Artillery Row

Critical Race Schools

A student spectator on the wokification of the curriculum

Secondary education can be a baffling and hostile experience for conservative teenagers. To hold a view contrary to the progressive poppycock expressed by many teachers is to risk being branded a “Tory” by one’s socially aware and morally superior peers. Whilst some students wear this as a badge of honour, it is an unusual adolescent who revels in being defined by their political leaning, especially if it is one with such negative connotations as conservatism. I can only comment on my experience in an independent school, but the recent developments at Pimlico Academy prove that the state sector has suffered the same fate.

The woke brigade, or the “importunate grasshoppers” as Burke might have called them, are moulding a conformity of thought whereby those who question it are, by logical deduction, fascists. In Burke’s analogy, the chinking grasshoppers are in the tiny minority compared to the thousands of cattle who silently share the same field, but there is no silent majority in many schools. In my experience a few cattle share the field with a plague of locusts.

How have schools reached a point where centrist views are demonised?

Some of my teachers eagerly embraced the opportunity to spread the Critical Race narrative (with no repercussions), but I think others were too scared to ignore it. It’s easy for commentators to paint teachers as professional lefties who are willing participants in corrupting the views of the enlightenment, but the dominant woke culture, fueled by trans-national social media trends, is hard to avoid.

In the heat of the BLM protests, my academic tutor group, a place I had foolishly hoped would be the setting of mildly interesting conversation, morphed into a platform where we were all urged to “help educate each other” about white privilege. Tantalising stuff. When I dared to purport that statistical evidence suggests that institutional racism may have been over-egged in the media, my teacher twisted my words to make it appear that I’d said something which my peers would perceive as acceptable — presumably so I wasn’t crucified. Then came the homework. We were split into two groups, the first tasked with finding a resource “to educate ourselves further on the Black Lives Matter movement” and, more reasonably, “the issues that the BAME community faces worldwide”. The second group was required to “find one way in which we could take action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement” such as an “online protest which we could go to” or a “politician to write to”. Upon recollection, this fizzled into nothing.

Later in the year, in December, Year 7s (11 and 12 year olds), set about decorating miniature Christmas trees in class. I gather the theme was “2020”, rather than the conventional decoration theme which I grew up with… Christmas. The result was a load of trees drowning in paper signs, saying things such as “BIDEN”, “BLM”, “I can’t breathe” and “Floyd wish you were here”. Nothing says festive fun like politicising Christmas. None of the 11 year olds had the ingenuity or dark wit to burn the trees in remembrance of the Australian forest fires in the New Year. 

The annual carol service is blissfully secular, Wenceslas has been replaced by Rudolf and his repellent nose

Sadly, Treegate did not come as a surprise. Since my Dad attended the same establishment, the school song has faded into obscurity — I have never heard it, or any hymns, sung once. Very odd for a 16th century private school. The annual carol service is now blissfully secular, having replaced the plight of Wenceslas with that of Rudolf and his repellent nose. In stark contrast to this secularisation, the school is content with plastering posters about, declaring the virtuous unity of being LGBT and being a Muslim — a statement some of my Muslim peers might question. There is a fine line between creating a safe space and dictating a narrative and our educational establishments are failing to recognise this. We no longer have a head boy and a head girl but two “head students” — a boy and a girl. To my knowledge, this decision was not the result of popular demand. The school is intent on leaving its traditions in the shady, unforgivable past, so often the subject of “difficult discussions”.

Despite positive steps from the government, like highlighting just how diverse the curriculum really is, I fear they are insufficient to turn the tide. Teachers have become either too fearful or too empowered to not educate their students on whatever woke, inevitably left-wing trend flies their way. Some might think my grievances petty and don their Bentham hats — “Do these changes actually harm anyone?”. Well, I would say they do. I am watching my generation contort into easily offended, closed-minded invertebrates, eager to eradicate anything which could cause offense yet seemingly more eager to be offended. How have schools reached a point where centrist views are demonised and the rational is now radical? Teachers have a lot to answer for.

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