Schools in England told not to use material from anti-capitalist groups

JVL Introduction

As UK institutions of government pursue their descent into tinpot authoritarianism, the Guardian reports that schools in England have been directed not to use any material produced by organisations which take “extreme political stances”, even if the material itself is not considered extreme.    Examples given of extremism include “a stated desire to overthrow capitalism”,  “the endorsement of illegal activity”, and even “a failure to condemn illegal activities done in support of their cause”.

The foolishness of the formulation of the directive has a comedic aspect which serves well to illuminate its draconian character.  For as QC Jessica Simor acidly points out, by the above criteria all literature produced by the government itself would be banned in schools.

GW

This article was originally published by The Guardian on Sun 27 Sep 2020. Read the original here.

Schools in England told not to use material from anti-capitalist groups

Idea categorised as ‘extreme political stance’ equivalent to endorsing illegal activity

Guidance to schools classed anti-capitalism alongside opposition to freedom of speech and antisemitism.

The government has ordered schools in England not to use resources from organisations which have expressed a desire to end capitalism.

Department for Education (DfE) guidance issued on Thursday for school leaders and teachers involved in setting the relationship, sex and health curriculum categorised anti-capitalism as an “extreme political stance” and equated it with opposition to freedom of speech, antisemitism and endorsement of illegal activity.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the measures effectively outlawed reference in schools to key events in British history, and that it symbolised growing “authoritarianism” within the governing Conservative party.

The guidance, part of lengthy guidelines for implementing the statutory curriculum, said: “Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material itself is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation.”

It listed examples of what were described as “extreme political stances”, such as “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections”; opposition to freedom of speech; the use of racist, including antisemitic, language; the endorsement of illegal activity; and a failure to condemn illegal activities done in support of their cause.

McDonnell said: “On this basis it will be illegal to refer to large tracts of British history and politics including the history of British socialism, the Labour Party and trade unionism, all of which have at different times advocated the abolition of capitalism.

“This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.”

John McDonnell said the measures effectively outlawed reference in schools to key events in British history and symbolised growing ‘authoritarianism’ within the Conservative party.

Economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said the guidance showed “how easy it is to lose a country, to slip surreptitiously into totalitarianism”.

He added: “Imagine an educational system that banned schools from enlisting into their curricula teaching resources dedicated to the writings of British writers like William Morris, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Paine even. Well, you don’t have to. Boris Johnson’s government has just instructed schools to do exactly that.”

Barrister Jessica Simor QC suggested that the government has on occasion not complied with the guidance itself, after it admitted the new Brexit bill would break international law (“endorsement of illegal activity”) and continued selling arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen following a court ruling that it was unlawful

Tariq Ali, the writer and activist, said although the new guidance was a sign of “moral and political bankruptcy”, the advent of the internet meant such measures were futile.

“Leaving aside the stupidity, these things don’t work,” he said. “People will read what they want to read. Trying to enhance a version of the Prevent strategy, which is already in place, is quite scandalous and shocking.

“If you put things on a banned list, lots of young people can access them via the internet and read them. Banning them from schools will not work at all, aside from the fact it’s a sign of moral and political bankruptcy.”

He added: “How could both young and old people not read anti-capitalist analysis after 2008, or now with the virus going on and recessions looming all over the western world.”

It is understood that the DfE is clear that schools should not work with agencies that take extreme positions, including promoting non-democratic political systems, and that teachers should be politically impartial.

Minister for school standards Nick Gibb said: “Our new relationships, sex and health education (RHSE) guidance and training resources equip all schools to provide comprehensive teaching in these areas in an age-appropriate way.

“These materials should give schools the confidence to construct a curriculum that reflects diversity of views and backgrounds, whilst fostering all pupils’ respect for others, understanding of healthy relationships, and ability to look after their own wellbeing.”

It comes after counter-terrorism police earlier this year placed the non-violent group Extinction Rebellion on a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme. However, the south-east division of Counter Terrorism Policing later recalled the document.

Comments (5)

  • steve mitchell says:

    Equivalent to the Nazis habit of burning books. We are on a very slippery slope. On Newsight last week Alan Johnson was asked about suggestions from a minister that the Army could be used to police the Virus. Johnson said it sent a cold shiver down his spine. Rightly so. The UK is now run by those who have nothing but contempt for democracy.

  • Marge Berer says:

    Whoa! Why would the curriculum on health education and sex and relationships education be covering: “extreme political stances”, such as “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections”; opposition to freedom of speech; the use of racist, including antisemitic, language; the endorsement of illegal activity; and a failure to condemn illegal activities done in support of their cause” anyway? Seems to me someone is mixed up here…

  • Philip Ward says:

    As far as I understand it, teachers are not required to refrain from stating their political views. Clearly, there are limits, such as hate speech, but the Guardian itself had an article on this in 2018, in response to another gagging attempt by the DfE. It really ought to do its homework.

    The Guardian also missed two of the more draconian clauses in this latest DfE diktat, namely it prohibits airing of ‘divisive or victim narratives’, which could prevent speaking out against oppression and uses terms, as Novara Media points out, straight out of the far-right culture wars lexicon. The diktat also bans ‘presenting information to make unsubstantiated accusations against state institutions’, which begs the question of who is to judge when a statement is unsubstantiated and therefore in extremis prevents criticism of the government.

  • Steve Griffiths says:

    It is true that someone is confused. The muddying goes back to all this being included in Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education (2013 Coalition Government guidance). So don’t ask me how, but this is tied up with social and economic education. The new guidance says: Your local authority, governing body and headteacher must:
    – forbid the pursuit of partisan political activities by junior pupils
    – forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school
    – take reasonably practicable steps to secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils, they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.
    So critics are right, the principles introduced break the Government’s own guidelines. We need an alert Labour leadership prepared to propose policy that coheres with principle. Anybody?

  • rc says:

    No, Marge, someone, probably close to Cummings, knows exactly how to conduct salami tactics against dissent, actual or potential. “First they came for the Communists..” as Niemoeller (an opponent of communism )actually wrote…

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