Some of the most powerful speeches at the NUT’s Easter conference concerned the damage being caused by the Prevent strategy and the demand that teachers assert and police loyalty to “British values”. Speakers explained how teachers are being coopted into a policing role to spot any of a number of spurious warning signs of ‘radicalisation’, and that this was already stifling discussion in classrooms as Muslim young people become fearful and silent. The dubious notion of ‘fundamental British values’ is deeply alienating and offensive in its suggestion that Britain is somehow a unique source of democracy, respect and social justice.
Alex Kenny’s speech to conference
Baljeet Ghale’s speech to conference
Also an earlier conference speech by Baljeet Ghale.
We need systematic research on the working of the Prevent strategy in schools, along with the spurious notion of ‘fundamental British values’ and how this is taught, including how it might be dealt with in questioning and critical ways.
Meanwhile, we recommend a close reading of this research report by Arun Kundnani, editor of the journal Race and Class:
Published in 2009, and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the report condemns the way in which the Prevent strategy implicitly regards all Muslims are potentially suspect, whilst ignoring violent racism targeted at Muslim communities.
The research clearly underpins the NUT’s position that co-opting youth workers, teachers and others into an espionage and policing role will be totally counter-productive because it closes down all possibilities of rational discussion in educational settings.
Among its recommendations:
- Teachers and social, youth and cultural workers must have the integrity of their professional norms protected against the expectation that they become the eyes and ears of counter-terrorist policing.To turn public services into instruments of surveillance only serves to alienate young people from institutional settings that would otherwise be well-placed to give them a sense of trust and belonging.
- The impact of racism, Islamophobia, social exclusion and everyday violence on the well-being of young people must be recognised.
- Young people should be empowered to engage politically and contribute to society, not made to feel that their opinions have to meet with official approval. The creation of spaces for genuinely open discussion about difficult political issues is crucial.