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Friday 21 March 2003

Brainwashing/Moral Bankuptcy [muz]

What with the recent Commons vote, the upcoming war has been a frequent topic of discussion in the heated political forum that is crosshatch-EED. Despite our wide and sundry views on the subject, there was one thing that everyone agreed upon without reservation. This was the absolute condemnation of school teachers leading their pupils in antiwar protests and marches. (We'd be against them leading pro-war marches as well, but that doesn't seem to be happening.)
Stuff like this and this are but tame examples of the phenomenon I am referring to, students in secondary school leaving class to protest, led by either sixth-form students or teachers. But even worse, in some instances that have been observed on various news programs, children in primary schools have been shown to be making various anti-war posters and statements. Would someone please tell me where these children got the idea to speak out against the war? From their parents? From little Jonny in the other class? No, one must conclude that this sort of behaviour is being encouraged by their teachers.
It has been suggested by EED's resident phat lawyer and newest father Amnesia that there be legislation put in banning teachers from encouraging young children to engage in protests and statements of a political nature, and I can't help but agree. As he puts it, the age of sufferage is there to prevent people from voting until they are old enough to be considered informed about current affairs. Surely the same logic should be applied to political protests, whether they be instigated by older students or by teachers?
I'm loathe to draw the comparison due to the controversy it will undoubtedly raise, but how is primary school teachers forcing their anti-war views upon their students now any different from teachers in Nazi Germany propagating Hitler's version of history and his belief that the Germans were the master race? In my opinion, both are examples of a deplorable, unforgivable practice: indoctrination. The practice of imbuing with a partisan ideology or point of view, or teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically. To me, this is completley unacceptable.


  1. Well put. I watched the news with horror, small kids in primary school making all sorts of anti-war things. The BBC shoved a mic in one of their little faces and the kid parroted, 'War is bad because bush and blair are going to drop bombs on people in Iraq just going about their normal business and that'.
    You think the teachers bothered to tell these kids about the Iraqi dictatorship? About the infant mortality rate, about the chemical attack on Halabja? Of course not, just a simple 'war is bad' message. Absolutely deplorable, these kids should not be bothered by the horrors of the world at that age just to serve the policital agendas of some screaming leftist teachers. :(

  2. While I disagree with schools shepherding kids into protests no matter what the issues, there is a case that fervent parents who want to protest about something, have no choice but to take their kids along with them, if they have no child minding options open to them.
    However, the same sort of indoctrination goes on all over the country in schools regarding faith and religious belief. Admittedly assembly and prayer sessions, or sunday school is hardly militant - but it is the same principle of someone else forcing their ideals and beliefs upon children. Yet this doesn't get the same outraged attention.

  3. It's not the same everywhere or in every school, despite what all the noisy banner-wavers would have you believe. My wife is a primary school teacher and her colleague did a session discussing the war with her 10 year olds. Almost without exception they were 'pro-war' (a very misleading term, but I'm sure you know what I mean). Most of them said things like 'We need to have a war so that it will all be over soon and we can get back to living our lives'. Obviously, this is an echo of their parents' views, but it shows that not everyone in the country is against taking action. Although I can't help think that the majority of the population go for the option that they think will cause them least fuss.

  4. Doesn't get the same outraged attention in this blog maybe but religious indoctrination has upset me deeply in the past. Isn't it somehow upsetting seeing a little troup of orthadox Jews trot down the street? Daddy out front and then a bunch of small boys with the clothes, oversize hat and the curly sideburns. Makes me just want to scream, 'Why don't you let them grow up to make up their own mind!'.But back to this point, I asked the boys in #EED if I was overreacting about this. I don't have any children but if I had a kid come home from school and they told me they were making anti-war displays, I'd be absolutely livid. Not because it doesn't sit well with my politics, but because I'd feel like someone was hijacking my kids to bolster their political aims. I'd feel very uncomfortable with that school teaching my kids if they think that sort of thing is acceptable. I'd like a sit down talk with those teachers I saw on the news, let me tell you. :(I take your point R2-D2. Obviously plenty of kids get their opinions from parents, including political and religious opinions. As I've said, I think that's a little reprehensible also but it's just how life works. I guess I just expect schools to be refuge from this stuff. I remember when I was in primary school, there was an important election on and my teacher refused to be drawn on who they supported.Quick side note, I've seen a couple of polls having showed that public opinion is now (just) on the pro-war side of the fence. I wonder what level it has to be before the anti-war demonstrators stop saying that the war is against the wishes of the public? That's really annoying me now. Classic example of their entire argument, just some factoid/notion to parrot out without any particular basis in fact. Depressing.

  5. It is interesting that we find ourselves in a time and place where 42% of the UK continue to assert that war is bad. Is it that they think we have all evolved to a level where war can always be avoided and politics will save the day? Is it too much Star Trek or something?
    I'm shocked that there are nominally quite sane and responsible Britons who continue to lie down in the road outside of military bases (happened yesterday) or march around outside Westminster (tv last night) and think that they are being driven by superior morals. Can they just not comprehend that to achieve a long-term greater good you have to do something that you might not want to? Both World Wars occured in living memory, is it so hard for people to relate to the removal of a dictator for the benefit of all concerned?
    As for the children thing... its clearly not appropriate, particularly when organised or supported by the school. You may as well give them AKs come the revolution 'because kids have a voice too' or something.

  6. 'Can they just not comprehend that to achieve a long-term greater good you have to do something that you might not want to?'
    Not so fast there Beejy boy. There's a big difference between being a bleeding heart liberal who doesn't believe we should ever go to war (which is clearly nonsense - every nation has a right to go to war to defend its people), and normal rational people who just don't believe that this particular war has been adequately justified.
    A hell of a lot of people don't believe that the morality of this situation adds up. In typical and British style, however, you'll see a lot of people professing pro-war views now because to do otherwise would be showing a lack of support for the people actually risking their lives on the front line. That's laudable, I suppose - even if it means the rat bastard in No.10 will get off a lot more lightly than he should have for his disgraceful handling of this situation...

  7. When you say 'the rat bastard', did you mean a plural? IE the clear majority of rats in the commons that voted with Blair?
    What will be real interesting is the lay of the opinion and the resulting statements (or as I suspect, silence) from the no-war lobby when the job is done and Saddam is removed.
    Trying to again retake a hijacked blog topic, in the context of Children I don't think anyone would have difficulty explaining why Afghanistan is better-off without the Taliban and why Iraq is better off without Saddam. Do you?

  8. 'When you say 'the rat bastard', did you mean a plural? IE the clear majority of rats in the commons that voted with Blair?'
    I think we've seen pretty clearly over the last few years that there are a hell of a lot of people in Commons who simply follow the Blair line. At the end of the day the position of prime minister in this country is an incredibly powerful one, and he was placed there to represent the people of Britain. Instead - as far as I'm concerned - he's lied to them and ignored them over this most crucial of issues. For a national leader to attempt to mislead his own people is a truly despicable act in any democracy.
    You're right about the opinions of the anti-war lobby after the war. I don't know myself how I'll feel about the whole thing. I think my main concern will be seeing whether the 'allies' really do implement a working democracy that improves the lot of the people of Iraq, as they have promised. The suffering in the aftermath of war can be worse than the suffering in war itself.
    But in terms of the no-war lobby as a whole... Well, they'll have failed, won't they? I'm resigned to that already; I made my voice as loud as I could using the standard democratic means open to me, and the decisions went against me anyway. There's no point sitting around bitching about this for the next few years. I'll remember it next time I'm asked to cast a vote in an election though.
    Back on topic...
    The issue of children is a complex one. Should we teach them any political stuff at all in school? Should they learn that war and fighting is bad? Should we skirt around the issues entirely?
    I was in primary school during Desert Storm, and I remember that every morning we'd bring in newspapers and read the latest reports out in class. We made a big class clipboard on one wall of the classroom with pictures and articles. The objective here was to make us aware of current affairs and suchlike (it was also regular nightly homework for students aged from about 10 upwards to watch the news, with questions asked about it in class the next morning). I guess if you over-analysed, that could be interpreted as war glorification, though - our teacher at the time was very pro-war and that came though, although we didn't think about it at the time obviously.
    To answer your question directly though, no, it wouldn't be hard to explain those things at all - but simplifying problems so that children can understand them is a very dangerous practice. The Iraqi problem isn't as simple as 'the good guys go in to take out the bad dictator', no matter how much Mr Blair would like us to believe so.

  9. Hmm, there's a lot to comment on here. Point at a time I guess. Firstly, you claim that the commons vote is just because people are following the Blair line. I find that fairly ridiculous to be honest because, when you count the chips, if you tally the three main political parties in the UK - it's only the least popular party which has an anti-war policy. A good deal of rebel labor MPs had attempted an ammendment to bide for more time for inspections and that's right and proper. Nevertheless, across the entire commons and clearly not just labour, the support was fairly convincing.
    I would say that misleading the public and lying is a tad subjective, certainly not a lot more than the usual politician engages in. Ignoring the public? Well that would only be the case if you arrogantly assumed that the public are no-war - which is not necessarily the case. Polls show splits either ways depending on which demographics you're asking. I'm *really* sick of this crap about how the British people are anti-war because there is no imperical evidence of that. After all, our democratic government decided the current action! You don't see Tory groups out on the streets shaking pro-war flags for obvious reasons, that doesn't mean they don't exist in a democratic sense.
    I note you say 'The suffering in the aftermath of war can be worse than the suffering in war itself'. Clearly true but again ignores, as does your entire political camp in my view, the continued cost of suffering of Saddam's regime.
    Has the no-war lobby failed? It's failed to secure a no-war, but I think it's served well to demonstrate that we're not a gung-ho nation and we do consider these things thoughtfully. I think they'll be a very great effort to minimize the human cost in the war, that might not necessarily have been the case had not so many people voiced their concerns. In so far as any of that is decidable by British forces. In some sense, perhaps it's good that we are involved so lend a moderating voice on occasion. Although, as I've said many times before, I'm dismayed concerning the entire no-war moral argument which is keen on weighing the cost of war on the Iraqi people but has no difficulty ignoring the cost of the Saddam Hussain regime.
    This is a man that gassed 5,000 people. That's 50% more than died in the twin-towers. Yet none of the pro-war lobby seem to give a fuck! They're not real big on mentioning the infant mortality figures in Iraq under this regime either. Strikes me as selective morals in action riding on a popular anti-American wave of sentiment.
    Getting back to schools and children. Politics clearly ought to be taught in school but a lot of effort should be made into making it flavor free. Not just because you might influence children positively but the reverse may also be the case. Rebellious teenagers may decide a political position is for them just because it gets the maximum rise out of the teachers. I wore a chinese red cap in highschool, it had the desired effect ;)
    My analogy about being able to explain to children that Afghanistan is better off without the Taliban and Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussain wasn't supposed to suggest that one should do that. It was tied up with my point that when the dust settles, that's what it comes down to. It will be that simple after the fact, unless things get very messy (which I acknowledge is a possibility) and if the post Saddam regime ends up being of suspect make-up (I find that unlikely).

  10. This is getting more involved than I planned :)
    The whole issue of misleading the public is, I believe, a key one. Robin Cook's resignation is what set me along this line of thought. There has all along been this belief within the pro-war camp that the Government knows things it isn't telling us for our own protection; that even though Hans Blix's reports don't seem to point to WMDs, they're there. That even though Powell's evidence to the Security Council seemed suspect, and much of the British Dossier was disproved, and the alleged links with Al Quaeda were rubbished before you could bat an eyelid, the government knew more, and it couldn't tell us. That has been a cornerstone of argument for most - admittedly not all - pro war people I have spoken to.
    Then Robin Cook resigns, and in his speech he tells us that HE hasn't seen any evidence of this sort either. Oops.
    Withholding evidence from the public is credible. Withholding it from senior members of cabinet? Preposterous. It seems that all the evidence in this case is sat right in front of us, and it's just a matter of opinion which way your judgement passes. This, then, is why we hear so little about the WMDs now, and so much about the 'moral case for war' - which was your next point.
    Now, I'm in total agreement with you - Saddam is a bad bastard. Admittedly there are a lot of bad bastards in the Middle East - like the Israelis, or the Saudi royal family - but Saddam is a bad bastard regardless. The people of Iraq would be better off without him.
    However, I think this is where our opinions divide. I don't believe that invading the country - with all the attendant MASSIVE suffering and civilian loss of life - is justified in this instance. Saddams regieme is oppressive and the gassing of the Kurds was very horrible, but his human rights transgressions are not on a level with the Taliban or indeed with several other regiemes around the world.
    Saddam, if my reading of Amnesty International's reporting is correct, is certainly not currently reaching the heights of evil achieved by, say, Augusto Pinochet - another American-installed dictator, just like Saddam himself was. I'm not defending him, although I know it sounds that way. I'm just saying that the things he's doing in Iraq need to be balanced against the suffering caused by an invasion, and it seems to me that in many many other similar cases, the USA and UK have found this balance lacking. Suddenly, in this case, it adds up. The suspicious leftie in me says that's because Iraq floats on a sea of oil. It's a hard conclusion not to come by, really.
    By the way, you mention the infant mortality rate. Did you know that there was an eleven-fold increase in miscarriages and early infant mortality in Iraq after Desert Storm? And a similar increase in cancer rates? Now no doubt some of this was down to misdirection of medical supplies, and indeed the fact that many hospitals were destroyed during the war. But a number of studies have also pointed the finger at the 250 tonnes of depleted uranium ammunition which the US forces left blowing around in the desert, most of it in tiny fragments - just the right size for inhaling. There's more war suffering right there.
    You end your commentary by saying that you find it unlikely that the post-Saddam regime ends up being of 'suspect' make-up. I really wish I shared your optimism; but while I'll grant you that Afghanistan is too early to call, beyond that I don't see the US and UK as nation builders above reproach. Every single intrusive action the USA has made in the middle east has ended in disaster and suffering for the people of the region - with Iraq, Iran and Israel being at the top of that list. I don't see any humility for these mistakes in the USA; I don't see any lessons being learned.
    I hope to god that you're right and my suspicions are misfounded leftie bullshit. I really do.

  11. I think you summarize our difference of opinions well there. I'm concerned with much the same things that you are. The shift in the state reason of the war from WMDs to the moral case has been palpable, I agree. I don't think the government intended to argue the moral case because of course UN wise, that's generally not a good solid case for going to war. It shifted to that to convince the people it was the right thing to do, I think.
    Not entirely sure where you get the idea that Saddam's human rights transgressions aren't on the same level of the Taliban. The Taliban was a nasty oppressive regime but it didn't systematically murder tens of thousands of people to the best of my knowledge.
    I don't think oil is the entire reason for the war but it makes the war possible, if you like. Because it can retroactively pay for the war and the rebuilding. It is interesting that you cite Amnesty International, because if I'm not terribly mistaken it is they and one other humans rights organisation that is all for deposing Saddam's regime.
    But yeah, I'm upbeat on the regime that will be put in place in Iraq. It can't be worse. Sanctions will be lifted, the cloud of WMDs will be removed (which you can't argue is a bad thing) and the country will be rebuilt. Not just damage from the war, but damage from Saddam. The new government, well, it'll be representative and democratic but beyond that it may take some time to learn just how much of a Western puppet it will be. It may be difficult to differentiate simple gratitude with active puppet strings - leaving the assessment of the regime to subjective analysis depending on which which side of the political fence you sit on. Nothing new there then.
    Anyhow, let's hope the campaign doesn't get too messy. Good luck to our boys out there.