Thursday, June 05, 2008
A Sentimental Education posted by Richard SeymourComing soon to a classroom near you:
A proposed new history GCSE syllabus could force students to accept the government’s point of view on contentious issues such as terrorism and the Middle East conflict.
OCR, one of the leading examination boards in Britain, has published a draft version of the history GCSE syllabus that is due to be taught in schools next year.
The course brands the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Irish Republican Army (IRA) as “terrorist groups” of a similar nature to Al Qaida.
One history teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to Socialist Worker about his concerns with OCR’s new history course.
“The specified content of the course rules out any critical approach to the questions,” he said.
“If teachers or students decided that the IRA and the PLO were not ‘terrorist groups’, then they would be in danger of failing the course.”
This reminds me of an episode in 2005, when the UMP government of France introduced a law insisting that schools should teach the "positive" aspects of the French colonial empire as part of the syllabus. It is also a great deal like HR 3077 which was unanimously passed by Congress in October 2003, which insisted that colleges could lose state funding if they were found to be insufficiently favourable to US policy in the Middle East. The purpose is essentially the same - it has nothing to do with academic standards, and everything to do with inculcating the kinds of sentiments that will prepare young people to accept imperial commitments. The first two efforts were defeated, incidentally, and so must this one be. Even if you disagree with the analysis as to the purpose of such language, that is evidence in itself that there is a debate about these questions that cannot and should not be foreclosed. It is outrageous that a student studying the Middle East would be obliged to start from the principle that the PLO is a "terrorist" group, especially when the term is so obtuse and value-laden.