29 September 2020
The British Department of Education last week announced guidelines to assist schools and teachers in England in their approach to sometimes ‘sensitive’ issues such as relationships, health and sex education. For example, it recalled that teachers should be aware of material on the internet that is not suitable for certain ages; “Particularly at primary level, you should be careful not to expose children to over-sexualised content.”
Curiously, however, there are also warnings about content that is not suitable for any age group and should not enter an English classroom in any way. It is not about free love or drugs, but about ‘extreme political views’ such as opposition to capitalism. Let me quote from the government document:
“Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material itself is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation. Examples of extreme political stances include, but are not limited to a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections (…).”
However, this document, which warns against perversities, does not shun perverse methods, such as listing an honourable political position between reprehensible practices such as racism, anti-Semitism and, rather strangely in this context, … opposition to the right of freedom of speech. Making an amalgam, is what it is called, a tried and tested method of the handbook on demagogy.
Some will see in it the signature of British nationalist conservatism which, only recently severing its ties with the European Union – guardian of liberal-democratic values – immediately discards values such as pluralism, tolerance and freedom of speech. Then, however, one overlooks a few things. Does the term Berufsverbot mean anything to you? You remember Germany, not under the Nazis but under a social democratic chancellor in 1972, legislating not against Jews, but against ‘radicals’. It was called the Radikalenerlass and turned thousands of leftists or even just progressives into ‘opponents of the constitution’ (‘verfassungsfeindlich’) who had to be fired or excluded from education or public service. So it was not just about banning their publications from schools, as the Tories want, but about robbing the bread of those who did not fully identify with the ‘social market economy’ and its liberal political system. Moreover, the Radikalenerlass and the Berufsverbot were not launched by the German version of the Tories, the CDU/CSU, but by one of the most honoured figures of European social democracy: Willy Brandt and his SPD!
Whether the European Union, in its dispute with Great Britain, will dare to denounce this British case of ‘illiberalism’ is highly questionable. In any case, it would be unwise, because Johnson’s admission that his Brexit approach might violate international law a little is to be compared with the life-threatening violation of human rights by the European migration policy.
*** Translation based on www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***