1970s >> 1975 >> no-845-january-1975

The Thoughts of two M. A.s

For anyone who wants to see anti-working-class propaganda at its crudest, we recommend the press statement issued on 9th December by the “National Campaign for Discipline in Schools”; providing it is held at arm’s length with a clothes-peg over the nose.

The signatories, and apparently the Campaign’s only members at that date, are “Revd. Valentine Fletcher, M.A. (Oxon)” and “Fred Naylor, M.A., M.Sc. (Cantab)”. They begin by referring to violence, vandalism and bullying in schools and profess to want “to help individual parents and to rally support for heads of schools and their staffs”; but their real motives emerge after that. They are concerned with

  The perilous state in which the nation finds itself, and a realisation that the problems in our schools are those of society as a whole.

They name three causes of the “perilous state”: progressive education, sentimental egalitarianism, and Marxism. The last is written-about incomprehensibly but with repeated allusions to a conspiracy to destroy. “Sentimental egalitarianism” means rejecting the “natural inequalities among individuals”, and deeming “all opinions and all values . . . of equal worth” as against “a hierarchy of values—than which there is no greater anathema for the egalitarian”. And they end:

  The problem of authority in the schools is clearly related to that of authority in other areas of society, especially in industry and within the trade unions.

What there is nothing about, in some 2,500 words purporting to deal with schools, is education. Nor is there anything to explain what the authors have in mind as “discipline”. If they argued that daily whackings produce better arithmetic, their intentions would at least be clearly stated.

But their Campaign is not of that nature at all. Though the weak ploy is to enlist people’s concern about bear-gardens in schools, they are appealing to others like themselves who would like to see “equalitarianism” and dissent squashed and blind obedience enforced—in society as a whole.

  The Campaign believes that all who stand for law and order, and the progressive betterment of society by democratic means should join it in restoring sanity to education and halting the rapid movement towards the breakdown of society.

Translated from the oily, equivocal language of university theses (“custodianship of a transmissible set of moral values”) that means: Put the lower orders in their place. In due course, the lower orders will have news for Messrs. Fletcher and Naylor. In the meantime, anyone who sees or hears of this document can perform a useful service by exposing what it is all about.

Robert Barltrop