When I send my three children off to school in the morning, I like to think they’ll be tackling maths problems, studying a bit of Shakespeare or scratching their heads over the difference between ‘etre’ and ‘avoir’.
I don’t expect them to be indoctrinated in extremist transgender ideology, taught nonsensical propaganda about the unique evils of Britain instead of fair and balanced history — or have their every lesson refracted through the narrow prism of woke thinking.
But what do I know?
The head of Benenden School — one of the country’s most expensive and exclusive bastions of privilege — warned yesterday that old-fashioned, unwoke parents like me need to ‘keep up’ with our children.
Samantha Price, head of Benenden School in Kent, said that dismissing students who demand change could mean they give up on equality and sustainability campaigns
Samantha Price, whose £40,000-per-year establishment counts Princess Anne and actress Rachel Weisz among its alumnae, slammed the few adults brave enough to criticise cancel culture.
Being ‘woke’, she insisted, ‘ultimately comes down to something very simple: being kind’. If only that were true! Caring about things is a noble aim. But being woke is very different and kindness is not in its make-up.
Instead, its driving force is intolerance. Cancel culture is a serious threat in our society — as legions of victims, from all walks of life, can attest.
But far more concerning to me than some dry argument about the definition of woke is the deeply sinister subtext to Price’s remarks — trailed in the media yesterday before a speech at an annual conference in Manchester.
Benenden School in Kent (pictured). The leading private girls’ school’s headmistress has defended ‘woke’ pupils and demanded older generations stop labelling them ‘snowflakes’
The job of a parent — and a teacher, for that matter — is to train and educate the younger generation. Not the other way round.
It is not for us to ‘keep up’ with our children — but for our children to keep up with the curriculum they follow and to study and understand their wider culture before they choose to overthrow it.
The suggestion that the old should be compelled to defer to the young is straight out of the playbook of the most authoritarian societies — from the child ‘Spies’ in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four to youngsters in Communist East Germany denouncing their parents for wrongthink.
Princess Anne is pictured centre with fellow pupils during her first term at Benenden School in 1963
Yes, they can show us a new app on their phones and tell us about new music and films. But that is not the same as telling us how to think.
And let me make it quite clear: our schools have, in many cases, swallowed wholesale a dangerous woke ideology that does warrant serious criticism by those few parents who dare to challenge it.
Only last weekend, we read in The Mail on Sunday of a brave campaign by Conservative MP Miriam Cates to pressure ministers to launch an inquiry into the ‘alarming’ spread of transgender ideology in schools, amid fears that it is ‘harming’ children.
Parents have contacted Ms Cates to warn that their pupils were being encouraged to change their name while at school and identify as the opposite sex — without parents’ knowledge or consent.
‘It’s quite alarming how widespread [such practices] have become,’ she warned.
A separate dossier of evidence compiled by some 350 concerned parents across Britain found many schools are using controversial ‘transgender toolkits’, developed by lobby groups such as Stonewall, that ‘guide staff on how to teach pupils about being trans’.
Benenden head Samantha Price believes parents should now be talking to their children about gender identity and diversity, and the more they do, the more the parents’ understanding of such ‘alien’ topics will grow.
Again, I ask: is this what the wealthy families who pay the school’s enormous fees have signed up for?
And there are countless other examples of bizarre woke ideology being inflicted on our young — who are then, we now learn, expected to take it home and lecture their parents in it.
At one London primary school celebrating Black History Month, the name Winston Churchill was erased from the houses in favour of footballer and free-school-meals campaigner Marcus Rashford.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling was also dropped; she is a controversial figure in our gender-obsessed times because of her views on biological sex. And speaking of ‘being kind’ — only yesterday Rowling said she had received so many death threats, ‘I could paper the house with them’.
Actress Rachel Weisz (pictured with her James Bond star husband Daniel Craig in 2013) is among the famous former pupils
In Yorkshire, a primary school changed the names of its houses from Sir Walter Raleigh, Admiral Nelson and Francis Drake after a former pupil alleged they supported ‘institutionalised racism’.
Sensibly, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi last month warned against schools teaching ‘white privilege’ as if it were fact. But in our oh-so woke times, I fear his words may make little difference.
In Edinburgh, one primary recently emailed parents, encouraging boys as young as three to wear skirts to nursery and school to ‘break down gender stereotypes’.
From acting royalty to ACTUAL royalty: Which famous faces went to Benenden School
- Princess Anne
- Rachel Weisz
- Princess Alia bint Hussein of Jordan
- Princess Royal of Jordan Basma bint Talal
- Enid Blyton’s daughter Gillian Baverstock
- Princess Benedikte of Denmark
- Actor Imogen Boorman
- Actor Georgina Cookson
- Agatha Christie’s only child Rosalind Hicks
Another top institution in Scotland’s capital, James Gillespie’s High School, scrapped the teaching of literary classics To Kill A Mockingbird and Of Mice And Men in a bid to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum. This, when To Kill A Mockingbird, in particular, is as furious an indictment of racism as you will find in literature.
The examples, sadly, are legion, but one more will suffice — and it may give an indication as to the direction of travel in this deeply concerning field.
The American School in London has some claim to be the most expensive day school in the country, with eye-watering fees of £32,650 per year. As this newspaper reported earlier this year, this most exclusive of schools now resembles one that has ‘fallen into the hands of a woke cult’, according to a detailed letter sent by exasperated parents to its headteacher.
‘Every subject, from art to literature to history, is now being taught through a prism of race or gender, at times to very young children. It’s pernicious and divisive, and we think illegal.
‘In the case of after-school clubs, they are operating what amounts to a system of apartheid,’ said the parents.
The ASL said: ‘We are committed to building and sustaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive school community.’
Where elite schools like this lead, others often follow. Phrases such as ‘white privilege’ and ideas such as transgender ideology began in academic circles before filtering into mainstream society.
Now it is time that parents take a stand and stop this appalling indoctrination of their children once and for all. School is a place where minds should be nurtured — not stultified by narrow thinking.
If even headteachers of respected, leading schools are encouraging their pupils to scorn their parents as old-fashioned and out of touch, that will drive a wedge between families — something no school should ever do.
It’s time for teachers to get back to teaching algebra and prepositions — and leave politics out of the classroom.
Laura Perrins is co-founder of The Conservative Woman.