Saturday, 7 June 2008

Grab 'em while they're young


I was recently speaking to a friend of my mother's who was educated in the late 50's and early sixties, partially at a convent school. Speaking of her school days, she recounted one history lesson, given my a middle aged, American nun. The lesson had been about Russian history, specifically the Bolshevik revolution, however, the nun soon strayed from the curriculum and began speaking about events which at the time were quite recent, the uprisings against soviet rule which occurred in Poland and Hungary.


According to my mother's friend, as the nun began describing the Russian response to the uprising in Hungary she became quite flushed, her eyes widened and her skin began to redden as she spoke, becoming more excised as she described the means by which the forces of the Soviet Empire crushed those who had attempted to throw off their rule. Finally the holy sister spoke of a huge mincing machine, which, she claimed, had been wheeled into Heroes Square at the centre of Budapest.

Once the mincing machine was installed in the square, hundreds of live, Hungarians were fed into it leaving the square flowing with blood and minced Magyars.

To an impressionable schoolgirl, the story horrified my mother's friend and was the source of nightmares for some years to come, also, as it was a “fact” she had been taught at school, by an authority figure, she admitted, with some embarrassment, that she had continued to believe well into her 20's that the Russians had actually minced Hungarians.

Her story struck a chord with me, as it bore significant similarities to an account I heard in a classroom some twenty years later.

However, by the time I was a schoolgirl, the politics of the classroom had undergone a 180 degree turn around, and few were the teachers who would think to speak ill of the Soviet Union or even Communist China for that matter, whatever, they got up to. The story had been updated and relocated significantly by the time it was told to me by a young male teacher with shoulder length hair, who insisted we address him as Andy. When Andy told us the story, he had replaced the grim faced Soviet troops, with sneering South African security servicemen, the Hungarian mincees' place had been taken by youths from Soweto, and the mincing machine replaced by a wood chipping machine.

Also, Andy was more subtle than the nun had been, or at least story telling techniques had been refined somewhat in the two decades since she had told her story. Unlike in the Holy sister's Budapest fantasy, which limited investigation, even in a pre-internet age could disprove, Andy did not suggest that the dismembering of live Africans took place in a public square, or was openly sanctioned by the Apartheid government, however, he assured us that it was happening daily behind closed doors in prisons across South Africa.

Not unlike my mother's friend had believed the nun twenty years before, I and, no doubt many in class that day, continued to believe what Andy had told us for quite a few years after we left school. For all I know, some of my old classmates may still believe it and that the woodchipping of Soweto residents was deliberately hushed up by South Africa's Truth and reconciliation commission.

Andy's target wasn't just South Africa, he was quite a buff on world affairs. albeit they had little to do with the subject he was supposed to be teaching us, which, as I recall was Biology. He was particularly interested in America, not her constitution or history, you understand, but rather more focused on alleged CIA involvement in Central America, indeed it is likely that some of Andy's ex-students left school believing that the United States defining moment was either the Iran Contra scandal or the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile (and they probably now read at the blog from whence our recent visitors came.).

A number of our other teachers has interests which were closer to home. Margaret Thatcher bestrode the world throughout my teenage years, much to the discomfort of those in the staff room, and it was a rare day which passed when the iniquities of the lady herself, or the her government in general, did not dominate at least one lesson. To this day Thatcher is still a divisive figure, however, we were not taught of a democratically elected leader with conservative social attitudes and stringent economic policies, but instead, those charged with forming our minds invariably portrayed her as if she were a cross between some right wing dictator and a serpent like Catherine De Medici plotting the massacre of St Bartolomew.

If it was, as appeared to be the case, that most of those who taught in schools during the 1980's, felt it their duty to ensure that that their pupils did not become part of Thatcher's constituency, some might ask if it is entirely appropriate for an educator to resort to the sort of political propaganda we saw at that time.

I have to admit that the propaganda seems to have worked on me, Thatcher fought her last election before I could vote for or against her, but ever since I could vote, the idea of voting Tory seems an anathema, and I actually moved straight from voting New Labour in the last three elections, to voting BNP last month, without even considering a flirtation with Mr Cameron.

No longer being a schoolgirl, I can not know for sure whether the classrooms of today are as openly political as they seemed in the 1980's. However as my son recently asked me about a great lost sub-Saharan civilisation which was far ahead of European civilisation in terms of education, health care and philosophy, but which was destroyed by white slave traders, and Voortrekkers, who killed all the great black scholars and claimed all their inventions for the West, I suspect they probably are. (Odd that Andy never taught us about that, but to be fair to him, it probably had not been invented when he was teaching my classmates and I.)

I think it unlikely that schools have become less political in the last twenty years, or that the political ideas being taught to our children are any less left wing. In my experience, the average youngster when leaving school is more open to left wing ideas that they generally are after a couple of years living in the real world.

I may be wrong, but it that is how it seems to me, what makes you think the same thought didn't occur to those panicking Labour MP's currently lobbying to get the voting age reduced from 18 to 16?

As the next election approaches, it may be that we see a growing number of odd looking individuals lurking at the school gates, if so, you need not worry, they are only after your kid's vote!

8 comments:

Wolfblood said...

Its the reason the liblabcon will conspire to lower the voting age next.
They're becoming desperate, but their plots won't save them from the justice they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Wars first casualty Truth.

Inns Trapp

johnofgwent said...

and don't ever forget that those evil iraqi's wandered into the maternity unit of kuwait's main hospital and stole all the incubatotors leaving the infants to die on the floor .....

Red Squirrel said...

I have just asked my 18 year old daughter her opinion on the proposed lowering of the voting age to 16. her answer was that "16 year old's are too selfish and would vote for whoever appealed to them personally." She said that they would be less inclined to think of the 'greater good' nor of the consequences.
She gave the example of peer groups voting for whoever promised to legalise cannabis, even if they didn't smoke it themselves, but their friends did".
She has been meaning to start posting on her own blog, and promises to do more soon.
Good post!

The Green Arrow said...

great article Sarah.

Red. Your daughter is right. Just get the "in crowd" to say who they are voting for and the rest will follow like sheep.

They are not mature enough or understand enough about how the world ticks at 16. Especially in these dumbed down days.

Anonymous said...

My grandson of 7 came home from school able to completely recite the whole of the Chinese calendar, year of the rat,the horse,the monkey etc.
How this will equip him for later life I am unable to say. Unless of course future British communist leaders egos may be soothed by the knowledge the Brits have been completely subjugated.

david said...

I was talking to ayoung woman recently who was back from Uni. She told me that young people are now taught to equate nationalism with Nazism.

Tony B. Liar (pbum) said...

EDUCATION! EDUCATION!! EDUCATION!!!

Schools forced to take violent pupils
"Pupils who have threatened classmates with knives and attacked teachers are among those being moved to neighbouring schools rather than being permanently excluded.

Teachers say the tactic is ruining the education of well-behaved children and accuse councils of using it to reduce their official exclusion figures. ... Dave Wilkinson, the branch secretary of the National Union of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in Derby, said: "Managed moves are all about reducing exclusion figures in line with Government expectations.

They can cause widespread misery and disenchantment for the pupils who have to sit in class with sometimes very aggressive, unpleasant and threatening pupils. I've talked to kids in the classes that these children end up in and what they have to put up with has ruined their schooling."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2091571/Schools-forced-to-take-violent-pupils.html

AND

"New Labour’s failure to rescue state education, let alone improve it, will be its most disgraceful legacy. The Conservatives should not crow; when in office they also failed to take on the forces destroying education.

Each week the news is full of reports of stagnating standards, more university dropouts (one in seven students, despite government “investment” of £1 billion since 2003), a shortage of teachers, particularly in maths and science, and a majority of underqualified teachers.

One of the three leading universities in the country, Imperial College London, announced that in 2010 it would introduce an entrance exam for applicants because it cannot rely on A-level results. Sir Richard Sykes, the college’s rector, suggested that grade inflation in A-levels made them almost “worthless” as a way of choosing between candidates: “Everybody who applies has got three or four As.” "

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/minette_marrin/article4087616.ece