FIND YOUR VOICE (40)

What's going on with teaching?

When I was at school (a long time ago now) at the ages of 14 to 15 I and other black boys became aware that we had a history that was different to the history we were being taught in class. I remember us asking the history teacher to give some time to teach about slavery and black history. The poor teacher did not know how to handle this situation and tried to close down the debate. This had the opposite effect and made our thirst for knowledge even stronger. This also had the effect of alienating us from the history teacher and this trust was never regained.

Now the Government have attempted to close down another controversial debate in our schools. This time the teachers do not agree with this policy of shutting down debate over the role of Islam in the world. With so many negative faces of Islam in the media at the moment and the current conflicts in Muslim countries which have created the migration crisis, now is not the time to send the debate underground.

At The National Union of Teachers conference teachers voted for the government's Prevent strategy to be withdrawn from schools and colleges. Teachers have warned that the government's anti-extremism strategy is "shutting down" open debate in school. Delegates said it created "suspicion and confusion" rather than safety in schools.

The NUT's annual conference in Brighton heard warnings that the counter-radicalisation policy was stopping teachers from discussing "challenging ideas" with their pupils.

There were warnings that it encouraged a climate of "over-reaction" in which pupils were mistakenly reported and the police called.

Among the cases mentioned were a child writing about a "cucumber" which was misinterpreted as "cooker bomb" and a child who wrote about living in a "terraced" house which was misunderstood as a "terrorist" house.

Teachers said they had lost confidence in being able to talk about topical issues and that this could "smother" the discussion of legitimate political opinions.

Gary Kaye from north Yorkshire said students would want to talk about major events in the news, such as terror attacks.

But he said schools had become uncertain about what could be debated - and complained that teachers were being used as the "secret service of the public sector".

Teachers have enough on their plates without having to worry whether they should report or not. They should be left to teach whatever is relevant.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, introduced last year, places a legal duty on schools to "prevent people from being drawn into terrorism".

It followed fears about young people being radicalised in schools and colleges, after some young people disappeared to Syria or joined extremist groups.

The government has said that Prevent does not inhibit open debate and discussion, but provides the "resilience" for young people to challenge extremism arguments.

I think I trust the teachers on this one and hope the Government start to listen to the people in the know. If you read this series of articles don't stay silent please,

FIND YOUR VOICE...


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