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Unite union's risible brainwashing videos: the weirdest suicide note in history?

    There was a time when teachers believed it was wrong to bring politics into the classroom.  There were exceptions such as the 'little red schoolhouses' of the 1970s, but most teachers aren't really political animals. Mostly they're too busy to care.

    However, we shouldn't be too surprised that our leading teaching unions have fallen in step behind Unite's 'brainwashing' video. Ever since the Tories foolishly introduced the National Curriculum, it has been an adventure playground for the left. The post-modernist poseurs who infest so many of our schools of education have reduced almost every subject to a vehicle for right-on causes from gay rights to global warming. But for the relative sanity of most working teachers, our children would emerge in the world innocent of all knowledge and unfit for any gainful employment.

    Actually, I welcome the Unite video. As many commentators have suggested, Len McCluskey behaves like a deep Tory plant. Trade union militants kept Labour out of power for 17 years after James Callaghan's 'Winter of Discontent', and our Len looks set to do the same again. This risible video, aimed at enlisting schoolchildren as foot-soldiers in the war against 'cuts' in social welfare programmes, is the latest manifestation of this apparent death-wish. Truth is that McCluskey is sadly in need of a mirror: like many people on the far left, he simply lacks the gift to see himself as others see him.

    Of course, this video will probably be seen by more Daily Mail readers than pupils. I know a lot of teachers, and I can't think of one who would dream of screening it in the classroom. Regardless of its politics, it's just too cringe-making. I don't doubt that there are a few militant teachers who will show it - Joe Nutt wrote a wonderful article this month for the TES on his experience of politically charged teachers - but even then it's unlikely to reach any but the converted. The vast majority of our kids think that any kind of politics is distinctly uncool. 

    Thus it has always been. Forty years ago I visited a playgroup in Archway run by SWP types, and they convinced their young charges that it would be fun to put on a play. At first the kids were keen - they all wanted to be stars, and they came up with several imaginative narratives involving princesses and pirates. But once their organisers 'democratically' steered them towards the desired protest against a planned bypass, the kids just drifted away and started messing around. It did my soul good to watch them pulling each others' hair and ignoring their pompous leaders.

    So let me offer my heart-felt thanks to Len McCluskey. And to Chris Keats, the chairperson of my own teaching union, the NASUWT. I shall include Christine Blower, the general secretary of the NUT, in my prayers. The Unite video may well go down in history alongside the Labour Manifesto of 1983, aptly described as the “longest suicide note in history”.

    Tom Burkard is a Visiting Professor of Education Policy at the University of Derby. He is the co-author of the Sound Foundations reading and spelling programmes, which are rapidly gaining recognition as the most cost-effective means of preventing reading failure. In June 2015 he was awarded a DPhil by Published Works by the University of Buckingham.

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