It is Friday 24th June. As I squeeze into the overcrowded train carriage with the rest of the oxygen-starved commuters, I contemplate how I can approach my colleagues after voting for Brexit yesterday. They’re all Remainers. How can I possibly tell them that we’re leaving the EU because of me? I’ll be lynched.
I decide to keep schtum and, if challenged, and if faced with a blood-thirsty Remainer looking to exact revenge, I’ll tell a big fat porky. I’m going to be an indignant Remainer from now on, whingeing and whining about the ghastly, xenophobic, racist little-Englanders who’ve finally got their way.
Walking into our faculty office, I see a young colleague crying. She is distraught and inconsolable about the result. She’s been a fully signed up member of Project Fear from the beginning of the campaign, forever wailing and railing against evil Brexiteers and their fascistic Daily Mail-reading supporters who inhabit the darker corners of our society. She has spent the last few months publicising her beliefs to anyone who’ll listen, including, of course, her most attentive and easily manipulated listeners – our pupils. I ask if she’s okay before slinking off to my classroom. The schadenfreude evoked is hard to resist.
My first lesson is interesting and worrying in equal measure. The kids can’t stop talking about it and, being mostly first and second generation migrants of Asian extraction, generally feel certain that it’s going to lead to pogroms and deportations. Astonishingly, they’ve been led to believe that those who voted out are genocidal neo-Nazis. I do my best to reassure them without exposing my preference for leaving the European Union.
Their misapprehension doesn’t altogether surprise me, though. Many of my colleagues have spent the last few months openly claiming that the only thing standing between immigrants and the baying, xenophobic British hordes is the EU. As an appendage to Project Fear, it’s clearly done the trick. In a school referendum organised to replicate the real thing, over 70 per cent of our pupils voted to remain inside the European Union.
I later hear about another colleague who has burst into tears, this time in front of her class. There are reports of pupils doing the same. It is pandemonium. They think it’s the end of the world.
At lunchtime, curiosity gets the better of me so I decide to eat in the faculty office. The fury of my colleagues is palpable. I agree, albeit in a subdued and unenthusiastic way, with everything said. It is easier that way, and, more to the point, I remember only too well from past experience how alternative views are received. They are neither welcomed nor permitted, particularly whilst caring internationalists are in mourning.
In amongst the sound and fury is another, male colleague, quietly marking books. He is a young, podgy, gregarious character who usually orchestrates our lunchtime chats. On this occasion, though, he is mute. As the bell goes and everyone eventually disperses, I give him a wink and whisper, ‘You voted out, didn’t you?’ He grins and nods his head. ‘So did I,’ I say. ‘It’s our fault.’ We both chuckle like two naughty schoolkids before heading back to our lessons.
The irony of all this is, of course, that many voted for Brexit because of this suffocating, unrelenting, need-to-conform-lest-you-upset-the-thought-police bullying that is so prevalent, not just in our schools – though they are certainly an extreme manifestation – but across the whole country.
Keeping up politically correct appearances has indeed become exhausting, stressful and all-consuming. I really don’t know what I can and can’t say. This, I think, is compounded by the age of my colleagues. As older teachers have left the profession, exhausted and demoralised by the overwhelming workload and woeful pupil behaviour condoned by inept head teachers, NQTs in their early twenties have replaced them. This is Generation Snowflake – the ruthless no-platformers with an aversion to free speech and representative democracy; these are the cry-babies devastated by the referendum result, the cry-babies teaching – no brainwashing – our children.
Last week, during what should have been a relaxed, lunchtime conversation with one of them, we got onto the subject of women’s boxing. I said, quite innocuously, or so I thought, that although I support their right to do it, I don’t really enjoy watching women hit each other. You can probably guess what happened next: she pounced on me, calling me a misogynist, saying that I shouldn’t be teaching children and expressing her inability to work with a male, sexist reactionary like myself.
The irony was too delicious to ignore. ‘So you want me to say that I love to watch women beat the crap out of each other, instead?’ I asked.
Seriously: these are the unhinged lunatics who teach our kids; these are the people spreading misapprehension and fear among our pupils. They think they’re going to be deported, for heaven’s sake. That’s just cruelty dressed up as moral outrage by imbeciles desperate to publicise their own virtue. It’s also a lie.