Hundreds of terrorists and suspected terrorists have gone through the British educational system. Yet amid all the pre-election talk about extremism, I have not heard a single mention of the role that schools could play in countering future radicalisation. Do teachers, for example, ever look at online Islamist propaganda together with their Muslim pupils and analyse its distortions? When teaching history or politics, do they actively encourage an appreciation of British institutions and values? I doubt it. Most teachers in the state system are, on all available evidence, left-leaning and so are likely to teach from a largely anti-western perspective. Primary schools are just as important as secondaries. But in primaries, teachers have, for decades, clung to the wrong-headed theory that instilling factual knowledge in young children is incompatible with their self-development. So even though this is just the age at which children are most eager to learn and enjoy structured lessons, they leave primary schools with very little sense of history.
A few days ago I bought a case of wine from my favourite vintners, Tesco online, but on opening the first bottle, I didn’t much like it. So, on the off chance, I phoned to ask whether they would take back the five remaining bottles and reimburse me. They agreed — without any questions asked — and came to collect them the following day. Two days later they had refunded all six bottles. Superlative service. I first started shopping at Tesco as a private protest against the snooty attitudes of my liberal elite friends, who wouldn’t be seen dead there. I have since become a total convert — Tesco fruit and vegetables, just for a start, are fresher and better than those in classier supermarkets, and of course cheaper.
Walking round the streets in my west London neighbourhood, I noticed that yet another new patisserie has suddenly sprung into being. Its window is piled high with a fabulous array of cakes, meringues, tarts, Danish pastries and chocolate brownies. A few steps away there is a bakery exhibiting exotic loaves and muffins, and across the road a café with a huge choice of mouth-watering multi-decker sandwiches on view. Meanwhile we have the highest levels of obesity in western Europe. A few years ago the government forced shops to hide away all cigarettes and tobacco products. I thought this covering-up policy was ridiculous — though perhaps it works. To lock away all cream cakes would be beyond ridiculous. But it is hard on the obese, especially the young, to be constantly surrounded by so much temptation. Perhaps they should be encouraged to look at food displays as though they were installations in art galleries — feasts purely for the eyes.
The worrying phenomenon of ‘reverse segregation’ seems to have taken hold on some American campuses, most dramatically in Evergreen State College, Washington state. There a decision was recently taken to exclude anyone with a ‘white perspective’ from attending an annual college event at which racial issues are discussed. White students and staff were asked to leave the campus on that day. When one of the professors, a committed left-winger, objected (‘one’s right to speak… must never be based on skin colour’) about 50 students descended on his class and demanded his resignation. The ensuing row (recorded on video) got so threatening that the police advised him to leave the campus. More protest meetings followed, and more shouting: ‘Whiteness is the most violent fucking system ever to breathe.’ Eventually the college president caved in to most of the students’ demands, including mandatory sensitivity and diversity training for all faculty members and the appointment of full-time co-ordinators to oversee the ‘Trans and Queer Center’. Many of the students doing the anti-white shouting, as far as I could see on the videos, were white.
Would there have been more or less ‘outrage’ about gender stereotyping if Theresa and Philip May, instead of talking about ‘boy jobs and girl jobs’ had called them ‘men jobs and women jobs’? It would be interesting to know. There is certainly something rather unappealing about middle-aged people referring to themselves as boys and girls. But in all the media coverage of this silly topic no one mentioned the obvious fact (it has probably become unmentionable) that men are, on average, stronger than women and can do certain domestic chores — carrying large wine cases down stairs, opening tight jars and, yes, taking out heavy bins — more easily.
Miriam Gross was literary editor of the Sunday Telegraph (she was called ‘queen of the lit eds’ by Paul Johnson).