Politics in the classroom?


How do you keep politics out of the classroom? Should you? Can you? Must you stay shtum, while the moronic inferno rages? Well, I’m afraid so. You must be professional, apolitical. Teaching’s not preaching.

I just about managed it. As a fully-fledged left wing loony enemy within, and raving metrosexual, metropolitan, yoghurt-knitting, tree-hugging, sandal-shuffling, rabid bleeding heart Marxist and QPR fan, it wasn’t always easy.

Well, I don’t think I could do so anymore, not with the present idiot chorus raging outside the classroom. Very nasty opinions seem fashionable. They seem accepted, celebrated and flaunted. Any old fruitbat seems to feel free to express some toxic “opinions” about the Romanians “next door”, the gays causing floods, and those immigrants “swamping” the nation – all couched in the rancid vocabulary of “chavs”, “yobs”, “pikeys”, “cheats”, “nig nogs”, “sluts” and “Bongo Bongo Land”. I thought you could be arrested for this sort of thing – or put in a loony bin.

Well, apparently not. It’s all the go. Inhumanity A Go Go! Let’s all make war on the weak and poor! The number of children living in poverty in the UK has just gone up to 25.6 per cent, according to Unicef. And last week Mr Cameron spoke of his “moral duty” to “cut taxes”. Starving pauper infants would seem a solid vote winner.

So what should we do with this vertiginous lurch to the right, this ceremony of unkindness? Plough apolitically on? Not challenge it? Of course not. But we keep being told that things aren’t that simple, that we must acknowledge the very real anxieties some people have with the economy and globalisation, which permits them to scapegoat The Other – to hurt decent, powerless people. Really?

I’ve rather had it with all this luxuriating in hatred. The tipping point came last week, when Theresa May seemed keener to let traumatised tots drown than get to Dover. Well, call me old fashioned – and I know it’s another winner – but isn’t this a mite immoral? England’s surely better than this. London certainly is. Ukip does very badly here. Why? We’re “too well educated”, says Suzanne Evans, a Kipper spokesperson. What an admission of defeat! I’d like to think that too much good education could see off too much bad ignorance, that it could inoculate us against this craven nonsense. Science enlightens. Humanities nourish.

Perhaps the Home Secretary should pop along to the fabulous Turner Exhibition and check out his “Slavers throw overboard the bodies of the dead and dying”. Or read some literature – like Shakespeare, Swift or that Yeats’ poem: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Not half.


• Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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