ACCORDING to my former colleagues, anyone who votes for the Conservative Party is “thick”, the British Empire was “unambiguously evil” and capitalism leads to “mass inequality and misery for the vast majority of working people”.
The only answer was, you guessed it — the adoption of socialism, presumably led by a bunch of corduroy-wearing, Little Red Book-carrying school teachers.
As the only right-of-centre teacher in the history department, I found lunchtimes particularly galling.
My colleagues would sit around denouncing the British Empire, Michael Gove’s changes to the national curriculum and the Government’s “ideologically driven” attempts to cut the nation’s deficit.
But what worried me more was their unashamed willingness to brainwash pupils with this very same world view.
On one occasion, I overheard three of them discussing the delivery of a unit provocatively titled “Should we be proud of the British Empire?”.
There was only one right answer for the staff.
“‘No! We should be ashamed,” said one.
“Look at Amritsar, what we did to the Native American Indians and our involvement in the Middle East.”
In history classes, pupils discussed a litany of British atrocities, from forcing widespread opium addiction upon an infantilised Chinese population to massacres in India and Africa. There was only one task asking pupils to consider the question: “How did the British Empire improve lives?” And it was homework.
There was no classroom discussion about capitalism, democracy and the rule of law; the propagation of ideas, literature, technological, medical advances or even the abolition of the slave trade.
Mostly, on this subject, I held my tongue.
I was a supply teacher on a zero-hours contract and, as such, knew they could manufacture my dismissal quicker than you can say Arthur Scargill.
If only I had stuck to this resolution.
After keeping schtum for two months, I finally asked a colleague: “So why are Tory voters so thick? Is it just that they disagree with you?” “No,” he replied. “It’s because they voted for cuts.
“Perhaps they saw the cuts as necessary,” I suggested. “Surely it’s better to make savings now, rather than keep spending money we don’t have, go bankrupt and, like the Labour Government of 1976, be forced to make even deeper cuts after going cap in hand to the IMF.”
“That’s rubbish!” said another colleague. And so it continued, until they brushed off my argument with a blasé “Yeah, yeah, yeah” before gesturing towards the office door as if dismissing a troublesome child.
Two days later, I defended the new national curriculum and the Government’s commitment to traditional teaching methods against the head of department’s venomous and sustained criticism.
I said: “We do too much for the children we teach. We should give them more responsibility and more freedom to think independently.” She just said: “I don’t want to talk to you any more.”
I asked why she was being so rude. “It’s only a debate,” I said. “Isn’t it a good idea to listen to the views of others?”
My answer came two days later. I was called to the head’s office and told that, after a complaint from colleagues in my department, the school no longer required my services.
So I was effectively being sacked for holding the wrong views, though the head dressed it up in a different garb. It was my manner rather than my opinions. I was “too assertive”.
I’ve only got myself to blame.
For a brief moment, I deluded myself into believing schools encouraged tolerance and the questioning of beliefs through intellectual exploration, freedom of thought and speech.
How silly of me.
First published in The Spectator. Also published in The Sun.