Jump to content
The Education Forum

Teachers and Politics


Recommended Posts

I firmly believe that its the job of education to give people the tools to think with; not tell them what to think.

Agreed. But this is going to have to involve some "content" is it not?

Take my current Year 9 class for instance who are studying "the struggle for the vote" at the moment. They have to be told about institutions and concepts for them to be able to discuss and think about them. Some bias on my part will no doubt come through despite my best efforts but this can be done openly and fairly also. More politically literate citizens must surely be to the benefit of all. Who knows we might even get on to discussing and evaluating the relationship between liberal democracy and capitalist economics - that way we might even get Derek on board :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ChristineS
Agreed. But this is going to have to involve some "content" is it not?

Absolutely. I am always indoctrinating my classes. ;) I have rather cynical but left-wing views which the students tend to see as overly radical. Rather than being apathetic, they do have opinions, in fact. They just rarely see the point in voting and my tales of the Tolpuddle martyrs - or the more modern miners strike of the 1980s - have never made a ha'pennyworth's difference to this.

But we do live in hope, don't we? IMO being a teacher is by definition being an optimist, even if I pretend to be cynical about just about everything. :)

I don't like education for citizenship as a matter of principle. Like jbooth I agree that once in place it can be used as an indoctrination tool; as you said there has to be content and I do feel that content is going to be biased. At least now, if it is only individual teacher's like us occasionally putting in a bit on an ad hoc basis, it is relatively harmless. If more systematic and deliberate, it can cause damage; I remember being incensed as a practising, principled atheist that a primary teacher my daughter loved actually convinced my daughter that God existed (and as a peripheral, that Palestinians were nasty killers!). Damage on the god front (though luckily not the Palestinian front - no pun intended) that has lasted to this day because she convinced my daughter that she would go to hell if she didn't believe in god and I couldn't counter it because of the nightmares. Very nasty.

It was NOT free choice (and anyway, it is my job to indoctrinate my own children, no-one else's!! ;) ) I am not saying that lessons in citizenship at secondary level will be that effective, or even that Blair's lot intends them to be, but they could be the thin edge, in principle, and that is not on.

I don't dislike 'nanny' states as such, but Blair's lot are overly controlling and as we know, Thatcher before him was legendary for control-politics. Us British like our 'strong' leaders. But it is not what governments should be: nanny as in caring and responding to what society (as in people, people, people) need, yes; nanny as in controlling too many of our individual choices because they believe we 'need' to be guided as in patenalistic state control, no. It is a fine line and a difficult balance, I agree, but we have to keep debating it and re-evaluating it constantly in order to make sure there always remains some balance, after all.

I agree though that it won't actually hurt people to try a bit harder to understand how their various governing bodies control them and how they can affect that - and in particular to understand them so they can understand their rights.

But what do you mean by politically 'literate'? To me it would be quite enough political literacy for people to have access and knowledge of the sort of information I suggest above. I do not believe that it is possible to go further and use education to attempt to actively improve the level of political activism in people - which is what I read you to mean by politically literate (please correct me if I am wrong) - without using methods overly close to indoctrination - to seek to persuade. That is perhaps what jbooth was saying and certainly what I would not want.

Also, I may agree that more knowledge about our systems and our rights is important and wouldn't harm, but I am very wary about using school as the place to do that.

I recall growing up and watching a whole series of public information adverts/short films - some of which live with me to this day. Perhaps short sharp bursts of [ublic information on TV and radio about one's rights and the processes of government at local and national level would be a better route to go down than adding yet more on to an already over-loaded curriculum for what appear to be, frankly, either purely political ends or, almost as bad, lip service to some idea of appearing to be democratic.

Sorry for such a long post.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I share the cynicism expressed above about the government's motives and indeed the Citizenship curriculum appears weighed down with information about citizens responsibilities over their rights.

However a political education is in my view important.

The best measure of political literacy in my pupils is not that they believe what I believe in rather that they understand it and are able to offer alternatives and make choices.

Leaving political education to chance or parents could lead to yet worse consequences than leaving it to the teachers :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ChristineS
Leaving political education to chance or parents could lead to yet worse consequences than leaving it to the teachers ;)

I know you put a winky, but ooh! :);) Not sure we won't have to agree to disagree here! Thin line and all that! ;););)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ChristineS

Am I to take it that you probably take a bit of a paternalistic view of education (and politics); that sometimes certain other people do know better what is right for 'the people' than the people do themselves? That sounds harsh, but I don't mean it to be.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Am I to take it that you probably take a bit of a paternalistic view of education (and politics); that sometimes certain other people do know better what is right for 'the people' than the people do themselves?  That sounds harsh, but I don't mean it to be.

Not really, but I certainly think that trained teachers have a better idea of what the people need as regards education than either themselves or the government - so I might be guilty as charged ;):)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ChristineS

I agree about us knowing more about education.

I guess the difference between you and I is that you see politics as part of education and I don't. But having said that I do see social responsibility as very important and although it is not on the curriculum I feel at some gut level it is part of my job to help children have the tools to be fit for it and able to benefit from it. I am probably not as far from your point of view as might first appear, in many respects, in spite of still not wishing 'citizenship' actually on the curriculum. Scratch a teacher and find and idealist, is true, I suspect of most of us. Practical idealists?

Right back to the dawn of formal education, the desirable to inculcate, if not directly teach, social responsibility has been on the agenda and one of the reasons, if not actually the main one behind the state providing state education. As much as societies have talked about giving the child opportunities, I guess the reason states have actually put money into it has been for the health and well being of the state in reality. I also guess that since the dawn of teachers, individual idealists have tried to do this honourably.

It has been a pleasure to disagree with you! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to be very active in politics, but as I got older (I am now 61) I began to get more and more cynical about politicians. I always vote in national and local elections, but more and more I find myself looking carefully at the profile of the persons that I am voting for rather than their political allegiance, e.g. their CV and how active they have been in doing things for the community. Looking back on my life – I was a teacher for 28 years – I cannot honestly say that either of the two political parties that have been in power have ever made profound and lasting improvements to my working and social life.

I took early retirement from teaching in 1993, mainly due to the increased workload that was being imposed on me as a result of increasing government interference and the control freaks in senior management in my institution, causing me to burn more and more midnight oil reporting and accounting rather than doing the job I was originally paid to do. I now run my own business partnership and relish the freedom to say “no” when I don’t want to undertake a task that is either (i) uninteresting or (ii) unprofitable.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I used to be very active in politics, but as I got older (I am now 61) I began to get more and more cynical about politicians. I always vote in national and local elections, but more and more I find myself looking carefully at the profile of the persons that I am voting for rather than their political allegiance, e.g. their CV and how active they have been in doing things for the community. Looking back on my life – I was a teacher for 28 years – I cannot honestly say that either of the two political parties that have been in power have ever made profound and lasting improvements to my working and social life. Graham

When I was a child we had a rhyme:-

"Labour/Tory both the same

Puppets in the bosses' game"

What was true of Gaitskell and Macmillan is truer of Blair and Howard. It would be more honest if Labour and Tory were to stand as one party. As one voter put it to me: "The only person who entered parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes!"

However this does provide an opportunity. This is the opportunity which the movement supporting Nader in the States, the movement which elected Tommy Sheridan in Scotland and Joe Higgins in Ireland has taken. Parties which are not of the mainstream can mobilise the people who would refuse to vote for either of the two "bosses" parties.

Am I to take it that you probably take a bit of a paternalistic view of education (and politics); that sometimes certain other people do know better what is right for 'the people' than the people do themselves? That sounds harsh, but I don't mean it to be. (Christine)

When pupils discuss issues rather than personalities; when teachers insist on them finding facts to back their arguments; when teachers throw 99% of the Citizenship agenda out of the window (the 1% of course is for when someone from OFSTED comes to call) then quite a lot of political education can take place in schools.

It can take place under the guise of English , History, ICT, Media Studies or PSE. When the Secretary of State for Education can complain that 50% of our pupils are below average then quite a lot can take place in Maths too :)

Derek McMillan

Socialist

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ingenuous attempts to ‘de-politicise’ history, to separate the past from the present, and to rip the last chapter out of the story of the nation’s past, do not make it easier for history teachers to persuade pupils of the importance and relevance of history to their lives. It probably makes some pupils wonder why historians bother, what is the point? Is it a harmless but idiosyncratic hobby like stamp collecting or trainspotting?

As the 1952 report of the Ministry of Education noted:

The divorce between current affairs and history, so that they are regarded as two different subjects, gravely weakens both. It accentuates the natural tendency of children to regard history as something remote and irrelevant instead of something which has formed the world around them and which is continuously being formed by that world. And, it accentuates equally the tendency to look at contemporary questions as though they had no context in time, no parallels or precedents.

(Ministry of Education, 1952: 32)

Only if it is accepted that the past should be ‘joined up’ to the present, and that school history should address contemporary political issues will we escape from ‘the Curriculum of the Dead’ which has limited the political education of young people in the United Kingdom, and in many cases, limited the extent to which they see history in particular, and education in general, as relevant to their lives.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a huge amount of power within the youth of today in Britain. The problem is no one has worked out how to harness this power. I believe it can be harnessed, but the issues have to be relevant to the people. I know there is solidarity in the youth of Britain. I'm also convinced that young people although not necessarily becoming more politicised, are becoming more aware of issues that will effect future generations and their own lives. If there was ever a class of people more willing to embrace a stance which is anti mutinational, anti war, pro environment, then it is the youth generation, beacuse these values are the mirror opposite of the government and politicians stance on global and internal affairs. The young are more racially tolerant, most young people have an array of different ethnicities as friendship groups.

Not one of friends was pro-war in Iraq. Every one of my friends is pro choice. Not one of my friend is pro corporate-globalisation. Everyone of my friends uses the internet everyday. Not one of friends does not understand that environment needs help. Every one of my friends understand that all politicians do is lie. The point is that there is a groundswell of anger against this government, and against the current political climate which is embodied by the views of the youth generation.

When the government talk about apathy it is lie. It is a simple case of disenfranchisement. This will not change with the introduction of another school subject called citizenship.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Congratulations John. You have spiked debates on such a variety of issues. As I mentioned elsewhere, I am an Australian trawling overseas lists for interest. (While guzzling white wine on a hot afternoon.) I find the enthusiasm of some of these responses invigorating.

Here in SA we are beginning to allow our students to ignore the world they live in. That so few could identify the politicians responsible for Education decisions is deplorable. It is patronising to think that the "powers that be'" will be responsible and we as teachers and students need to sit back and just let this all flow around us. I was fortunate to go to university at a time that a Labour Government in Australia believed that tertiary education was a right, not a priviledge. Today, I would graduate with a debt of some $20,000. And to think that I bought a new car after teaching for one year. That would not be possible today.

While we are not allowed to openly be biased in classrooms, I now believe that we need to find ways to encourage active thought in our students. We teach citizenship at year 9/10 level in as an unbiased way that any individual can make it. The system of government is explained and students are encouraged to contact their local member of parliament on an issue of importance to them. Many students get responses, at least from a secretary.

In the next twelve months (remember, I am about the start a new school year), I plan to be as politically as active as I can be with my home class. I have their attention for 30 mins each day and will be raising a few social issues in that pastoral time. (As well as being caring and sharing and the multitude of other things expected of a home room teacher. On tonight's TV news it was suggested that teachers are responsible for our road toll of youth. More young people die in car accidents than from any other cause and somehow teachers and the education system are to blame.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 years later...

Most higher education students are not as indifferent to politics as we think. They might seem to be more interested in other areas such as online games, shopping, chatting and relationships. However, from my own experiences I can say that the majority of them is following what has been going on in the world and discussing politics both in class and outside the campus. Therefore I'm optimistic about the new generation.

Aren't we doing the same thing now (criticising the youth for being reckless) that our parents once did? Have we become indifferent individuals?

All of these young people have their own political views whether they vote or not. What needs to be done is to guide them to resources (books, articles etc) and help them advance their perceptions.

Edited by Cigdem Göle
Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...