At 1:09am I decided to go to bed. The referendum vote was leaning towards ‘Leave’ but I assumed that when I woke up order would be restored. It was a rather unpleasant surprise to find out that, several hours later, ‘vote leave’ had continued to gain momentum and that Britain was now set on a course to leave the European Union. My stomach positively turned, however, when I accidentally clicked on a link to footage of Nigel Farage grandstanding like some tin-pot Henry V.
It was with his words ringing in my ears that I addressed the staff in my school at this morning’s briefing. The mood seemed pretty glum, when I brought up Brexit, and I was careful not to dwell too much on the politics. The last thing I would want to do is to make a member of my team feel awkward or marginalized because they had voted differently to me or other staff members. But, after I had watched Farage’s victory speech, I realized that I needed to raise this political issue with my staff. I needed to remind my staff that we have a moral duty to safeguard children from fear and prejudice. Because when I heard Farage say that ‘we’re back to being a normal country’ I felt a real concern over the social implications Brexit could have on our country.
This goes way beyond any concerns I have over the practical considerations leaving the European Union may have on this country. In my opinion, the very worst outcome of this public vote would be that an unacceptance of anything perceived as ‘non-British’ will become legitimized. The provocative language that made up the brunt of the ‘Leave’ campaign’s rhetoric could very well, if not stamped on, spread and become normalized. The decision to leave the European Union could breathe life into dormant prejudice and convert it into explicit and misplaced hatred. Lines could blur. Immigration, already a misunderstood and deliberately perverted issue, could become the reason why non-white Britons become marginalized further and made to feel like temporary and unwelcome tourists rather than deserving citizens.
This is a matter for educators.
We have a duty to protect children, more than ever, from being isolated. Global citizenship has, overnight, become one of the most important curriculum areas in our schools. Whatever happens, in terms of Britain’s new position in the world, we must ensure that children learn to respect and engage with all members of their local, national and global communities. Similarly, learning about the history of hate, discrimination and persecution must also loom large on the educational landscape so that they learn about the dangers of national extremism.
When we teach our children about British Values, in the years post Brexit, we must make certain that we never refer to our country as being ‘normal again’, as Mr. Farage so vilely pontificated this morning. We must continue to celebrate the diversity of this country and pass on the message that embracing different cultures, and adapting to the constant changes that are thrust upon society, are what allows a country to thrive. We must enable them to challenge small-mindedness and see the virtues in the world around them.
Then again, maybe I’m overreacting. Children aren’t stupid. Not as stupid as us anyway. #BorisTrump