No, St Hadrian of Canterbury was not black

Educational institutions are warping our history to make political points in the present.

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert

Topics Identity Politics UK

Schools, the BBC and practically every UK institution with an educational arm have become completely lost to identity politics. Just take the bizarre attempts to suggest that various historical figures were black, when in fact they were not.

The Telegraph reports that some schoolchildren are now being taught that St Hadrian of Canterbury, a Dark Age abbot from seventh-century England, was a black man. This claim appears in a presentation devised for pupils aged seven to 11. It is distributed by a company called Twinkl, which provides educational resources to teachers.

The slight problem here is that Hadrian was not black. He was born in what is now Libya and was possibly of Berber descent. Apparently, Hadrian’s historical significance or personal achievements are uninteresting unless he can (falsely) be presented as a black British trailblazer. Similar claims about him appear in resources by HFL Education and English Heritage.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The BBC’s Horrible Histories series recently put out a song, called ‘Been Here From The Start’, which implies that black people have always lived in Britain in big numbers – a claim that doesn’t really survive contact with the evidence.

While we often don’t appreciate the relative diversity of Britain in earlier centuries, this song was clearly another crude – and nonsensical – attempt to make political points in the present. It seems that many people in education think rewriting history is the best way to promote diversity in the here and now.

Schools and the BBC are debasing themselves here. The aim of education is to transmit knowledge to the next generation, not to ‘amplify’ the voices of ethnic minorities – who educationalists patronisingly believe must see themselves ‘reflected’ in the curriculum at all times. Meanwhile, anyone who objects to this fundamental shift in the purpose of education is scorned as racist.

At Don’t Divide Us, the colour-blind anti-racist group I run, we have come across countless examples of parents and teachers being silenced or sidelined for raising concerns about the woke drift of education. A divisive racialism is creeping into all areas of schooling, upending the purpose of education – and yet no one is allowed to complain about it.

You cannot teach children disciplinary knowledge within the straitjacket of identity politics. Doing so destroys what is worthwhile about a subject, patronises ethnic-minority pupils and distorts our history. In the end, it just leaves pupils more ignorant of what really took place in the past.

Those in positions of public authority should push back against this. Education is becoming a wing of woke activism. But they are almost always silent. They are unwilling to go on the offensive – to counter the divisive race-based approach that has now taken hold in school curricula and educational resources.

No doubt this job will fall to brave parents and teachers who know that education is about introducing young people to knowledge – not distorting facts to fit a woke script. Here’s hoping more people will start speaking out, asking questions of those in power and demanding that our children be educated, not indoctrinated.

Alka Sehgal Cuthbert is director of campaign group Don’t Divide Us.

Picture by: Wikimedia Commons.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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