State schools can do with no Tristram Hunt’s cynical Churchillisms

Tright here are many things I would like politicians to quit performing in 2015, but telling children to be much more like Winston Churchill is undoubtedly up there. Churchill was a great but flawed man (consider of his a lot more unpleasant traits, such as opposing votes for females, or colonialist jingoism, or a reported wish to machine-gun striking miners). The newest politician to be guilty of invoking his spirit is not Boris Johnson, who persists in channelling the man in the method of some inexpensive sideshow psychic, but the Hon Tristram Hunt MP, son of Baron Hunt of Chesterton, alumnus of University School School Hampstead and Trinity School Cambridge – as well as shadow training secretary and socialist reformer of the state school technique.

At a conference on Monday, Hunt is expected to invoke the apocryphal fantastic “British spirit”, saying that colleges have to instil in their pupils character, resilience and the capacity to bounce back. “It’s what can make us British,” he said. Churchill “was bang on when he explained failure is not fatal, and it is the courage to continue that counts”.

Now, I’m probably one of individuals spineless lefties who wasn’t caned ample at school, but this Churchillism – particularly coming from a Labour politician – smacks of blatant electioneering. The sooner this tedious zealotry for the iconography and conventions of the empire ends, the much better. By all means, adore your country and hang its flag outdoors your house. Patriotism is not a crime. But the patriotism I feel is a deep and enduring pride in the existence of the welfare state. The party, and indeed today’s schoolchildren, could understand considerably from Harry Leslie Smith’s Labour conference speech this yr, in which he spoke of the squalor, poverty and struggling of lifestyle before the founding of the NHS. The sentimental invoking of dead prime ministers in the spot of talking about any concrete schooling policies will not get my vote.

Hunt’s belief that British colleges have a pressing need to have to encourage resilience in the encounter of failure exposes his lack of familiarity with how state schools operate due to the fact, generally, they are already doing this. Individuals who pass via them are quite nicely prepped for failure and have a tendency to depart school confidently anticipating disappointment. If anything at all, colleges require to cease minimising children’s ambitions. Youthful men and women are already dealing with failure every day: not their failure, granted, but that of a method.

What could be far more resilient, after all, than leaving college and sending out job application soon after job application despite repeated rejections of subsisting on a zero hrs contact that gives you no employee rights even though you reside in a rented hovel with no hopes of obtaining on the property ladder of dogged, continued determination to make a daily life for your self regardless of the indifference of an establishment immune from a value-of-living crisis? The upper lips of the younger generation seem pretty stiff presently, from the place I’m standing, and I’m confident the subsequent will be no diverse.

And what of Hunt? It’s effortless to stand there and profess that the growing competitors for jobs and university locations signifies that “character” is much more crucial than ever. It is much, considerably a lot more tough to admit that character is of restricted use when a single hasn’t had the benefits that the ruling class (Hunt included) has had, that meritocracy is a fallacy, that funds and connections and a public college education nonetheless count for a lot more in this glorious nation.

It is even much more challenging still to admit that your presence in government is element of the dilemma. Colleges should be teaching class politics. This “British spirit” of which Conservatives talk so often draws on qualities on which the privately educated pride themselves – stoicism, repression, unwavering determination in the encounter of dissent. It’s an exercise in emulation. “Be a lot more like us,” in other phrases. But I really do not want to be like them, and neither do most youthful individuals. Never thoughts character – we have lots of that.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is co-author of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media


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