13 DECEMBER 1986, Page 35


Stemming the tide


Sherwood Press, f9.95

Iam often oppressed by the suspicion that no one responsible for or gassing about British public education really cares a damn about it, in the true sense. Tory politicians think they care, or pretend to; but most of their children are exempt from it or delivered from its worst excesses by living in desirable leafy surroundings. Left- Wing ideologues care and foam passionate- ly, but it is not education but indoctrina- tion which they care and foam about. There are or were many old-fashioned Labour people whose concern for public education was deep, genuine and very moving, but they seem to have lost their zeal or their voice, their audience's ear, a battle or the war. There were also old- fashioned Labour people whose guilty secret was once blurted out by a Birming- ham Labour councillor. What's the use of educating our folk, he moaned, when all they do is move out to Edgbaston and vote Tory?

Well or ill founded, these are some of the considerations which keep me still in thrall to the vanishing prospect of a voucher system, or to any other way of giving power to parents, who usually do care and would care still more if genuine choices were offered to them.

Well, Mr Palmer has managed to collect together to refute me 14 first class gurus, including himself, who do care passionate- ly about public education. And, if I thought them representative or highly in- fluential, and likely thus to prevail against the tide still racing the other way, how delighted I would be to stand corrected! They are united in their concern about the terrible threat to education presented by `anti-racism' in all its manifestations. They might have been (and I suspect are) equally disturbed about other threats simi- lar and complementary in their malign effects: anti-sexism, anti-heterosexism, anti-elitism, anti-competitionism, • anti- disciplinism, anti-examism, anti-learning- by-roteism and so on. I imagine too they would all understand why I've initially put `anti-racism' into inverted commas, though they themselves eschew such tedious pedantry and so shall I henceforth.

Anti-racism is for them as for me a perverse and parasitic branch of what it Purports to oppose, wholly dependent for its growth, prosperity, influence and suc- cess on the often wildly exaggerated extent and virulence of its host. In a brilliant contribution, Mr Tom Hastie makes this clear. By 'the race industry' he means community relations personnel' multi- ethnic education inspectors and advisers, vote-hungry local politicians, members of local government committees and agencies set up, for example, to monitor police attitudes to blacks, ambitious leaders of immigrant pressure groups and the like. In other words, those with a vested interest in putting race into the forefront of people's minds. (Prominent among these are those mischievous and inflammatory 'spokes- men' or 'spokespersons' whose self- appointment, idiotically endorsed by the community at large, must be an embarrass- ment to all decent blacks and a powerful obstacle to their progress.) Mr Hastie cites `Newsam's law, which runs, "the incidence of alleged racism in a given society will vary in a direct proportion to the number on people handsomely paid to find it", or, as the old saying more bluntly puts it, "Never ask the barber if you need a haircut".'

Mr Hastie, incidentally, is not only a history teacher but a 'life-long socialist', a surviving specimen of that old-fashioned benign sort I mentioned above. As such, it is exceptionally nice to have him aboard, talking for the most part impeccably good sense about 'History, Race and Propagan- da'. Not that his socialism is intellectually cost-free: it wouldn't be genuine if it was. Self-deprived of race, he finds other roots of all evil. No stranger to 'the evils of imperialism', which he blames of people who happened to be imperialists rather than to be white, he tends to blame capitalism for what anti-racists blame race. He finds it odd and perverse, as I do, that Marxists should focus on race rather than economics and notes that the last people (or rather socialists?) to do this were the Nazis. Implicitly exonerating yesterday's imperialists and to-day's white entrep- reneurs from blame for poverty in the ex-colonies, his lifelong socialism leads him astray. He transfers the blame to 'local capitalists, who are plundering their fellow-countrymen more savagely than ever the British dared to do'. Perhaps a few of them are, here or there. But most of the plundering, alas, is being done by lifelong socialists (albeit often of aberrant kinds) and local capitalists are conspicuous, with appalling effects, among those plundered. Too bad!

To return to anti-racism? it has often in view occult aims sharply opposed to what the naive might expect — to wit, the exacerbation of racial prejudice, strife and hatred, the destruction of possiblities of harmony, tolerance and assimilation, the sundering or polarisation of the masses into two warring factions, based exclusive- ly on race or colour (usually wildy and malignantly ill-defined, so as to include Asians and Turkish or Greek Cypriots among the oppressed blacks), the forment- ing of riots and attacks on the police, leading to a general breakdown of society — an end welcome not to those who genuinely want racial harmony but only to those marxists who for their own occult purposes pretend to. (The Militants, in- cidentally, unless I am much mistaken, do not so pretend: hence attacks on them by anti-racists as also by `wimmin'.) We could call many of these anti-racists simply racists. The word is amply justified by their attitude to the white British, who are ceaselessly discussed and denounced in offensive terms which, if used about blacks in this country, would risk prosecution.

Not untypical are the 'anti-racist" (sorry, but the inverted commas simply force their way back) ravings of the black 'Professor' Christopher Mullard. He rants with approval of rebellion; of kicking out `against our jailers'; of bloody battles with no choice for blacks or whites or even `liberals' but to join in; of blacks fighting with pressure, demos, fists and scorching resentment, 'which, when peaceful means fail will explode into street-fighting, urban guerilla warfare, looting, burning and riot- ing'. White critics, wrapped 'in utopian dreams of multi-racialism, confident that white is might' will say it can't happen here. These the Professor warns: 'watch out, Whitey, nigger goin' to get you! Because niggers. . . will go on fighting till racism is obliterated' (and much else perhaps obliterated too). The Professor concedes that some might find his analysis wrong, 'ink-spotted by emotion and bitter- ness. So it is. For emotion and hatred become the subject; no longer is it possible to apply logic and reason to a disease which has affected the whole of white society. How can you argue with racists?. . . The only argument which white society under- stands is force, violence and power.'

After publishing these rhapsodic incite- ments to violence, the Professor was appointed 'Director of Race Relations Policy and Practice' at the London Uni- versity Institute of Education, the largest teachers' training college in Britain! Thus do we fashion the dagger for our own hearts! How infinitely better suited for this post — and I jest not — would have been our own Roy Kerridge, represented in these pages by a typically percipient and eirenic essay on black Pentecostalists and the 'Black Movement'.

Other examples of anti-British racism abound in the ludicrously malign cartoon pamphlet (or comic) How Racism Came to Britain, distributed to schools by the pub- licly subsidised and incongruously named Institute of Race Relations (whose sinister director ironically proclaims the utter in- capacity of 'ethnic policies to alter, by one iota, the monumental and endemic racism of this (British) society'. Should he not then forgo his salary?). This Stuermerisch publication exhibits grinning white police- men brandishing truncheons at bewildered black youths and Hitlerian educationists consigning black children to schools for the educationally subnormal. Its final message, accompanied by a drawing of a leering white capitalist, is that in the game devised by the British, with blacks as pawns, 'YOU CAN'T WIN'.

In an anthology of children's verse edited by the egregious 'Chris' Searle, a 13-year-old pupil writes, The English are the First Class Race, They lead the world in hatred.

Of this specimen Mr Palmer sadly muses, `might it just be that anti-racism leads children into hatred?'

Charges of anti-racist racism or of incite- ment thereto could be securely based on many examples scattered through his book. My only doubts about securing convictions arise from doubts about the sincerity of some of the anti-racists. Their proclaimed ends (and means) are evil; their occult ends may be worse. They exploit education for racist purposes; are they exploiting racism for purposes still darker? The havoc they are producing in our schools is exemplified time and again in these pages. Every essay is in itself excellent. But, because of an editorial failure (not worse than my own, which has left too little space to discuss the disastrous educational aspects of anti-racism), there is too much repetition, the same shocking data leading to variations of the same conclusions. Well, the data are horribly important, the conclusions sound and urgently to be considered and acted upon.

And how can one quarrel with an editor like Mr Palmer who, in one of the very best essays of all, 'Moral Understanding and the Ethics of Indignation', inspiringly re- minds us of what a traditional liberal academic education is really about. An end in itself, true, not a means, yet doing `everything possible to foster the develop- ment of "the person" into a decent rational being who, ceteris paribus, will neither be "racist" nor hopelessly vulnerable to the other snares of moral turpitude and exces- ses of irrationality which await the unin- structed'. Better to suppose, Mr Palmer unfashionably declares, that education has no purpose than that its purpose is to produce anti-racists (as anti-racists sup- pose) or 'disembodied skills', as Mr Ken- neth Baker seems sometimes to suppose.

He should read this book, or delegate some enlightened person, if such there be in the education department, to read it for him and suggest urgent counter-measures. But Mr Palmer's essay has a message for him personally. It is only 20 pages long.