Will Hazel. The Telegraph, November 20, 2022
Almost half of young people believe Britain was founded on racism and continues to be “structurally racist” today, research has found.
The revelation has prompted concerns that children are being taught contested ideas as fact in the classroom, with six in 10 school leavers saying they had been taught concepts associated with “critical race theory”.
The research was carried out by Eric Kaufmann, an academic at Birkbeck, University of London, for the Policy Exchange think-tank.
According to polling by YouGov, 18 to 24 is the only age group that believes schools should “teach students that Britain was founded on racism and remains structurally racist today”.
The age group supported the statement by a 42-25 majority, whereas UK adults as a whole rejected it by 53 per cent to 24 per cent.
Critical race theory
Fifty-nine per cent of school leavers, meanwhile, said they were taught, or had heard from an adult at school, at least one of three concepts linked to critical race theory – an academic approach to race developed in the US, which opponents decry as woke ideology. The three concepts were “white privilege”, “systemic racism” and “unconscious bias”.
When asked whether they had encountered the concept of “patriarchy” at school or the idea that there are many genders, 65 per cent of school leavers said they had been taught about at least one of the two ideas.
Young people appear to be less attached to free speech, with 29 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds saying that JK Rowling should be dropped by her publishers because of her views toward transgender people, compared with 10 per cent of all adults and 3 per cent of those over 50.
An equal proportion of young people (38 per cent) agreed and disagreed with the idea of removing Winston Churchill’s statue from Parliament Square because he held racist views. Among adults as a whole, 68 per cent disagreed with moving the statue compared to just 12 per cent who agreed.
Rejecting woke views
In general, the research suggests that while the public as a whole generally reject woke views by a two to one ratio, among young people the balance is closer to parity.
Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs, told The Telegraph: “It’s sad but unsurprising that so many young people, befuddled and bemused by militant propaganda, have bought some of the lies peddled by extremists.”
He added: “As a matter of urgency government must make absolutely clear to educators at all levels that spreading this kind of information is incompatible to providing a broad and balanced education and that if they do so they will be seen to have failed the young people in their charge and be regarded and treated accordingly.”
Jonathan Gullis, a Tory MP and former teacher, said that “a minority of teachers” were using the classroom to push “their own woke agenda rather than focusing on delivering the world class education our young people deserve”.
He said this was a “clear breach” of teaching standards as well as guidance published by the Department for Education earlier this year reaffirming the duty of schools to refrain from promoting “partisan political views”.
‘Dangerous and divisive’
“It is dangerous and divisive to push such ideas upon young people and it simply doesn’t reflect reality,” he added.
Commenting on the report, Dr Samir Shah, a member of the Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, said: “Views which remain on the fringe in society as a whole, are held by a significant number, or even a majority, by voters in this age category.
“But what makes the survey disturbing is that these new attitudes challenge the very foundations of liberal thought: free speech, tolerance, debate, and democracy.”
She said that views “taking hold” among young people “run against many Enlightenment values”, leading to a “world in which nuance and tolerance is being replaced by intolerance and a fear of speaking one’s mind”.
Policy Exchange said the Government should update Ofsted guidance to ensure the political impartiality advice is “systematically enforced” and provide parents and teachers with reporting routes to flag breaches.