Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
On the 27th September, the UK government released guidelines for teachers regarding a new sex, health and relationship curriculum. Most of what you can see in the document is pretty standard, apart from one glaring addition that had never been seen in a government document like it. The guidelines explicitly state that schools should not be using any materials that include extreme political stances on any matters. This is of course expected; no one wants their child to be radicalised in primary school, but it is what the government are classing as an extreme ideology that is ringing alarm bells for me. You would expect your teacher to not use anti-Semitic, racist or fascist literature whilst teaching a health class, but the government has included teaching about anti-capitalism in the list of views that should not be taught to children.
Now I am not suggesting that we teach 13 year olds about the nuances of Marxism, or raise a generation of anarchists, but we do owe it to the younger generation to educate them about the world that they are living in. Capitalism touches every single aspect of our lives, it is unavoidable in the world we live in, and this is not necessarily a good thing. Many children will grow up to be investment bankers or venture capitalists, but equally many will grow up to be environmentalists and activists. We need to educate the next generation about how they can change the world, or make better the wrongs they see, and yes – some of this might not be in line with globalised capitalism.
Not only does preventing the discussion of alternatives to capitalism stunt the ideological development of the youths, but it also erases a large chunk of British history. This was pointed out by former shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who referenced the days when the Labour Party and the Unionist movement advocated for the abolition of capitalism, or the early days of the British socialist movement. Whether this is a conscious move to erase parts of history that the Conservative party do not like from schools or not, it does not detract from the fact that schools’ curricula are already narrow enough without further government intervention.
Why should school children be confined to live in a global system where the richest 1% hold 44% of the world’s wealth until the day they die? We should instead be encouraging innovation and, at times, anti-establishment thought; that is how real change is made. Global capitalism, as it currently functions, does not work. Global poverty is on the rise, climate change is reaching a point where the damage done will be irreversible, all while the rich are getting richer by the second. Only 90 corporations are responsible for two thirds of all man-made damage done to the climate. Whilst we are all recycling and using metal straws, transnational corporations and capitalism is killing our planet at increasing speeds.
So, considering all of this, children should be taught alternatives to capitalism. Children should be encouraged to innovate and think of new and amazing ideas that have not even been considered yet. The more people know, the more society will be able to drive forward into a better future; and yet this is exactly what Boris Johnson and the Tories want to stop.