Trying to equate all perspectives harms our democracy.
I will start teaching law at Oxford next month. My first class is about a well-known case. I have recently read two articles about it, which have taken a very different view. Evidence of one is found, peer reviewed, and accurately identifies important issues (I know because I was the junior lawyer in this case). Second, published by a leading think tank, makes weak and unsupported claims, misrepresents the court’s argument, and barely cites evidence. Which reading should I ask my students?
According to Education Secretary Nadeem Zhawi, both should be studied. Zhawi has created a new one. Guidance On “balance” in teaching (despite schools, not universities). This seems reasonable at first. As teachers, we must be politically neutral. Zhao says the remaining “neutral” means that all perspectives on “politically controversial” issues are presented equally. she is “Root[ing] Outside worker educationWhen it came to Nottinghamshire Welbeck Primary School students’ political “bias” and “Urged to write critical letters about the Prime Minister.“
But mere political differences on an issue do not mean that all views deserve equal weight. Not all ideas are the same. Some are based on credible evidence, others are not. Some are internally compatible, others are not. Some care about basic human dignity and fundamental rights, many do not. An important part of education (and life) is learning to distinguish between “good points” and “bad points”. Subjects such as history and philosophy (among many others) teach students, above all, to analyze ideas in order to determine what to rely on. Successive governments have cut the critical thinking part of the curriculum in its favor. Route learning.
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The importance of critical thinking is evident in the case of Welbeck Primary School itself. O Momentary research This shows that the allegations of “bias” are baseless. The students were only shown an article from CBBC’s “Newsround” in which the “Partygate” scandal was discovered. He discussed the issue and asked to express his views in writing. There is no evidence that teachers tried to influence them in any way. Zhawi may be reminded that teaching children “impartially” means that they can reach their conclusions – even when it involves criticism of their party. The children’s views have, perhaps, more to do with the Prime Minister’s actions than with the primary school teacher. Expressing your opinion by writing letters or essays to students is a common and valuable way to teach citizenship.
A critical thinker may ask why Zhahavi has created a false pretense to increase the influence of the state in the classroom. He will be entitled to consider whether he is genuinely concerned with the welfare of children or whether he is in fact trying to score cultural war points in the tabloid press while his party is campaigning. Zhaoi’s leadership separates cultural war frenzy from structural racism and British imperialism. This means that children should be taught the far-right about the “positive” imperialism and the justification of events such as the Amritsar massacre, with weighted results based on the evidence of real historians.
It is bad for democracy to equate all ideologies because it makes meaningful public debate impossible. No position can be effectively criticized because any criticism is only the “opinion” of the critic. Instead of the best arguments succeeding, public debate is dominated by those who have the most resources and the most powerful platforms. Despite working on a false basis, Zhawi was given a non-critical platform in various major national newspapers. Their views were given far greater prominence (and therefore greater chance of persuading people), for example, by one of the many academics who met with evidence-based research on how to teach citizenship. What is a career?
The detrimental effect of the Orthodox “all ideas are equal” is obvious: British perceptions of factual issues (such as the number of illegal immigrants or the number of claimants to benefits) are constantly on display. Divorce from reality. Our public debate on these issues is not about reality but about what the person with the loudest megaphone tells us. Those in power believe they can use what they want.
Critically considering all ideologies as equals facilitates the spread of extremism. For example, the far-right activists on the BBC, those who deny climate change, and the antivirals’ platforms have been exposed to the extent (or sometimes even more) of what real experts have told them. Spread beyond the Internet and parent basements. Until they are imprisoned otherwise. Our media regularly dehumanizes the global majority, the bizarre, by putting them in “debate” against someone who refuses to recognize their right to exist. All in the name of “balance”.
Milton tells us to “fight truth and lies,” but Milton didn’t have to deal with social media or the tabloid press. I will show my students both subjects, but not in the same way. The first will help them understand the subject. There will be another cautionary tale. As lawyers of the future, their livelihood will depend on how well they manage the good and the bad. As citizens, our democracy depends on all of us doing that.