This is a guest post by Le flâneur
East London Gay Pride was due to be held on April 2nd as a response to disturbing anti-gay stickers plastered around London’s East End. As the event has now collapsed, following allegations of infiltration by the Far Right and LGBT community in-fighting, I am left wondering whether those who carelessly sneer at the very idea of incorporating equality and anti-discrimination into the education of young people feel any responsibility or remorse for the part they play in encouraging phobia? Nothing positive has come out of this – the Far Right have incredibly but successfully linked themselves with Islamist fundamentalists to strike fear and suspicion into the heart of the community, with gay people and moderate Muslims particularly vulnerable.
Stoke Newington borders this area of East London and it was Stoke Newington School’s concert celebrating LGBT awareness which attracted the attention of the writer Toby Young who wrote a “satirical” article for the Spectator, mocking the concert, which he did not actually attend.
From the comments of the Spectator piece, here’s a description of what happened at the concert:
A Year 7 student explained how they had been working in ICT on Alan Turing, a key part of the codebreaking team at Bletchley Park and held by many to be the father of modern computing. He was arrested for being gay in 1952, forced to take hormone tablets and committed suicide in 1954.
There was a special guest appearance from paralympics athlete Clare Harvey, who captained Scotland at Rugby before a horrific bicycle athlete confined her to a wheelchair. Now she is part of UK’s floor volleyball team, getting up at 4.30 each morning for intensive training. She talked about the decision about whether to keep her sexual orientation hidden and live a lie in public or be open about being a Lesbian.
Does he mention this? No, he does not.
Instead, he falsely insinuates that the school’s children were dragooned by teachers (or “left-wing nutters” – the term he used to describe teachers and other people critical of free schools on his Telegraph blog) into the indoctrination of politically correct dogma in an atmosphere of oppression.
Unpleasant as this is, none of this would be particularly worrying were it not for the fact that, despite being the Chair of Governors of the West London Free School, Mr Young appears unaware that his school has a moral and statutory duty to teach not just the academic curriculum but also the civic PSHCE topics covering inclusion and diversity such as LGBT awareness. There now has to be concern for LGBT teachers and students at his school, if their Governor has already expressed derision towards another school which is tackling discrimination. And should other minorities in his school now wonder if they will have the support of the Chair of Governors if they face bullying or discrimination?
It is interesting that he penned these articles right after the Government effectively gave him the green light to go ahead with his WLFS. Yet The Department of Education states quite clearly that Michael Gove “would expect that all proposals will comply with all aspects of the rigorous suitability and vetting tests throughout the application process, including CRB checks, and will reject any proposers who advocate violence, intolerance, hatred or whose ideology runs counter to the UK’s democratic values.” And with David Cameron so keen to back LGBT week and to see equality “embedded” in schools, how can Mr.Young’s energetic and public mission to misrepresent, ridicule and divide be compatible with Government policy or good educational practice?
So, this isn’t about party politics, or the merits of free schools versus state comprehensives. It’s not about the loony left versus the conservative right or academic achievements compromised by time “wasted” on celebrating minorities. It’s about eradicating hatred, so how many rational people out there would actually stand up and oppose this?
It’s a short distance between sniggering mockery and full blown persecution and it’s not a journey any responsible person would want to travel. Toby Young has not advocated hatred but his conduct and judgement have nevertheless been seriously flawed and so his suitability to be involved at the highest level in the education of children has to be called into question.