May 29, 2003
Dangerous propaganda

Home schooler Julius Blumfeld writes:

I had a row with Mrs B a few days ago. The cause was the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. Usborne are highly reputable educational publishers who produce nicely laid out and easy to use books for children.

The Encyclopedia has a section on the Industrial Revolution. There is the usual recital of the horrors of the new towns with an illustration of a slum with a smart horse and carriage driving past and a caption with the words "The factory owner drives past quickly".

The text then continues:

Making changes Members of the trade unions and some wealthy people put pressure on the government to make life better for the poor. In the second half of the 19th century, factories became safer, and better houses were built. New drains and sewers made the streets cleaner, which helped to prevent diseases from spreading.

Going to school

In 1800, parents usually had to pay to send their children to school, so many children from poor families never learned to read or write. Over the next hundred years, laws were passed which allowed children to have a free education.

So life became better for people because the Government made it better and poor children learned to read and write because the Government passed laws to give them a free education.

To be fair to the authors, this sort of stuff is entirely conventional. Usborne are merely reflecting received wisdom. Nevertheless, I find it worrying. The book is designed for children and we all know that young children are incredibly receptive to the first ideas that get into their heads. Home educated children like ours are no different that way.

Yet when I ranted to Mrs B about the insidious dangers of this sort of statist propaganda, she looked at me as though as I was a paranoid nut and told me to stop exaggerating. So I told her she was an ideological dupe and stomped off.

I wonder who is right.


Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:33 PM
Category: BiasThe curriculum