I’m really getting to the stage where I think there is something sinister (‘Giving the impression that something harmful or evil is happening or will happen’ – dictionary) about the SNP and their attitude to children and young people. I’ve written about this before (see list at end of article) but the party’s School Election Campaign Pack 2016 feels like the straw that could break this particular camel’s back.
A bit of history is needed here.
For many years, in the run up to UK general elections secondary schools across the UK have often held ‘mock elections.’ If you’re not familiar with the idea pupils, usually older students, would stand as candidates for a particular political party, run a campaign in school with the support of fellow pupils, and probably speak at a meeting in the assembly hall to justify what they saw as their party’s policies, following which a secret ballot would be held for pupils to vote for their preferred candidate.
The whole thing was supervised by teachers. Properly done, it was a great learning opportunity and could make a significant contribution not only to civic education but to other aspects of the curriculum and to the personal development of those actively involved. Candidates would have to research their chosen party’s policies, gain the support of like-minded pupils, and find a way of communicating and justifying their candidacy to other pupils. Other students would have to weigh the options they were presented with and, probably for the first time, would learn how the secret ballot worked.
Now the narrow-minded zealots of the SNP have got hold of the idea and sought to what might be called politely professionalise the whole process, in their own favour of course.
A glance at their online ‘election campaign pack’ will show what I mean.
First, you will see that it refers to ‘your school election.’ Not a word about it being a mock election. Not a word about ‘If your school chooses to hold …’
Second, note how it takes away the learning opportunity for students. No need to work out what the party’s policies are, they’re summarised for you to parrot to your fellow pupils. No need to think about how you communicate those policies and campaign for them, it’s all set out for you. No need to get together and make some rosettes, order them from SNP HQ. Go further. Order balloons, badges, posters and try to swamp the school with them. And get some pens to give away to your favoured acolytes.
Third, what about the school staff? One mention only, tucked away on page six ‘Organise a “hustings meeting” [yes, you, the SNP candidate do that] … It should be chaired by someone neutral like a teacher so that they can co-ordinate questions.’ Not even a teacher: ‘like a teacher.’ No other role for teachers. Nothing in the first minister’s foreword to acknowledge any educational dimension to the election, no reference to the head teacher, to playing fair, to the role of other parties in a democracy … nothing.
The one thing in the first minister’s words you need to know is the reference to ‘Our fundamental belief that Scotland should be an independent country.’ That gives the game away, as if you didn’t know. Everything, but everything, including decency and fairness in education is to be sacrificed to the great goal of separation. And while we’re about it, let’s give the next generation of SNP activists a bit of training in how to do it on school premises.
What makes all this even more sinister is that the Scottish parliament chose to lower the voting age in Scottish elections to 16. So there will be a whole swathe of students in schools for whom this is not a hypothetical exercise in learning but sets an immediate context for their vote in the real election, and thrusts rosettes, pens and all the other tat at them as a reminder of what they need to do in May.
Readers with a memory extending back a day or two may recall this comes hard on the heels of a ‘Meet the first minister’ event, to which each secondary school in Scotland was urged by the Scottish government education department to send two students. Two months before an election. A coincidence of course.
How easy it would have been to avoid all this justifiable suspicion about nationalist indoctrination. The government, through parliament, could have transformed ‘Meet the first minister’ into ‘Meet the party leaders.’ They could have said to all the parties in parliament ‘Here’s a modest sum to prepare some material for schools that are holding mock elections.’ They could even have done all this for last year’s UK general election. But no, you don’t want the young and impressionable wasting their thoughts on anything to do with Westmonster.
I see that others who share my concern about the way all this is going are questioning why other political parties have not done the same as the SNP for school mock elections. Is it because they’re not zealots and have a more balanced and reasonable approach to the purpose of education? I hope so. Some are also suggesting that people write to the Electoral Commission to complain. Well, it’s an option although not one I’ve thought about yet.
All this comes at the same time that controversy about the ‘named person’ for all children rumbles on. I’ve not written about that but I have on other aspects of the SNP and young people:
The politicisation of children in the SNP’s Scotland continues. It doesn’t make a pretty picture.