TEACHER’S VOW TO TURN KIDS OFF LIBS: so read the lesser front-page headline of the Australian on November 21. From my fairly extensive experience of newspapers, all front-page headlines are meant to grab our attention by telling us about something novel, surprising or preferably shocking of which we were previously unaware. But can there really be more than a handful of people of any intelligence whatsoever who do not realise by now that teachers at all levels – as well as university lecturers – have largely been dedicated to brainwashing the children and young adults in their care in strongly left-wing directions at almost all of Australia’s educational institutions for approaching 30 years? Here is some of what South Australian Regina Wilson put on Australian Education Union’s Facebook page: ‘Try and take away my rights as a teacher but you can’t take away my voice. Increase my class size and it will just increase my chance to help MORE students become critical thinkers and help to get rid of those who treat them and me as worker bees, there to support their greed and corporate power’. Is greed and corporate power really all there is or ever was to centre-right politics? Saying so is simply uneducated nonsense. By current educational standards the foregoing quote seems at least relatively mild yet is at the same time idiotically simplistic.
A dozen or so years ago a Liberal voter I know was deeply shocked when his 6 year-old son asked him: ‘Why won’t that horrid Mr Howard apologise to the Aborigines daddy?’ immediately after he picked him up from school. Indeed, rather more recently a primary school teacher I know was ordered by her superior to vote ALP. These are random cases I appreciate yet none of the foregoing really surprises me in the slightest because I knew of umpteen equally blatant examples of left-wing educational bias long before I came here from England in 1995. Who in Australia, for example, knows anything at all about the disbandment of the Inner London Education Authority in 1990 – an overdue initiative pursued by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. There was, of course, utter fury among the teachers involved at the time. Yet Thatcher’s totally sound reasoning was this: why should the entire population of London see their children surreptitiously brainwashed by radical teachers in virtually all of the capital’s public schools? After all, more than half their parents would have voted conservative and thus for Thatcher’s own party at the last general election.
Not long after this fractious event I was appointed to serve on one of the working groups of the National Curriculum for English and Welsh Schools. There were 12 of us in the group, backed by 4 professional government advisers. To say I was outnumbered is an understatement. Indeed when I suggested that children at primary school should perhaps begin to be introduced to the appearance of works by famous 19th century British artists such as Turner and Constable, I was told by the then education officer for one of Britain’s major public galleries that this would be totally unacceptable unless they were taught Marxist art history at the same time. The children we were talking about were 6-7 years old. You may well wonder where the education officer himself received his training? In Moscow? I feel almost embarrassed to admit here that both my late father and my late sister were teachers but both gained their degrees and taught in the eras before the teaching of English – and virtually every other other subject – became heavily politicised. My father was, in fact, a brilliant scholar who took early retirement from teaching to work as a principal reader for the Complete Oxford English Dictionary to which he contributed some 26,000 original entries. I have nothing but respect for his learning. On the other hand neither he nor my sister could perform even the simplest practical tasks such as driving a car, say, or even changing a light bulb and neither ever had even the remotest grasp of the nature of business, economics or politics. Within their narrow fields both were probably praiseworthy e.g. as dedicated experts on Beowulf, say, and Shakespeare. Like many other kinds of public service employee, however, few full-time teachers have any self-evident stake in the economic growth or prosperity of their countries. Why then should such people ever be allowed – or even imagine that they have a right – to influence our children politically? In the distant days of my own schooling – at an English Anglican boarding school – after 7 years I could not have told you anything at all about the political allegiances of any of my teachers. This was not just how things were but how they should have remained.
Earlier in her career, PM Thatcher was Minister for Education and unlike the laissez-faire people so often appointed to that role today could see very clearly where the left-wing politicisation of education in Britain was leading. The basic issue involved is hardly rocket science and was unambiguously demonstrated of late in Australia by the antipathy shown by so many academics to the proposed Ramsay Centre initiatives. By losing control of education by now more or less completely, Australia’s centre-right is in the process of condemning itself perhaps permanently to the wilderness.
On my last conversation on such a subject at the Australian I was told my views on art were more or less worthless since they failed to be based on Marxist analysis. On the other hand, world-famous historian Paul Johnson characterised me in February 1996 in The Spectator as ‘one of only four outstanding art critics to have worked in Britain in the past 40 years’. As with education, the arts here have been the unhappy subject of the so-called Long March through the Institutions. If it is not already too late I suggest it’s time for civilised Australia to wake up and fight flat out for its beliefs.