It’s been a sinister few weeks in education.
Reports, accusations and counterclaims about what has or hasn’t been going on in Birmingham schools has been rife. Within the government, Theresa May accuses Michael Gove and Gove accuses May.
Knee-jerk policy written on the back of a fag packet is trotted out. More unscheduled Ofsted inspections, more scrutiny of school governors and the icing on the cake was Cameron’s statement that “we must have more Britishness in schools” and that “British values must be taught.”
Then he bolted back to Downing Street without any further explanation of what such values are.
But there have been a few instances, under-reported recently, which offer up possible explanations as to what the Tories consider these values to be.
In the Telegraph an article under the headline “£1m for school cadets” provides some idea of what the Tories want.
The Con-Dem’s “brainwave” is to pump £1 million into state schools to run “military cadet training.” I am including the Lib Dems as their president Tim Farron openly admitted to me on Twitter that he supports the idea in principle.
As my two sons had to share eight geography GCSE textbooks between a class of 23 and I had to buy the books online myself, it beggars belief that funding is being used for this purpose.
While many brilliant volunteers give up their time to train children at cadets in many skills such as survival training and first-aid skills, as a parent I am very uneasy about military cadet training for my sons.
Will there be a climate of compulsion to participate in schools? Will parents be able to opt their children out if they so wish?
But the most pressing question is why this funding is being made available for this purpose.
I do not wish my sons to know how to fire a gun and many other parents will feel the same.
The Tory line is that such training will instil discipline in children. It is straight out of Gove’s 1950s school handbook, alongside all his other teacher-bashing, half-baked ideas on the way forward for our children’s education.
Traditionally the military has a right-wing bias and by getting our children into military cadet training they are attempting by stealth to turn a generation to the right.
A footnote to another article by an ex-Gove advisor on school reforms in the Daily Mail instantly set my alarm bells ringing.
It said that children as young as five are to be taught about business in a bid to produce a generation of entrepreneurs and Cameron is expected to support plans for a major overhaul of the curriculum to promote business.
The changes, proposed by Tory grandee Baron Young of Graffham, will include “teaching children about the importance of profit and encourage them to be more entrepreneurial.” Yet another stealth tactic to turn a generation to the right.
If the Tories want our children to learn about entrepreneurialism then I want children taught about their work rights, their pay rights, their citizens’ rights and a full programme of education about trade unionism taught in school.
I want my sons to grow up in the knowledge they do not have to accept zero-hours contracts as the norm and how to campaign effectively against that.
I do not want them processed into right-wing automatons, scared to speak out when they see injustice and accepting a future of low pay, no workplace rights and no chance of improvement as the right-wing state educates and knocks the fight out of them.
We are already seeing the decline in our communities of looking after our neighbours and the rise of a selfish society concerned with mass consumerism and self.
To have this taught in schools is anathema to myself and millions of other parents.
BBC Radio 4 recently aired a programme called Generation Right which explored the claim that young people under 30 are now a lot more right-wing than their parents and grandparents due to Thatcherite government policies and extensive media coverage of the benefits system with its move towards “scrounger” rhetoric.
The BBC is complicit in this shift with programmes imaginatively titled Saints And Scroungers and Nick And Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits.
Never has a generation been subjected to such an ideological onslaught by television channels to demonise a section of society.
Another education reform being promoted by the Tories is that of the “hardworking school day,” with articles creeping into the right-wing media which laud school results allegedly improving by extending the school day to 6pm.
Under the guise of improving results and extending childcare, it attempts to appeal to working parents.
It is no secret that Gove is fond of the Chinese 10-12 hour school day.
With this process of regimentation from a child’s first birthday, from which point parents on benefit are now expected to be available for work, we have a sinister mantra of “working from the cradle to the grave” — quite literally as retirement age is being ever increased.
The government are roping in “hardworking” families, children and any other section of society to these initiatives, whose justifications are drip-fed to a susceptible public.
The Con-Dems and their right-wing media have been very successful in inculcating that message into the public psyche whereby people en masse believe they work all the hours God sends because their neighbours must be doing the same too.
Hence all society must now work until they are exhausted by it all. Now it seems the government wants our children to be made to do the same.
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