“The children are our future”
Wise words shared by Nelson Mandela, John F Kennedy and Whitney Houston.
This trope is often wheeled out in modern politics too, frequently when hard, concrete policies and ideas to tackle the actual problems citizens face are in short supply.
But in the past couple of weeks, it has taken on a more sinister tone as politicians on both sides of the pond look to shape not just the future for our children but the children of the future.
Britain’s ruling Conservative Party backed the idea of a nationwide sing-song in British schools, with a frightening ditty which rather than celebrating diversity and inclusion called for conformity of thinking.
The song, “Strong Britain, Great Nation” was to be the centrepiece of June 25th as One Britain, One Nation Day, a ridiculous concept promoted by a campaign group backed by the Basildon Bruiser, Lord Tebbit, Ab-Fab actress Joanna Lumley, and worryingly, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP.
The idea of our youngest children being part of a display of national unity, standing and singing a song of national pride, seems more suited to Pyongyang than Pontefract or Pontypridd, but for Conservatives in the UK, it drags back the romantic idea of a better and earlier time.
In the US, the right has railed against the idea of ‘loony-left’ teachers and educators indoctrinating our young with Critical Race Theory, despite the fact it isn’t taught in schools.
Critical Race Theory, borne out of civil rights’ legal challenges in the 70s and 80s, is based on the idea that racial inequality and prejudices come from a complex mix of social and institutional practices which largely favour the interests of white people, rather than direct racist views.
But now, much as McCarthyism feared Hollywood would corrupt our children in the 50’s and 60’s, it seems the post-Trump right see school-teachers and college professors as the new threat to civilization as we know it.
And in Florida, where Governor De Santis is vying with former VP Mike Pence to be the front runner on any Republican presidential campaign for 2024, universities may lose their funding if staff and student beliefs don’t satisfy the Republican-run legislature.
Governor De Santis signed a bill which ostensibly promotes ‘intellectual diversity’ on campuses but in practice compels colleges to survey the political beliefs of staff, faculty and students.
The lead lobbyist for the bill, Barney Bishop, told the Miami Herald:
“,,,the way the cards are stacked in the education system, is toward the left and toward liberal ideology and also secularism – and those were not the values that our country was founded on.”
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson was even clearer in his views at a meeting of state university’s Board of Governors, calling the institutions “socialism factories.”
In line with the recent ‘amping up’ of the right’s objections to Critical Race Theory, these views seem to be looking to cement a conservative Christian identity in our youngest citizens, even if they don’t reflect the reality of a more diverse generation in multi-cultural modern America.
This weekend is July 4th in America. As much as it is the celebration of America shaking off the yoke of British rule, it was also the birth of a new nation, one which was supposed to be a welcoming and protective place for a variety of beliefs and perspectives.
In the same way that many non-mainstream religious groups were afforded a ‘new world’ to practice their varied beliefs, it can only be hoped that our current leaders – both here in the Sunshine State and back home in Britain – remember this initial purpose amongst all the jingoism and flag waving.
Martin Liptrot is a writer and commentator on public affairs and politics based in Florida.