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Williamson marches into a minefield over political teaching


A FEW days ago, on the eve of half-term, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson deemed it necessary to send a message to teachers reminding them that they ‘have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately, particularly in the political views they express’.

Children should be presented, he added, with a ‘balanced presentation of opposing views’ when political issues are raised. ‘Schools should not present materials in a politically biased or one-sided way and should always avoid working with organisations that promote antisemitic or discriminatory views.’

His message comes after expressions of support for the Palestinian cause in schools led to suggestions of anti-Semitism and to political partiality.

Williamson is right to sound an alarm about the growing politicisation of our classrooms and to declare that it is ‘unacceptable to allow some pupils to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for other students and teachers’. He seems unaware, however, of the dangerous territory into which he is trespassing when he refers to a ‘balanced presentation of opposing views’. This can readily lead to a promotion of a harmful philosophy of ‘value relativism’ which imposes equal validity on these opposing views.

When they were pupils at school, many of today’s teachers were themselves brainwashed and, in some cases, radicalised by the value relativism the education department has long promoted as holy writ.

With specific reference to the current conflict between Palestinians and the state of Israel, the examination question below, carrying 50 per cent of the marks for a paper on World History, reflects the ‘value relativist’ approach to learning that was required by the public examination system in the 1980s. It is from a specimen paper of 1986 which guided teachers on how to prepare pupils for what was then the new and forthcoming GCSE History exam. Some of those pupils are today’s teachers. It is clear that, to pass the exam, they had to be indoctrinated into an ideology of ‘value relativism’ whereby the view of the terrorist and that of the victim of terror are to be treated as equivalent and as equally valid.

Southern Examining Group, General Certificate of Secondary Education

History: Syllabus 2 –  World Powers since 1917

Paper 2 (Topics)

The Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1973

It is late in 1972 and there is to be an international conference. This conference will discuss events of recent years to do with Middle East. These events are the hijacking of aircraft to Jordan in 1970, the shootings at Tel Aviv airport, and the attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games.

(a) Write a draft speech to be made by a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This speech will justify these actions.

(b) Write a draft speech to be made by a member of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). This speech will attempt to persuade the conference to condemn these actions.

Small wonder, then, that the Class of 2021 is inclined to see the perspective of those who perpetrate terror as equivalent to those who are the victims of terror. Teachers are promoting the value relativism they were once taught at school.

How else are we to explain model lessons such as that published by the teachers’ website bible, the TES, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015 in which 130 people were murdered. The model lesson asked 14-to-16-year-olds to imagine that they are fighters for ISIS and to write about the good side of membership, not least acquiring white slave girls. For evidence the children were directed to the online Isis in-house magazine.

It has taken thirty-five years for a Secretary of State for Education to discern the issue of classrooms being politicised. If it takes as long for government and, indeed, the security services, to understand why this is happening and accelerating, not only will schooling fall further into the abyss, the safety and security of our country will be imperilled.


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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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