source was an anthology of children’s verse (edited by Chris Searle, now a Morning Star columnist) entitled Our City, which resulted from a collaboration between Young World Books and teachers from 21 London schools. It is not without irony that the reference on the fly-leaf to ‘London 1984 – Year of Anti-Racism’ should be complemented later, on page 77, with

The English are the First Class Race

They lead the world in hatred – 13-year-old pupil

Well, there was indeed hatred in this book:

Mrs Thatcher is a shit

She really ought to get hit, wrote another brainwashed pupil.

Another piece of propaganda circulating in schools was an abysmal booklet (of anonymous authorship) published by the Institute of Race Relations entitled How Racism Came to Britain. This disgraceful distortion of British history was racially hostile in its stereotyping of British whites. Ronald Butt, writing in the Times (July 25, 1985) pointed out that those who take the law into their own hands (‘in the light of police indifference’) are praised, and that ‘this torrent of hate and provocation ends with an invitation – “It’s your move, what’s it to be?”’

Equally worrying, and possibly inspired by the biased 1985 Swann Report on the education of children from ethnic minority groups, unquestioning acceptance of the premises upon which anti-racism is based was not only becoming a criterion of a teacher’s fitness to teach but also of the successful completion of teacher training.

One example was the evidence that a head of an inner London comprehensive school received from an ILEA inspector a report on a prospective candidate for a teaching post which gave no real information of his academic qualifications, his enthusiasm for his main subject, his capacity to relate to pupils or his thoroughness of preparation, but effectively confined itself to the comment that he was ‘sound on ILEAs anti-sexist/racist strategies’ (Daily Telegraph, October 3, 1985). I knew this headteacher personally.

The general situation was so bad that even the TES (not noted for its ‘Right-wing bias’) reported that anti-racism was at the forefront of a campaign to take possession of our schools in the name of a political movement (‘The Ultra-Left Tightens Grip on Schools’, TES, January 10, 1986).

The activists have succeeded. The spirit of traditional education never claimed ownership of pupils’ souls. What has replaced it is an attempted micromanagement of the mind. The sadness is that the once hallowed distinction between education and indoctrination has been obliterated. Various woke and other political causes have become part of the fabric of our nation, not only in schools and universities but in many of our institutions, the civil service, big business and many employers, including publishing companies. Even doctors are required to provide evidence they have been trained in ‘equality and diversity’.

This is now the establishment. And there is no real challenge from Conservative governments, especially Johnson’s regime. Indeed it is as a result of his mendacious scaremongering indoctrination over Covid that schools are now being closed.

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Frank Palmer
Frank Palmer
Dr Frank Palmer is a philosopher and author. He was taught by Roger Scruton who was his PhD supervisor and during the 1980s was part of a thinktank of academics Roger formed to fight damaging trends in education. Frank’s last book was Literature and Moral Understanding (Oxford University Press).

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