My dad has long been associated, as a member and officer, with the largest UK teaching union, the NAS/UWT. Indeed, in classic working-class northerner style, he first had a heart attack as he arrived at a union conference. Equally typically, after it was initially misdiagnosed by a junior doctor as a digestive problem, he just carried on with business as usual. Presumably if he’d been a factory worker like his dad he’d have lost consciousness later the same day and wound up under some heavy machinery.
The NAS/UWT hasn’t always been the largest teaching union in the UK. Every year, at the conference of its rival, the NUT, at least one speech or happening illustrates why so many of their members have defected to the NAS over the years. This time the union’s “first ethnic minority president” Baljeet Ghale did her bit for the numbers. According to her, “ministers fuel racism by ordering schools to teach British values”.
Apparently Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, had described the “values we hold very dear in Britain” as “free speech, tolerance, respect for the rule of law”. I’m not Johnson’s biggest fan, but, given that Britain is more-than-slightly well known around the World for its role in the Enlightenment, the development of parliamentary democracy, and for its relative civil stability and security—God knows the only reason we’re the fifth biggest economy is that enough of the World’s occupants think their money’s safe with us—he’s got a point. As far as I can see, her perception that Johnson believes these attributes are somehow racial is the only thing that’s “racist” here. She asked:
Well, in what way, I’d like to know, are these values that are not held by the peoples of other countries?
Putting aside the false exclusion—if Johnson had expressed his pride in the quality of British beer would this have implied that Belgian breweries are crap?—it’s worth noting that Ms Ghale is from Kenya, a country whose human rights record is not by any means the worst in the populous continent of Africa. (Africa is large land mass on the planet Earth and widely believed to have been the birthplace of the human race.)
Here’s how Amnesty would answer her question. The Kenyan government holds free speech so dear that it arrests the editor of the Kenya Times for the curious offence of “publishing alarming information”, by writing an article criticising the President, and the President’s wife can turn up at a studio with her bodyguards to assault a cameraman and have the Attorney General terminate the private prosecution brought against her as a result of the incident. In Kenya, the police torture and kill citizens with near “impunity” and women and girls face “widespread violence and discrimination”. Other than that, when it comes to respect for the rule of law, it’s just like Blighty. To suggest otherwise, not that anybody did, would of course encourage “racism”. Even as a self-described “global citizen” (puh-lease), Ghale is already a practised thrower of the comfortable Western pseudo-progressive’s favourite slur.
You might argue that the people of Kenya have more affection for human rights than their government so, in that sense, there is a truth behind Ghale’s non sequitur, a truth that might have been so clear to her parent(s)/guardian(s) that they left Kenya to live in the UK. But who am I to say? They might have come here for the beer.
I suspect that Gary Eason, who wrote the BBC report, had become a little weary after days of sitting listening to NUT moonbattery because he (or his sub) mischievously headed the last section of the report, outlining Ghale’s wider attack on UK government education policy, “Cuba”. Why? Ghale favourably compared school class sizes in Cuba with those of the UK. That’s Cuba, people. You know: the country you should visit before the Castro currently in charge dies and globalization “spoils” the place.
[Plural Identities had some more interesting things to say about this speech. And here’s footage of something English that’ll probably upset at least one NUT member.]
can someone tell me about the history of ghale in nepal and bhutan