Donal Blaney: Conservatives must oppose Labour's citizenship agenda
Gordon Brown is a Scot. He represents a Scottish parliamentary seat. Devolution has not quelled Scottish separatism. It has fuelled it. In both England and Scotland there is a rising desire for the end of the Union (although I remain of the view that the Union will endure). Rather than answering the West Lothian Question, Gordon Brown exhorts us to promote “Britishness” – albeit that this ignores the fact that the Education Secretary in Westminster has no say over education policy in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
The latest attempt to redefine “Britishness” has come from a paper written by Sir Keith Ajegbo entitled “Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review”.
The DfES website announces – in phraseology that would do Mao proud:
“The key proposal is that the secondary curriculum for Citizenship Education should include a new element entitled 'Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK'. This will mean that all pupils, as part of compulsory secondary Citizenship Education, would be taught about shared values and life in the UK. This will be informed by an understanding of contemporary issues and relevant historical context which gave rise to them.
This approach should be supported by a range of measures to ensure that all curriculum subjects adequately reflect the diversity of modern Britain, and that schools are appropriately supported in delivery of this education for diversity.”
If conservatism remains an intellectually coherent creed, it must surely embrace localism rather than central planning. An overly prescriptive curriculum – particularly in such a politically sensitive area such as “diversity and citizenship” – runs contrary to the needs of education and of broader society.
In an era when even leftists such as Trevor Phillips realize that multiculturalism has encouraged ghettos and a form of social and cultural apartheid, why is it that a retired educationalist with a track-record second to many, joined by two other individuals from ethnic minorities – not much sign of diversity there - is promoting a politically correct revision to the curriculum.
I am willing to bet that most conservative activists believed that the addition of citizenship to the curriculum in the last decade was simply that: the addition of citizenship classes that ensure that students learn about British history, our political system and truly shared values.
Instead, the DfES report makes it clear that the government’s focus is more interested in “diversity”. Rather than actively ensuring that citizenship is at the core of the curriculum, the report urges that citizenship is taught “discretely”.
Hidden away in the report are some statistics that should be highlighted, most notably:
- Ethnic minorities now number 7.9% of the population (as at 2001);
- Ethnic minority numbers in schools are closer to 1 in 8 (as at 2001);
- This proportion in schools is set to rise to 20% (1 in 5) by 2010;
- By 2017, 15% of the workforce in Britain will be muslim.
These figures are official government figures: the real figures are bound to be more shocking still.
What is of concern – and again, what has not been highlighted elsewhere – is the assertion that diversity requires, “in the first instance”, that students should explore “their own identities in relation to the local community”. So while we are told that citizenship education is to encourage an end to multiculturalism and the embrace of “Britishness” and integration, the converse is the case in this DfES report.
The report reads as the worst form of leftist self-congratulation. It is extols the virtues of the “anti-racist work in the 1980s” in what can only be seen as a snide jibe at Thatcherism. Why single out the 1980s? Was there no work against racism in the 1960s or 1970s? Did anti-racism work end in 1990?
The report included some interesting quotes. One, from a white student in Year 10, read:
“I do feel sometimes that there is no white history. There’s either Black History Month or they do Muslims and Sikhs. We learn about that but we don’t learn about white people, so we feel a bit left out as well”.
Trevor Phillips’ comment – that Britain is “sleepwalking to segregation” – was seized on by the report’s authors but one cannot help but feel that the proper prescription to avoid this catastrophe is to be ignored.
Rather than educating an increasingly illiterate and innumerate student population in reading, writing and arithmetic, the report argues that it is important to focus on including “diversity” in mainstream subjects such as English, Maths and Science and the fact that some people who made scientific or mathematical discoveries were not white.
The concept is sufficiently facile and laughable that if it wasn’t such a serious issue, one could simply ignore it as a lefti-wing, politically correct pipe dream. That would be a fatal mistake: the leftists are serious about redrawing the curriculum and they will succeed if we don’t stand up to their plans.
Yet again quotas appear. The complaint was aired that there are too few ethnic minority headteachers. Nobody even mentions, for example, that there are “too many” black footballers or basketball players for the simple reason that most people don’t pigeon-hole people by ethnic groups. Leftists do, most people do not.
What I found bizarre for a piece of research which generated specific recommendations was that there was little in the way of data – instead it simply consisted of a series of un-attributed anecdotes and quotes from students and teachers followed by a series of recommendations that were probably always going to be recommended whatever was “discovered” from the “research”.
The report even includes an outline of the revised curriculum that include a series of lessons that would focus on the UK paying compensation for the slave trade (which, as usual, only focuses on African slaves and not British citizens who have, throughout the past 300 years, been taken as slaves). The report is brazen in its approach: it does not even attempt to be even-handed. Had a factional minded left-wing activist been overtly asked to write a citizenship curriculum, it would have looked remarkably similar to this DfES report.
Groups such as Migration Watch are ignored (they were not even consulted!) while taxpayer funded political advocacy groups who pursue a left-wing agenda are promoted.
This report is thoroughly dangerous. It has been portrayed in the media as being innocuous and even a move in an integrationist or conservative direction. A cursory read of the 126 page report reveals that the opposite is the case. Conservatives who care about citizenship and who seek an end to politically correct posturing need to read this report and to campaign against its adoption.