• Frank Furedi
  • Frank Furedi
  • Sociologist, commentator and author
Article

Who’s guiding our children?

Though I am not a Tory I was deeply unsettled when I heard Sion Rickard, a teaching assistant, declare on the podium of the Labour Party conference that if we give children a “proper education” they “wouldn’t vote for the Conservatives”. In case anyone missed his point Rickard added: “We’ll probably not have any Tories because we’ll have brought up our kids properly”!

Judging by the enthusiastic applause in the conference hall the call to turn children’s education into a crusade against Conservative ideals clearly resonated with the delegates. As far as they were concerned the social engineering ambition of turning schoolchildren into anti-Conservative and pro-Labour automatons was a cause well worth supporting.

As someone who has been studying the growing tendency for educationalists to assume responsibility for deciding what ought to be the ideals and values of young people I should not have been surprised by this latest call to politicise the classroom. I still remember educator Frank Musgrove stating in 1966 that “it is the responsibility of education to eliminate the influence of parents”.

He added: “We have decided that children will no longer be at the mercy of their parents and that local education authorities should ensure that they are not.”

Since Musgrove’s statement schools have extended their remit to embrace issues that in the past were catered for by parents or religious and voluntary organisations.

A decade ago Martin Stephen, the former high master of St Paul’s School in London, observed that “we have shifted a whole load of society’s conscience” on to the curriculum. Consequently, increasingly it is so-called educational experts who decide what are the values children should live by.

What Sion Rickard described as a proper education often means questioning and undermining parents’ authority over the direction of a child’s moral outlook. Educators encourage children to adopt views and forms of behaviour that contradict those of their parents.

One way of achieving this objective is by flattering children through informing them that they are more sensitive, caring and emotionally intelligent than their ignorant parents. A classic example of how parental authority is undermined was offered by the “five-a-day” campaign a decade ago.

It emphasised how ignorant parents failed to understand the importance of providing children with the requisite amount of fruit and vegetables. This message was reinforced by the then health minister Dawn Primarolo, who asserted: “We welcome the fact that children are absorbing our five-a-day message and can teach their parents – and peers – to eat more healthily too.”

Getting children to teach their elders about healthy eating is relatively harmless compared with encouraging youngsters to embrace values and sexual attitudes that contradict those of their parents. Very often educators wittingly or unwittingly communicate the view that parents and other family members are steeped in old-fashioned prejudice that thwarts the development of young people.

This summer the Department for Education announced that children up to four years old will begin to receive “consent classes” in which they will be trained to understand sexual boundaries in a manner appropriate to their age.

If teaching four-year-olds about sexual boundaries is something of a joke, taking charge of the development of a child’s gender identity represents a fundamental usurpation of parental authority.

The questioning of traditional ideas and forms of interaction between boys and girls has gained momentum in recent years in institutions of education. More than any other social engineering initiative the politicisation of the trans culture serves as a medium for distancing children from adopting the gender identity into which they were born.

This summer teachers were informed by the Scottish government that they should allow children to change their gender without informing parents. Guidelines endorsed by the Scottish government state that children as young as three “should be supported to explore and express their identity”. These guidelines explicitly presume that it is the teacher and not the parent who ought to possess the authority to provide the conditions that allow children to transition to another sex.

The document, Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance For Schools In Scotland, insists that teachers should not inform parents if their child changes gender in school, unless the child, who may well be as young as four, gives permission.

The guidelines regard parents as a problem, who might prevent their child from transitioning. Hence, keeping parents out of the picture is seen as essential to the wellbeing of the transitioning child.

The Scottish government has also made it clear that if parents oppose their child changing their sex, teachers and school staff should report them to the local authorities. So if you are a parent who is not 100 per cent delighted that your four-year-old girl Jane has decided with the school’s help to become a four-year-old boy John you will be reported to the authorities.

Welcome to a world where “proper education” means assuming control over one of the most fundamental aspects of the development of the child. Keeping parents out of the loop while their child is transitioning to another gender is not confined to the proposals outlined in Scotland.

The Girl Guides have recently opted to adopt a policy that exhorts the guides to welcome transgender girls. While some critics have expressed concern about young girls sharing rooms and toilets with someone who has the biological attributes and the body of a boy, there is a more fundamental issue at stake.

As was the case with the Scottish guidelines, the new rules adopted by the Girl Guides indicate that its leaders are not allowed to divulge to parents and the other girls if a member of their group used to identify as a male.

Whereas the institutionalisation of trans culture and the bypassing of parents in schools has provoked minimal opposition, concern has been raised by parents and leading members of the Girl Guides. This year 224 volunteers and parents wrote an open letter criticising the new policy.

They rightly pointed out that this policy denied “informed” parental consent. The response of the Girl Guides was to expel two guide leaders and close down their unit. As far as the managers of this organisation are concerned, a parent’s right to know is trumped by its so-called “equality and diversity policy”.

Do we really want the Girl Guides or schools to take responsibility for the development of a young person’s sexual identity?

Do we really want parents to be blissfully ignorant about the values to which their children are exposed? Apparently many educators believe that they should have the right to guide the gender development of young people.

Their commitment to shield children from parental influence is motivated by the conviction that a “proper education” means encouraging young people to adopt values that are sometimes antithetical to what they learn at home. That is the arrogant message from the podium of the Labour Party conference.

That is also the verdict of the managers of the Girl Guides. It is a message that parents need to refute and resist.

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