A free event during which a panel of experts and campaigners will discuss how and why free speech issues are arising in primary and secondary education.
With audience Q and A.
The question of whether freedom of speech applies in relation to schools is a complex one. While we may want to teach children the value of free speech, their freedom to exercise it is clearly constrained in the school environment. Teachers must balance the disclosure of their own opinions with other pedagogical responsibilities. Parents need to square their support for the collective culture and authority of the school, with the desire to raise their child according to their own values and beliefs.
While there have long been clashes over sex education, often pitting religious parents against their children’s schools, a growing number of instances are arising where parents and schools are at odds over the interpretation of more secular values such as ‘anti-racism’ and ‘inclusivity’, and even over the teaching of history, literature and biology. Teachers are accused of overstepping the boundaries between facts and ideology, and between home and school, while parents are accused of holding out against the values necessary in a ‘diverse’ society. Some raise concerns that third-party organisations are pursuing their own agendas through children, by providing lessons and materials to schools, while others blame the government for taking the culture war into the classroom and the curriculum.
Free speech issues may arise if parents or pupils feel that the range of views considered up for debate within schools has been unduly narrowed. The fear of repurcussions, from teachers or pupils, should they or their children question fashionable beliefs, leads many parents to contact the Free Speech Union for advice. This Online In-Depth brings together a panel of experts and campaigners to explore the issues and to try to pose practical ways forward.