A teaching resource for schools which encourages pupils aged 7-11 to ‘respect’ terrorists has been received badly by critics amidst Tory speculation that schools are not going about terrorism the right way.
The book, ‘Talking About Terrorism‘, which was published only weeks before the Manchester Arena bombings explains that terrorists attack innocents because they are being treated “unfairly and not shown respect”.
Since the Manchester Arena and London Bridge terrorist attacks there have been reports claiming that terrorism is not being treated seriously enough in schools. Theresa May was reported to have said that there is “far too much tolerance” of extremism in Britain according to the Huffington Post.
Talking About Terrorism includes excerpts which seem to explain terrorists’ actions by framing them as sensitive people who may feel like “second-class citizens” and who are pushed into doing terrible things because they feel that “wrong or very unfair things have been done and not put right”.
The book incorporates various activities and structures for interactive discussion in class; one of which is an activity in which pupils are instructed to write a letter to a terrorist asking him or her penetrating questions. This was misconstrued as ‘vile propaganda‘ by some members of the public who voiced their opinion through social media. Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education Chris McGovern deemed the letter writing task as confusing and potentially upsetting.
“This a crackpot idea based on the misguided notion that primary school children must engage with, and show ‘respect’ for, religious fanatics who are seeking to kill them.
“It is part of the ‘British Values’ agenda that is being forced on schools by Ofsted and the educational establishment.
“The primary school classroom is not the place to humanise terrorism by ‘pretend dialogue’”
Alison Jamieson, co-author of Talking About Terrorism defends her position stating that the ‘ideological indoctrination’ surrounding terrorism of which she is accused of purveying is better presented through unbiased, level headed discussion, even amongst youngsters. She implies that not talking about these issues will not make them go away and the teacher has full control over the content presented to the youngsters.
“It is difficult to see how terrorism can ever be defeated unless one understands the grievances that drive it and where anger and hatred come from.
“As we clearly state in the Teacher’s Tip we are providing this information primarily for teachers. There is no suggestion that they should relate all of this to pupils.”
Chief Executive for the NSPCC Peter Wanless, who forwarded the book, supports the messages that Brilliant Publications attempts to convey on the volatile subject of terrorism.
“Terrorism is a difficult issue for children to understand, but we know from calls to our Childline service that terror attacks can often make children feel anxious, worried and upset, so it is important that they are able to talk openly about it and understand why terrorism should not be tolerated.”
Philosopher and teacher Christina Easton postulates that, whilst these issues should be treated head-on, the risqué attempt to quell terrorism should make it clear that there should be limits to ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’. Easton states that diversity is not always to be celebrated and the world would be better off without terrorists. She adds however that this feat cannot be achieved through simply giving one sided rhetoric biased heavily on Western ideology in a pluralistic society such as that of the UK.