Banning the BNP from classrooms?

June 23, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Posted in Education | 4 Comments


I doubt this’ll work for everyone, but before deciding whether or not to support some new legislation, I like to set a few simple tests. First, the proponents would need to convince me that the problem they wish to address is important enough to require legislation, that only legislation could solve this problem and that the proposed legislation will actually work.

Next, you’d have to be pretty circumspect in ensuring that the ‘solving’ of this problem wouldn’t then create a chain of unintentional negative consequences in the months & years to come, and that it doesn’t further restrict the liberty of people whose behaviours aren’t bothering or harming anyone.

By those standards, I’m not yet convinced by the recent call from the NASUWT to ban members of the BNP from the teaching profession.
Obviously, there are very good reasons why you wouldn’t want your child taught by a British nationalist: you’d have doubts about the quality of the teaching and their ability to evaluate a child’s work; you’d worry that they’d foster divisiveness in their classrooms and shove hateful half-truths into your kid’s head.

Even the party’s stock expression of outrage unwittingly reveals why a ban might be preferable. Their spokesman told the BBC: “People have different opinions, but they can leave their politics outside of the classroom.” Whilst true, that’s utterly beside the point. Teachers regularly come into contact with pupils weren’t born in this country, or whose parents weren’t born in this country, and who might only speak English as a second language. These kids are obviously going to need more help to get through school: they might require differentiated work, need a little more time to understand what’s being asked of them, or benefit from a specially-trained foreign language teacher sitting with them in lessons.

As a member of the British National Party, you’re more likely to be predisposed to hostility towards the immigrants who ‘leech’ off our public services, and this threatens to compromise your commitment to serve the public as a whole, rather than some imagined white, anglo-saxon subset. All of this could make you a spectacularly bad teacher.

Trouble is, by banning members from the teaching profession, you’re automatically assuming that their private political affiliations are inevitably affecting their classrooms. Unless it were born out with proper evidence, this seems like an assumption too far, and one which doesn’t really tally with other examples of where one’s personal beliefs come into conflict with professional duty.

An A&E nurse is surely going to resent stitching-up some self-inflicted, drink-soaked casualty when (s)he knows there’s some old age pensioner still waiting on a trolley somewhere. But that nurse isn’t then going to refuse to heal them, is (s)he? Likewise, prison wardens might be repulsed by some of the criminals under their protection, but they’re still duty-bound to stop them from coming to any harm.

Is a dislike for immigration really going to be so visceral that they’re unable to do their jobs properly? Maybe in some cases (in which case you remove them, and refuse to allow ‘but my party told me not to!’ as an excuse), but I’m sceptical that the incidence of teachers whose BNP membership makes them crap at their jobs is high enough to instigate a ban.

Ultimately, you want as few poor-quality teachers in the profession as possible, and membership of the BNP is inevitably going to raise questions about your professional integrity & judgement. But if you’re going to remove nationalist teachers, it should be for proven examples of professional misconduct, not for membership of a party which there’s no law against joining. If we’re going to beat the BNP, it’s not going to be by aping their tactics.



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  1. It seems simpler to me, although I think the tests you apply are very right. BNP members can’t be police officers, because it’s considered that signing up to a racist organisation is an expression of racist views – and racists can’t fulfil a frontline public service. I think teachers are in the same position as police officers, and I wouldn’t be at all sorry to see BNP-associated teachers barred.

    • The BNP is not an illegal organisation. If you ban people/organisations, they just go into ‘outraged victim’ mode – which will give the BNP further proof that freedom of expression is under threat in this country (actually, I think it is, though I don’t support the BNP)
      Anyway, I would not want my child taught by a teacher who belongs to the Socialist Workers Party – I think it’s quite likely that someone holding those kind of views would want to use his/her position to indoctrinate. Equally or more so than a BNP supporter.

  2. Oh, I wouldn’t be at all sorry to see them vanish either Sarah. The main justification for banning the BNP from classrooms is that we don’t want people with racist attitudes or behaviours teaching our kids. That’s something I can obviously agree with, but I don’t think a ban would successfully achieve that. Clearly, most BNP members are racist, but I’m not sure whether most racists are BNP members, and if the party is forced (as they should be) to open their membership to people from non-white backgrounds, I suspect you’ll see many of the genuine racists leaving the party in disgust. So you’re not going to catch every racist – might not not even catch most racists – and for me that still leaves schools as better judges of their staff than just implementing blanket ban.

    I don’t know, I’m certainly persuadable on this issue, but I just haven’t been convinced yet. Ta for the comment.

  3. […] way too far. I don’t think BNP affiliated teachers should be banned from the classroom, and Neil Robertson makes a good case here, but some seem to worry that we should avoid doing anything that helps Nick […]

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