SEAFORD Head School, a state comprehensive in East Sussex, is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. ‘Students mature into thoughtful young adults,’ its most recent inspection report concludes. Is this maturity exemplified by the decision of Seaford Head ‘students’ (aka ‘pupils’) to expunge the names Churchill and J K Rowling from two of the school houses?
As part of the school’s commitment to ‘understanding democratic practice’, the pupils have judged Churchill to have been ‘a figure who promoted racism and inequality, unfairly imprisoning and torturing many’. This, presumably, reflects the ‘mature’ thinking that Ofsted regards as characterising Seaford Head pupils. We must evaluate the past through the perspective of today . . . but only if it suits today’s Cultural Revolution UK. To point out, for example, that woke icons such as Jamaican ‘nurse’ Mary Seacole had a remarkably similar worldview to many of her white contemporaries is not permissible.
In a recent interview on Channel 4 News, Professor David Olusoga explained to us that ‘having memorials that validate and legitimise the lives of people who did terrible things is inappropriate’. He was commenting on an audit being carried out by Historic England regarding the transatlantic slave trade. This seems to be the line taken by pupils at Seaford Head School.
Olusoga wants us all to face up to the truth about our past. He seems to think, however, that people of different races are innately different in their propensity to do evil.
When it comes to man’s inhumanity to man, West Africans do not have a monopoly on suffering. The million or so UK citizens who starved to death across a few years in the 1840s is but one illustration of the broader perspective. Even the abominable ‘Zong’ massacre of 1781, when 130 African slaves were thrown overboard to allow an insurance claim, was not a uniquely British atrocity. The North African Barbary Corsairs, for example, did much the same, as the historian, Roger Crowley, narrates in his award-winning book Empires of the Sea: ‘In the summer of 1544 Barbarossa took some six thousand captives from the coasts of Italy and the surrounding seas. On his way home the boats were so dangerously overloaded with human cargo that the crews threw hundreds of the weaker captives overboard. He entered harbour in triumph to the firing of cannon and night-time fires . . .’
Truth is an elusive commodity, and it is rare for there to be only one version of it. In J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore sighs: ‘The truth . . . It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.’
How sad that this wisdom has not been passed on to the pupils of Seaford Head School or, indeed, embraced and promoted by Professor Olusoga. Seaford Head pupils have, instead, decided to outlaw Rowling, as well as Churchill. Her name, too, is to be removed from a school house. The words that Rowling penned for Dumbledore matter much less, it seems, than her ‘words on the trans community’. A Telegraph leader states that these words are ‘thought to refer to her suggesting that there are such things as women.’
So many truths!