Friday, December 13, 2019
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Since when was it OK for a primary school play to take a swipe at Trump?

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DURING July, I attended the ‘Leavers’ Play’ performed by all the Year 6 children at my child’s primary school for their parents. It was performed separately to the rest of school.

The play was a lovely musical called Aladdin Trouble, and the children performed beautifully. However, there were moments during the course of the play when it became clear that the school were using the play to make political points. There was a jibe at Brexit, and a dig at Michael Gove MP.

Neither of these particularly bothered me. But there were two moments/aspects which worried me enormously, and which I thought worthy of some attention via The Conservative Woman.

The first was the casual way in which three girls were cast as ‘wives’ of the ‘Caliph’ character, who lorded it over them. I was shocked. What kind of message does this send to our daughters? That it is somehow ‘natural’ for them to be little more than the playthings of some powerful man? That they have no value beyond subservience to a patriarchy? Was this some attempt subtly (or not so subtly) to ‘normalise’ polygamy in our society?

I felt it was all very demeaning to our daughter, who was cast as one of the unfortunate ‘wives’. She did not feel good about this, but decided to say nothing as she didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ at school.

As a mother, I’m trying to bring my daughter up to be a strong, independent woman, an equal to men. The school should be instilling this in our girls so they can cope well in their relationships and in the workplace. Schools should strain every sinew to avoid giving the impression that girls are somehow subservient to boys, or that only men can be in positions of power and that women are there merely to serve them.

Another, quite different, telling moment came when the character of Aladdin (played by a boy aged 11) was pulling ‘useful items’ out of a bag; he came across a cartoon picture which was obviously meant to be the US President. ‘Aladdin’ said: ‘Donald Trump? What’s this for?’ Another character (played by an 11-year-old girl) stepped forward and said: ‘That’s for the dartboard.’

The audience of parents laughed at the ‘joke’, the same ‘joke’ which had been told at the earlier performances for younger children at the school.

I did not laugh. It seemed clear that the school had used the script of the play to promote its own political outlook, specifically encouraging children to consider the US President to be ‘bad’ and worthy of having darts thrown at his picture.

(I recall that British soldiers were disciplined for doing similar things to a picture of the Leader of the Opposition; but when it’s a politician of whom teachers disapprove, that’s just fine and dandy. Utter hypocrisy.)

I decided to check to see if the school had an excuse, eg ‘we were only following the script’. I looked up online the script on which they’d based the performance. The relevant section is identical to the script used by the school except that the choice of offending politician is left to the school (although Michael Gove MP, the former SoS for Education, is mentioned by the scriptwriter as an example).

The school had decided off its own bat to use the US President as the figure to be attacked in this way.

I also noted that the original script didn’t have three ‘wives’ for the ‘Caliph’, just one. So again it was the school’s decision to expand the number of concubines for the Caliph to enjoy! What were they thinking?!

Schools, especially primary schools, should keep their political opinions to themselves and not attempt to indoctrinate the children in their care. Even if the political viewpoint being promoted is Left-wing, ‘internationalist’ or ‘progressive’ (or whatever self-serving epithet the school chooses), they should encourage analysis, not implant prejudice. To grant a powerful male character three ‘wives’, with all that implies . . . words almost fail me, but maybe this bizarre combination of subordinating women and insults to the US President is synonymous with the modern British Left?

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Anna Carter
Anna Carter is a civil engineer living in rural South-East England with her husband and children.

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