The Tory ban on anti-capitalist resources in schools is another restriction on our freedom of speech
The Tories using schools as a propaganda machine is not new news. But they want to take it one step further.
The British Government have ordered schools not to use resources from organisations which have expressed anti-capitalist views in RSE and PHSE lessons. It is no coincidence that the Tories are really clamping down on anti-capitalist views now. This year we have seen a huge rise in consciousness in matters of racial injustice and climate change. Anti-capitalist views from many political and anti-racist groups such as Black Lives Matter and even climate change groups will be silenced in the classroom.
This rule is an obvious attempt to restrict free speech and to quash political dissidents, the majority of which come from marginalised communities. I am certain that teachers chose their profession because of their love of teaching and spreading knowledge and expanding their pupils’ minds, not to become puppets for the government’s agenda to supress dissidence and criticism of the status quo. If British citizens cannot challenge and scrutinise government policies and actions without fear and are not given room for free thought, we cannot call this country a democracy.
After a wave of protests and students lobbying the government to add education on diversity and racism to school curriculums, the government concluded that the alteration of the curriculum was unnecessary because RSE lessons already teach “the importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them, or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs”. Yet banning anti-capitalist resources or anything that expresses these views will not allow students to be exposed to “different preferences or beliefs”. There is a cruel irony that the equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, has declared it to be illegal to teach white privilege as fact in schools. She claims that teachers have the “statutory duty to be politically impartial” and yet the whole school syllabus designed by those in power is not “politically impartial”. The national curriculum touches upon slavery and ensures that it mentions that it was the white saviours that abolished it, omits Black people’s contributions to Britain and looks at the protests in America involving Martin Luther King, making racism look like a thing of the past and only a huge problem in America so that we may be conditioned to praise the “good parts” of British colonial history. The fact that telling someone that white privilege exists is much more offensive than its existence just shows what a sad state of affairs this country is in. The government is using a Black woman as a puppet to regurgitate their agenda. After all, if some Black people in government say that white privilege is fictitious, it must be, right?
According to YouGov, age, not class, overwhelmingly determines who votes for what party. The Conservatives pull in votes from the ageing baby boomer generation and the Labour Party has become increasingly popular amongst the youth. The Conservatives say that the left-wing ideologies teachers are supposedly imposing upon youth are to blame for their rising frustration with capitalism, whilst ironically forcing schools to indoctrinate children with Tory agenda. But the actual reason is that the youth are particularly politically aware and angry because they have grown up under Tory austerity for the last 10 years. They have figured out that the current economic system is rigged against them and the pandemic has only highlighted this further. This year’s grading system fiasco, the country slumping into a recession, plans to cut free travel for under 18s, student debt, a lack of well-paid secure jobs, falling living standards, recent plans to give MPs a £3,300 pay rise whilst nurses have been refused a pay rise and the Tories refusing to provide free school meals to poor children during a pandemic, whilst the U.K. tax payer forks out £57,000 every week on the food allowance of MPs whose salary is £800k+, and the government’s lack of hesitation in giving Boris Johnson’s jet a £1m makeover is enough to make the youth angry. They are sick of waking up to a headline like “extreme poverty set for first rise since 1998” right next to another like “billionaire fortunes hit record high during pandemic”. They want the Tories out and the best way to silence them is to stop them from sharing anti-capitalist ideas in schools where they spend most of their week.
What is worrying is also the power of silencing political dissidence beyond the classroom. The Department of Education’s classification of anti-capitalist views as an “extreme political stance” paves the way for those who hold anti-capitalist views to be labelled as extremists. This is a quick and cheap way to quieten political dissidents and delegitimise their credibility. I have already heard people comparing Black Lives Matter to terrorist organisations like ISIS and accusing the movement of causing a “culture war” when all they wish to achieve is equal human rights. But to officially reinforce this idea that political dissidents are extremists gives the government an excuse to expand its detaining powers. What’s next? That we are prohibited from protesting against policies that we do not agree with?
The sad fact is that the silencing of our basic human right to free speech and any form of political dissidence is already here. There are many examples. Doctors and nurses have faced disciplinary action and threatening emails for speaking out about widespread shortages of personal protective equipment; England’s top nurse was due to speak at a government coronavirus press conference, that was before she told Downing Street that she would denounce Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham, three Labour MPs have lost their jobs after voting against the Overseas Operations Bill which essentially looks to legalise and therefore legitimise war crimes committed by Britain, and Julian Assange is currently being put through a sham trial in a U.K. court with its strings being pulled by the Trump Administration, and faces a punishment of 175 years in jail for publically exposing war crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay if extradited to the U.S.
It is especially interesting that Noam Chomsky is mentioned amongst the list of names whose work is now banned from being taught in schools. He appeared in court as a witness and defended Julian Assange for “expos[ing] power to sunlight”. In his witness statement he stated that Assange was “courageously upholding political beliefs that most of [us] profess to share, he has performed an enormous service to all those in the world, who treasure the values of freedom and democracy and who therefore demand the right to know what their elected representatives are doing”. As emphasised by Chomsky, you cannot have a capitalist democracy. Imperialism and capitalism are so closely linked that to criticise one is to criticise the other, and so it is no wonder that he has been blacklisted.
The British Government have a habit of criticising other countries for authoritarianism and yet they implement these diktats. Even the obsession with former opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn remains. The conservative media made up a fictitious current Labour Government in order to get people to envisage the poor state this country would be in if Corbyn was in charge, whilst Britain suffers from the worst recession in comparison to any other G7 country and tens of thousands continue to die from the coronavirus under the Tories who are actually in charge. With that being said, we know for a fact then that if the Labour Party were the ones to suddenly ban materials produced by organisations that critique or oppose socialism from being taught in schools, the Tories would brand Corbyn as a madman and scold Labour for being fascists.