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Things can only get better. Educational funding and recovery.

The education sector has seen massive investment cuts over the past decade.

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“Things can only get better” – this was the upbeat, optimistic refrain ringing in my ears in the summer of 1997 as I completed my A-Levels. Tony Blair had ridden a wave of hope and hunger for a change, right into Number 10 Downing Street with promises of better things to come. There were many catchphrases in that landslide election win but, ‘Education, Education, Education’ was a phrase used often and, however complex the Blair legacy, there is no doubt that education did indeed become a priority.

A-Level students across the country may well be wishing that they too had a government who put education at the centre of policy choices, it’s sorely needed now. Education has been in crisis under more than a decade of Conservative rule. It has not been a priority and no flagship policy has been launched to enhance the sector (apart from various exam announcement fiascos over the years). Education Ministers have come and gone through the likes of a revolving door and the change has been punishing. The pandemic has exposed all the flaws of the approach to education rather than capitalising on the strengths of this bedrock of public life in England and Wales.

Firstly, leadership has been inadequate. School leaders are well trained and any cursory glance at any online bookseller will reveal the plethora of books by expounding various leadership philosophies. However, what is the leadership philosophy of Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education? Events of the past year would imply it is one of last-minute decision announcements (often in the holidays or shortly before they begin) and eventual humiliating U-turns when schools decried the feasibility of such moves. A policy of expecting the maximum effort from teachers, whilst offering little guidance or financial support in return. The January closure is a classic example. Schools were well aware of rising infection rates and lobbied to remain closed, but they still opened for 24 hours, mixing millions of children, before closing with no notice the next day. A pointless and dangerous decision which many still cannot understand was taken.

Secondly, there was the free school meals fiasco. The fact that many of the poorest of our nation’s children are struggling to find one meal a day and relying on foodbanks to eat is not something we can proudly promote. But rather than addressing the issue and centralising the right to have food, the Government instead chose not to fund holiday meals. It has taken a young footballer using his profile and compassion to change the Government’s mind on feeding those most vulnerable to their circumstances. Should the Government have been leading and not following, agonisingly slowly, on this? Can we, as a society, accept that a footballer has to be the moral compass influencing policy choices? Is that not the role of political leaders?

Next came the exam deliberations. We all know the difficulties and dilemmas surrounding the GCSE and A-level exams. This issue will no doubt raise its head again in August when students receive their results. All the pressure and workload has been heaped upon classroom teachers while exam boards reap profits for work they have not done leading schools to consider demanding refunds. 

For those students still in the school system, ‘Catch-up’ has become the new buzz word from those in power. Students have suffered by being at home for months, learning via remote links and lessons, and the Government would like to address the growing educational gap and “significantly lower attainment”. The very terminology used reveals the negative approach to addressing the pandemic legacy – children are behind and have ‘lost’ learning. Hardly a motivational starting point for our nation’s students.

A range of policy ideas have been trialled through the press from summer school to extended days. All have been rejected by teachers and teaching unions, those with working knowledge of the reality. How can an eight-year-old realistically focus on lessons until 6pm? The idea was swiftly shelved in favour of a 30 minutes daily extension, which is remains to be confirmed. The main focus has been on getting the children in the classroom for longer. But all this ‘catch-up’ requires money and money for education is in short supply.

The education sector has seen massive investment cuts over the past decade. With teachers’ pay being frozen for ten years until a slight pay rise last year. This year the pay freeze returns. That is to say nothing of crumbling buildings and underinvestment in staff training and resources. Investment in schools has fallen by nearly 10% in real terms since 2009.

The policies put forward by this Government are mostly ill-thought out and underfunded. Stop-gap sticking plasters designed to sound good but having very limited impact on children in the classroom. Take the recent resignation of Sir Kevan Collins, a respected educator who had taken on the role of addressing the learning gaps wrought by Covid. He resigned in protest after less than 4 months in the role, disappointed at the £50 per pupil per year being offered for catch-up funding. An inadequate and embarrassing sum.

Yet the sum is revealing. It demonstrates the value ministers and those in power place on education. Gone are the pledges of the late 1990s to eradicate child poverty and raise life chances for the poorest. Gone is the big ideal. Education is no longer a priority, it is not given prominence in policy or funding choices.

This is a grave mistake for England. Our nation’s children have already suffered through the challenges of the past 18 months. The educational legacy of Covid will be years in the making and is not possible to fully assess at this time. A wise choice might be to prioritise the education of these very children in order to safeguard the nation’s economic future. Penny pinching on catch-up will result in a generation denied their rightful chance to recover from the legacy of the extraordinary events of the past year. Perhaps all we can do is turn back the clock and hope, once again, that things can only get better. After a year of school closures, hungry children and exam disasters – it can hardly get much worse.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

A teacher, mother and radio presenter. Is interested in education, equality and community relations. Currently living in London.

Education

The need to diversify our education system – an interview with Allison Brown, a High School teacher in Richmond, California

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Allison Brown is an East Bay native, who after completing her Bachelor of Science in Health Education from the University of Nevada, Reno and receiving her teaching credentials returned to the Bay Area to serve her community. She is now the Health Academy lead teacher at Richmond High School. She works to educate students on the importance of public health and health advocacy. She desires to inspire her students to be change agents and health activists in their communities. She believes that when the world teaches and treats young people with love, respect, and like capable scholars who will shape our future, they learn to believe in themselves and rise to that occasion.

The Analyst: As a Health Electives teacher, what kind of impact do you think that your personal opinions have on your students or the material that you’re teaching? 

Allison Brown: I’m a Health Electives teacher at Richmond High where I teach Public Health Solutions and Health Careers. I’m also the Health Academy lead which means that I’m in charge of all the budgeting, spending and funding for all the students that are in the Health Academy at the school. 

It’s interesting particularly being a Black teacher, a teacher of colour, with students of colour. I try to make it a point of bringing culture and identity into this space. I think as a student of colour, when you are going through the education system, you don’t feel like you’re hearing your own stories, your history and your experiences reflected in your classrooms. You’re just less likely to engage with school and feel invested in it. So I try to bring a lot of examples about how Blackness is happening in the world, and how the experience that you have in health systems is different as a Black person or as a person of colour in general. For example, for my Health Careers class, we do a whole unit on research ethics and discuss how health professionals should conduct research in a way that’s ethical, fair and correct. We talk about the Tuskegee Syphilis study and its harms. With my sophomores, I do a unit on the Black Panther Party, and how their activism was seen as harmful to the government and some other people, but how it was really beneficial for the Black community and for the communities of colour, to have that solidarity for their right to health services and just basic needs and safety. 

The Analyst: What are the drawbacks of our educational system in terms of resources or infrastructure to enable all students to succeed? 

Allison Brown: This is such a loaded question and kind of ties into the last one. One thing that a lot of education systems need to work around is to have diverse teachers in the classroom with different perspectives. Students of colour don’t have much representation so they don’t see themselves reflected. Secondly, funding is a whole rabbit hole for education. Some schools are fortunate to have different grants and funding to support students but not every school has that access and opportunity and that makes a huge difference. This is something that came up a lot with Covid as well. Schools who were already 1:1 with computers had a much easier transition time for the kids switching to distance learning, versus the schools who weren’t funded and didn’t have the resources for the kids to continue to learn. Funding also ties into teacher pay. You can’t pour into students if you yourself are not being supported and poured into as a teacher. Most of the teachers I know live with multiple roommates or live at home because they cannot afford to live by themselves in California. The world does not run without teachers, yet teachers are super undervalued. So I think that’s something that needs to change. 

The Analyst: We hear that students of colour or from minority backgrounds tend to struggle more in the school system, do you agree with this? And if yes, then why do you think that is? 

Allison Brown: Yes, I do agree with this. I think that at base level, it comes down to access, and some of the generational things around access to education. A student who has full family support, he or she is going to do better in school and be encouraged to study and work really hard. However, students of colour struggle because of the lack of access to education that their family historically faced. This obviously is the case at least in the United States. We know that education was very much a white system and was not built for students of colour. So, if parents don’t have access to education, it’s harder for them to support their students and their education. Going back to the point where if students don’t feel represented, they might not feel as safe. 

The Analyst: I was reading about the school-to-prison pipeline in a lot of communities. And that was something I wasn’t really aware of previously. That was something shocking to learn about, that they are set up to fail, which is kind of like the opposite of what you’re supposed to do in the education system.

Allison Brown: I think that’s also super true. It’s a fact that students of colour are punished or disciplined for things in schools. If you look at suspension rates for any school, the majority of students who are actively being disciplined and being suspended and kept away from education are almost always students of colour. And if you are maybe being suspended, you’re not able to go to school, what are you going to be doing? Probably out getting in trouble, doing things that end up pushing you towards that pipeline which is not equitable, not fair, and is just problematic. 

The Analyst: Being an educator in our current times, how do you think that Covid and the recent attention brought to the Black Lives Matter movement has influenced your students? 

Allison Brown: It definitely had a huge impact. While some kids are thriving, a lot of kids hate distance learning. It’s super hard to go to school online. Kids don’t feel connected to their teachers sometimes and definitely don’t feel connected to each other. Emotionally, it is hard for students as they were not ready for it. As a high school teacher, I can see my seniors are having the worst time. A huge part of what gets kids through school is not just academics but also the social side of it. Schools provide that social place for students where they can grow socially and emotionally. When that support is taken away, a lot of the love that kids have for school goes away with it. Additionally, if students are at home and they don’t have access to good WiFi, they don’t have access to the learning and that can be a big barrier as well. Moreover, dealing with people around them being sick and dying is having an emotional impact on them. The other thing I’m seeing with my seniors in particular, is that it is supposed to be this time where they can go to college which obviously didn’t happen. A lot of the joy of that accomplishment of finishing and moving on feels kind of lost for them. 

In terms of Black Lives Matter, I think this is quite different based on where you teach, and what population it is. For instance, my school is predominantly Latinx, with a small population of Black students. So for our Black students, it’s obviously been a challenge because they already were not necessarily represented in the system. Additionally, when other people become aware of the movement, they are like, “Oh my God, this is a problem! Did you know this was happening? This is horrible, we’re outraged!” And for the Black kids, it’s like, yes, we did know that. We’ve been outraged. Welcome to the movement! So that was also challenging because you’re taking on the current and recurring trauma of dealing with watching people who look like you being killed in the streets, and then also dealing with having to educate people who just didn’t realise. So it’s not fair to put that burden on Black students or staff, and that’s something that definitely had an impact.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Touba completed her degree in Environmental Science from University of Maryland. Currently she is pursuing her masters in Material Science at Johns Hopkins University. She is passionate about gender equality, environmental justice, sustainable and ethical practices and women in STEM. Twitter: @ToubaaaShah

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How both real and potential danger at school is hurting our future generations

American schools experience multiple lockdowns every year due to both real and potential danger

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I was in elementary school in Washington DC on 11th September 2001. I do not remember much about that day in particular except that we were sent home from school. However, in the aftermath, one change to our school routine stuck with me. There was concern that there might be further attacks on important cities, with DC being highest on the possibility list. To prepare children aged 12 and under for the possibility of either destruction or toxic gas being dropped close to our school, we had a bomb drill. The drill felt very different to the fire drill practice where we would all chat and casually walk outside. We marched out of the classrooms and sat in the hallways in silence. Although the details escape me, I remember the tense atmosphere and the fear in the air. 

Reading about the use of UN schools as shelters for most of the 52,000 displaced people in Gaza brought these memories back to me. Although I never experienced bombs, the experience of our drills stuck with me. How much more vivid is the association between school and danger for children who live through bombings, even if schools are used as places of safety? Schools provide society with necessary services, including shelter, but the impact both practicing for and living through collective trauma should be acknowledged when the danger has passed.

Another strong memory I have from elementary school is not being allowed to play outside for weeks due to shooters on the loose. The school was worried we might be randomly shot from afar through the open fences surrounding our playground in the same way previous victims had been shot from a distance. We also experienced changes in how we entered school. Instead of leaving our parents at the gate and going into school, our parents had to walk us to the main door every morning and ring a bell. Someone would then look at the camera to confirm it was a parent with their child, coming to learn, rather than a murderer with a semi-automatic weapon, coming to kill. After the shooter was caught, life quickly resumed as normal. We returned to the outside world during lunchtime and no longer had to go through security to enter school. I don’t remember the incident ever being discussed or any acknowledgement of the possible distress we experienced. But sadly, this type of experience is far from unusual in American schools.

American schools experience multiple lockdowns every year due to both real and potential danger. Many children who have gone through lockdowns have lost the last safe space they had. Lockdowns have a lasting impact, even when the danger never reaches school. In the aftermath of one lockdown due to a robbery off campus, American high schoolers experienced a range of mental and physical health issues including difficulty focusing and stomach pain caused, in part, by poor understanding of the impact on students. The concern is even greater with the transition to more realistic drills using simulated gunfire or dress up according to Melissa Reeves, the former president of the National Association of School Psychologists. If there is concern about the impact of lockdown exercises, what about children who are experiencing ongoing trauma?

During just one week of May 2021, three schools in Israel and 50 in Palestine were damaged. Israelis left school to shelter at home while Palestinians left home to shelter at school. With a ceasefire now in place and 2.4 million Israeli children set to return to the classroom, the Education Ministry has instructed schools to use the first few days serving the emotional and social needs of their students. In Palestine, at least 12 children killed were already undergoing trauma counselling through the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Better Learning Program, which provides psychological support to school-children worldwide who have experienced trauma. Some Syrian children who lived through the Syrian war were so traumatized that they “couldn’t even recognise numbers or letters”. Should we not be thinking more about how the threat of violence and death is impacting children both within and outside of war zones? 

Although many of us currently live in places of peace, schools have often been, and continue to be, places that children need to be on high alert from events including bombs in World War II Europe, atomic bombs in cold war and present day Japan, kidnapping in Nigeria, shooters in America, and rockets in Palestine and Israel. We need to address the trauma that children are experiencing whether they are in an active war zone or not. For instance, when so many American teenagers support gun policies aimed at improving mental health, why are we not seriously thinking about how ignoring students’ mental health post lockdown may be perpetuating this cycle of violence? In Palestine and Israel, why don’t the people controlling rockets on both sides consider the tragic impact of similar high intensity situations on Syrian children? When our children go through lockdowns at school, we need to be there to discuss how they feel or at least help them find someone they feel comfortable speaking to if they need that support. Students shouldn’t be asked to resume their day as normal after practice lockdowns, but instead should have time to process together and work through their emotions before going home. 

Schools are places that will inevitably be targets due to the density of people and vulnerability of children. The current climate in many places means that we need drills in place in case something does happen. But these can be done responsibly following guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics to prevent harming the very people we are trying to protect. Although I did not experience ongoing mental health issues from my elementary school practices, and I graduated high school before active shooter drills became commonplace, I am deeply concerned for the youth of America who are growing up with this constant threat looming over them while they try to learn. It is time to ensure drills are done responsibly and children are cared for after lockdowns. We need to ask ourselves, do we want to leave behind a world of anxious, distressed people who have not been able to learn to their full capacity, or do we want to leave our future generations in better situations that we experienced?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Why does Oxford University not remove Cecil Rhodes with the help of Cecil Rhodes

Cecil Rhodes, a British Imperialist, made his fortune in the 19th century from diamond mining but he did not stop at monopolising the diamond market.

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AstacopsisGouldi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Oxford University’s refusal to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College highlights just how deep the roots of racism are within our society. The reasons given by Oriel College were issues around “costs” and “complex planning processes”. Luckily for them there is a simple solution that would remove the element of cost at least,  from the equation. 

In 1902, Cecil Rhodes left a will granting Oriel College a massive sum of £100,000 – equivalent to £12.5 million in today’s money. According to a report by a commission, approximately £200,000 of that money still remains. Why not use that money to remove the statue? Although this can never make up for the crimes committed by Rhodes in Africa, it certainly would be a step towards redemption. That is, if Oxford University actually does want to right this wrong.

Cecil Rhodes, a British Imperialist, made his fortune in the 19th century from diamond mining but he did not stop at monopolising the diamond market. Through bribery of the local chiefs and underhand dealings, he acquired vast amounts of land – North and South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia respectively). He managed to add some 450,000 square miles to the British Empire alone. He famously wished to build a railway from Cairo to Cape Town in a way that would allow him to never have to leave British territory. He is reported to have said: “I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.”

It is this English exceptionalism of his and his contemporaries which paved the way for ethnocentric attitudes which subtly still exist today.  For example, Rhodes was the architect of laws which helped to disenfranchise the black voter through restricting landownership and increasing the property qualification for voting. In the same vein today, voter ID laws in the United States, which are purportedly to prevent fraud, only serve to make it harder for people – mainly poorer, African-Americans – to be able to participate in elections.  

Now people seem to be waking up.  The ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign actually began in South Africa in 2015 and achieved the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town. But the collective’s aims weren’t just about Rhodes himself, but rather more about “institutional racism” and its long term effects pervading society and preventing transformational change and equality. Following the toppling of the notorious slave trader, Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol last year, campaigners in the UK have been hugely encouraged and are now taking their fight to the place of Cecil Rhodes’ formative years.  But will it change anything?Of course, the simple removal of the statue does not end the name of Rhodes or his legacy. Many things are associated with him that simply removing a statue will not mean the end, but at least it can be the beginning of an end. As well as Rhodes House for instance, based at the University of Oxford, the Rhodes Scholarship also provides a programme which gives an opportunity for students from an array of countries – many of which are ex-colonies – to study at Oxford University. The irony of the Rhodes scholarship programme is that one of the four criterions for selection is: “Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship”, all the things Rhodes failed to stand up for himself. Only Oxford University knows where the remainder of Rhodes’ legacy of £12.3 million went, but wouldn’t it be great if it could at least find a few thousand pounds of that to remove his statue and acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, times are a’changing.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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The role of a Father

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From time immemorial, mothers have always been seen as the primary caregivers, nurturers and ones whose influence shapes the lives of children. On the other hand, fathers have been the breadwinners for the family and are not expected to show affection towards their children as a show of their manliness. For fathers the norm has been, and to some degree still is, to give the kids “tough love”. In many cultures, fathers showed care towards their children through harshness. The logic behind this was to teach children, that the world is a harsh place and you need to work hard to earn your place.

The role of a father has not been emphasised much in the past, but research shows that the impact of a loving and present father is astounding. Those fathers, who were physically and emotionally present, shaped the future success, self-image and future relationships of their children.

When it comes to upbringing of children, by nature fathers have a different focus than mothers. Mothers naturally emphasise a moral upbringing by instilling values and etiquettes. Fathers, on the other hand, teach their children about responsibilities, courage, and how to grow out of the comfort zone. It is a balancing act of the nature, shared between the two parents. If we look at this way of parenting, it reminds us of the concept of “good cop, bad cop.” If a mother has to be firm in a particular matter, a father can show just enough leniency to not throw-off the mother’s goal but build trust and friendship with his children.

The same works the other way around as well. In this way, there is a balance and harmony established in the home. Both parents are still working together and have the same aspiration for their family. 

This family dynamic is particularly helpful in those moments when the child and a parent have a misunderstanding. The other parent can jump in as a mediator and explain the point of view of the first parent, and thereby foster understanding in the child. One may not be able to achieve this dynamic through single parenting; this is why it is important to have a both parents equally involved.

Fathers encourage risky play more than mothers. For example, climbing a tree or playing rough-and-tumble. This art of play helps children develop self-confidence. The knowledge that their father is with them, whom they trust while doing riskier activities, helps them build confidence in their own abilities. In this way, a father becomes the safety net that a child can rely on. They know that they can turn to their father for help. This process leads children to develop a deep trust and admiration for their fathers. This will shape who these children will become. The children will value their fathers’ opinions and naturally will want to make them proud. Consequently, the children would want to adopt the values and ethics taught to them by their parents. 

A child’s self-worth is tied to what their parents think of them. If children get reassurance with affirmations like “You are doing great!” or “I believe you can do this”, it allows them to grow into physically and emotionally strong adults. These reassurances have to come from both parents. A child will seek validation from his mother and father; and if one of them is scarce with their acknowledgements, as is practiced in the “tough love” philosophy, the child is likely to develop insecurities.

Another benefit of having a present and loving father is that his love and tenderness expands to the mother as well. By having a loving and affectionate relationship with the mother, he sets an example for their children on what a healthy relationship looks like. Children follow the pattern that they have observed and learned in their childhood. 

For the daughters, a father sets the standard for the type of characteristics they will be looking for in their future partners. In our society, we see that women who grow up with strong father figures, develop immense confidence in themselves and their abilities. Two famous and outstanding women of our time, Malala Yousafzai and Michelle Obama, attribute their success to the support of their fathers. 

In the forward for her father’s book, Let Her Fly, Yousafzai writes: “My father made me realise that my voice was powerful.” 

Similarly, Michelle Obama said in one of her speeches: “But let me tell you something, [my father’s] memory drives me forward every single day of my life. Every day, I work to make him proud.” 

These two ladies demonstrate how fathers shape the character of their daughters. 

Women whose fathers were not present in their childhood or were emotionally unavailable, are more likely to have unhealthy relationships. It may be casually referred to as ‘daddy issues,’ where women are trying to fill the void of a strong protector in their lives by inadvertently finding a partner who acts as a father figure. Often times, we associate ‘daddy issues’ only with women. However, Dr. Jordan in his research for Love Life Learning Centre, explains how absent-fathers affects their sons’ love life just as much. Hence, a healthy relationship between father and son, increases the son’s odds of having prosperous married life. It is worth noting that men who grew up in a household with a healthy marriage between their parents will be more respectful and caring towards women in general, but especially towards their own spouses.

We need to understand that fathers are irreplaceable and that they contribute significantly to a child’s emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing. A father who can help his children develop confidence is immensely valuable. He boosts their self-esteem, which will have an impact on how they carry themselves in this world. Hence, fathers should try and bond with their new-borns as soon as possible. It could be through cuddles, by talking to them, or simply reading books to them. When the children grow up a little, fathers should play with them and engage with them by being interested in their world! 

Research shows that even if fathers give just 10 minutes of undistracted quality time every day, it is enough to fill a child’s cup and it will work wonders. If you are a father, then express your love and affection towards your children and make sure they know how much you value them. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

GCSE history textbook edits have distorted the portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Pearson, the largest qualification awarding body in the UK which owns the multinational exam board Edexcel, produces history textbooks. In October 2019, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) complained to publishers about the books’ anti-Israel bias

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Pearson, the largest qualification awarding body in the UK which owns the multinational exam board Edexcel, produces history textbooks. In October 2019, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) complained to publishers about the books’ anti-Israel bias. Consequently, Pearson conducted “a full and independent review” of the books in cooperation with both the UKLFI and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. This led to alterations to the Middle East history books and their accompanying revision guides and workbooks.

A report released last month underscored how these alterations fashioned a distinctly and disproportionately pro-Israeli narrative. Written by two eminent university academics, Professors John Chalcraft and James Dickins (Middle East specialists in History and Politics, and in Arabic, respectively), the report found on average three changes per page.

Despite the considerable number and significance of the edits, no indication was provided in the books that they had been revised. In light of the report findings, Pearson has paused further distribution of the textbooks. 

Why are these alterations problematic? 

First and foremost, the conflict in question, despite it being a module taught in the GCSE ‘History’ curriculum, is by no means confined to the past. The crisis spills into the present. Its future is unclear and fragile. It is nuanced, multifaceted and highly delicate. A hefty responsibility falls upon educational examining bodies, syllabus curators and history teachers. 

While it may be easier to detach ourselves from historical conflicts that have conclusively ended, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ongoing and evolving. The time period covered in the textbooks is consequential. Key events, many of which are in living memory, must be taught with consideration towards the different parties involved and the tangible human suffering experienced by Israelis, Arabs and diaspora communities. There is no doubt that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict carries a lot of trauma for all sides. Many wounds from the conflict continue to bleed.

Its messy history tears at ethnic, religious, political and economic strings that have unravelled the social fabric of the region. At its crux lies an existential issue that splits the two dominant sides of the conflict. The assertion that the original textbooks had an anti-Israeli bias, of course, necessitated a review. However, the process undertaken by the reviewers was deeply flawed.

Distortion, Double-standards & Cherry-Picking 

The alterations have produced a partial perspective of a multi-layered history. Professor John Chalcraft, one of the report writers, told The Analyst how a “biased revision process has involved distortion on basic issues…cherry-picking in regards to facts and interpretations, and double-standards in regards to the treatment of sensitive issues such as violence and suffering.” He also emphasised the disproportionate role given to lawyers (UKLFI) in this process. 

Pearson’s choice to work with Israeli-aligned lawyer-advocates belies their claims of a “full” and “comprehensive” review. The seriousness of the complaint filed by the UKFLI did warrant investigation. And yet, it should have been self-evident that they equally needed to consult lawyers, scholars and/or regional experts of Palestine. It is crucial that resources provided to teachers are as holistic as possible. If those rewriting and modifying textbooks have an agenda, this will influence the social lenses that students, often unconsciously, adopt. This is what Pearson has risked by their cooperation (and lack thereof) with certain groups. A credible revision process would have averted this pro-Israeli slant. 

The Spectrum of Changes

The changes have crafted a myopic narrative that is significantly shaped by the language used. Language is a powerful tool of communication that can construct or destruct, our perceptions of reality. In schools, pupils’ perceptions are particularly impressionable. They attend school with the intent to learn. There is therefore, a huge expectation for teachers to equip students with the critical language and resources that facilitate healthy dialogues on complex issues. But when these tools for interpreting the world are already skewed, this imperils such dialogue. 

The report identifies how the word “terrorism” is used far more for Arabs and Palestinians than for Jews or Israelis. Furthermore, the revised version erases all references to “Jewish terrorism” and “Zionist terrorism”. Jewish “terrorists” are twice relabelled as “paramilitaries” or “guerrillas”. By contrast, Arab or Palestinian “militants” are frequently rebranded as “terrorists”.

There are also discrepancies in the treatment of suffering. The suffering of Palestinians is watered down in numerous instances. By contrast, the sense of Jewish and Israeli suffering is amplified. The asymmetry is exemplified by the changes to this sentence: “For ordinary Palestinians, life in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank was harsh”. The “ordinary Palestinians” become “many ordinary Palestinians” and the word “difficult” replaces “harsh”, which reduces their perceived hardship. The adjective “harsh”, interestingly, is still “retained for the conditions for the Jewish immigrants”. The edits play with the emotional latency of these descriptions so that naturally, some will evoke stronger responses in readers than others. 

Another striking manipulation of language occurs in the line ‘international law states that a country cannot annex or indefinitely occupy territory gained by force’ . In the updated edition this becomes “Some argue that international law states…” (emphasis added). This problematises the validity of what is unequivocal international legislation. This is one example of what Chalcraft underlined as double standards concerning “what is presented as controversial and what is presented as received wisdom, and what is presented as a perception and what is presented as a fact.” 

These subtle changes in language reflect how the publishers engaged with pro-Israeli groups to address a bias, only to perpetuate a different one. The publishing body chose not to collaborate with a diverse range of advocates, specialised academics, historians, and history teachers with the appropriate disciplinary credentials. Irrespective of where an individual may stand regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is objectively unfair to have the presence of lawyer-advocates for one side and none for the other. This impartiality sets a dangerous precedent for partisanship in editorial processes. 

A Robust Educational Framework

Our education system is critical for providing students with the skills, knowledge and tools to become informed and upright citizens. The pedagogical approaches in history classes need to be inclusive and cognisant of the sensitivities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

This approach must probe different arguments and sides of the conflict. One UK-based secondary school teacher, Ms Layton, commented that “…all sources have some kind of bias, unconsciously, and in some cases, consciously. I worry perhaps students take historians’ work as gospel and don’t question it enough,” indicating the importance of teaching critical-thinking skills. Students need to learn how to think alongside what to think. 

Ms Layton also mentioned how history teachers “pick sources that offer balance to ensure they reflect all sides of the argument”. The materials that authorities like Pearson provide must likewise operate by this principle. When asked about the textbook changes, Ms Layton commented that it was “hugely problematic” and reflected “the huge disconnect between what’s happening in schools and what’s happening in exam boards.” To address this disconnect, the content ‘providers’ (in this case, Pearson) have to communicate with other stakeholders in order to optimise the quality of teaching. This content should be regularly reviewed. 

Educational publishers have the power to spread or dispel bias. They cannot allow unequal influence of certain agendas and ideologies in school materials. The report concludes that the revisions “bolster pro-israeli narratives, and make pro-palestinian narratives less credible”. For students to navigate the complex terrain of this region’s modern history, there are certain pre-requisites. For example, balanced materials, analysis of a variety of original historical sources, offering different vantage points, all presented in language that is consistent and fair. Then and only then, with this firm foundation, can students proceed to learn about, dissect and critique world histories.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Education

Is Feminism fit for purpose?

Feminism is the notion that both men and women should be treat equally in all aspects of society.

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Feminism is the notion that both men and women should be treated equally in all aspects of society. In a seemingly male dominated world, much campaigning has and continues to occur to ensure that women no longer be viewed as second class citizens. But have western ideals warped the view of a once upstanding movement, creating too much pressure on women to feel like they constantly need to prove their worth?

The feminist ideology made its appearance as early as the 5th century, as Ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote in his book, The Republic, that women possess “natural capacities” equal to men for governing and defending ancient Greece. In this book, he advocated for equal rights among women, namely a right to education, stating “if women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” Despite such views, it wasn’t until 1878 that The University of London became the first British University to admit women on fully equal terms to men (although they were still excluded from studying medicine). Likewise, the women’s suffrage movement of the mid 19th century campaigned tirelessly for economic and political equality. The movement called for social reforms for women, particularly aiming for the right of women to vote in elections. This was not achieved until 1928, when women were finally given the legal right to vote at the age of 21; the same as men.

Despite the advancements of the feminist movement in creating gender equality, there is still a long way to go; it only takes a quick internet search to discover the stark economic, political and cultural inequalities that still exist between the sexes. In 2021, the UK was ranked 23rd in the Global Gender Gap Index, just below countries such as France and Spain, making it one of the leading nations for gender equality. However, as of April 2021, there is still underrepresentation of women in the House Commons, at only 34%, which is puzzlingly viewed as a point of celebration as this is at an all-time high. Furthermore, economic advancements led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, making it illegal to pay women lower rates than men for the same work. However, income inequality still exists as there remain discrepancies in pay between the genders, meaning that men are earning on average £4.04 more in hourly pay than women, as of 2020.

As a new mother who lives and works in the UK and is very much in support of gender equality, I have recently found myself questioning my worth within society. I have come to a crossroads as to how to proceed with the next chapter of my life. On one hand, it is viewed as highly commendable to build a career, achieve targets and aim for a senior position, but on the other, will I be judged for neglecting my family and roles of a mother if I concentrate too much on my profession? Similarly, there is much need to focus on the upbringing of children, ensuring that they have the best start in life and are taught important morals, etiquette and behaviour. But by doing this will I be seen as shirking from economic contributions to my household and making little impact on society? There seems to be no happy medium, as a balance of the two has rendered it impossible to excel in either area. It would appear that I am not alone in my insecurities around work. An article published by The Guardian found that women suffer more stress at work than men, in particular due to additional family and household responsibilities. Alongside doing a 9-5 job, women feel like they need to prove themselves to be as good as their male counterparts, as well as maintain their familial responsibilities. Despite the negative consequences of juggling family and work life, more mothers are feeling the pressure of returning to work, as The Institute for Fiscal Studies found the proportion of UK women aged 25-54 in work was up by almost 50% since the mid-1970s. 

It almost feels that in order to be viewed as an equal, a woman should take on the traditional roles of both genders. However, is this perceived ideology working to the detriment of the progression of the feminist movement as women who support the core beliefs of the movement struggle with its unrealistic expectations? Maybe it is time for a change of opinion of what it means for women to be considered as truly equal.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

SEN teacher and new Mum. Psychology graduate from York university.

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