Diversity of thought is vital in education

As academics in the field of education and social sciences, we are writing to express our concern about the recent pattern of statements and policy guidance by politicians proscribing certain materials and bodies of work from the curriculum in schools and colleges. This includes materials that support calls to abolish or overthrow capitalism, that critique white privilege, or that promote “divisive or victim narratives”.

We are particularly concerned by the misrepresentation of critical race theory, a well-established, diverse body of work. At a time when racism is on the rise, in Britain and globally, teachers and pupils can benefit from the tools and resources developed by critical race theorists to understand how racism operates across society, including in education. To target this body of theory at this moment in time amounts to an attack on black scholars and activists who are already struggling against racial injustice.

Dissent, diversity and critique are the lifeblood of democracy and of any educational experience that nurtures intellectual growth and creativity. Policymakers are in danger of stifling the climate of pluralism on which democracy depends. Recent guidance bans teachers from engaging with ideas that promote the disregard of English civil or criminal law, or that advocate anti-capitalist positions. Yet our history is one of struggles against prevailing orthodoxies by dissenting individuals and movements like the suffragettes, the Chartists, and the abolitionists, some of whom were willing to break the law in order to fight for the freedoms we enjoy today.

At a time when democratic institutions and hard-won commitments to equalities are under threat from populist politicians, and when a human-made environmental crisis threatens communities and individuals, classrooms should be places of creative, critical thinking and engagement with ideas that can help society move towards more just and sustainable ways of living. The recent student climate marches and the Black Lives Matter protests have demonstrated that young people are only too aware of current injustices and willing to act collectively for change. As educators, we should be supporting and encouraging their critical capacities and political agency through informed engagement with a wide range of resources. Attempts to limit the range of ideas on offer undermine this core educational and democratic goal.

Jack Bicker Senior teaching fellow, Dr Kate Bomford Lecturer in English education, Prof Douglas Bourn Professor of development education, Dr Alice Bradbury Associate professor, Alison Brady Teaching fellow, Dr Sara Bragg Lecturer in sociology of education, Dr Jacek Brant Associate professor in education, Dr Annette Braun Lecturer, Dr Will Brehm Lecturer in education and international development, Dr Theo Bryer Lecturer in Education, Dr Michelle Cannon Lecturer on MA digital media: education, Dr Elaine Chase Associate professor in education, health and international development, John Connolly Lecturer in initial teacher education, Prof Caroline Daly Professor of teacher education, Dr Jay Derrick Senior lecturer, Dr Eve Dickson Research assistant, Prof Peter Earley Professor of educational leadership and management, Dr Mark Freeman Reader in education and social history, Dr Katie Gaddini Senior teaching fellow, Dr Will Gibson Reader in social research, Polly Glegg Lecturer in education, Prof Lesley Gourlay Professor of education, Prof John Gray Professor of applied linguistics and education, Vivien Guy Lecturer in English education, Prof Jan Derry Professor of philosophy of education, Dr Mark Hardman Associate professor of education, Jeremy Hayward Lecturer in education, Dr Rob Higham Associate professor, Dr Rupert Higham Lecturer in educational leadership, Prof Evangelos Himonides Professor of technology, education and music, Ambrose Hogan Lecturer in education, Dr Ashraf Hoque Assistant professor of social anthropology, Dr Humera Iqbal Associate professor of psychology, Prof Germ Janmaat Professor of political socialisation, Dr Laila Kadiwal Senior teaching fellow in education and international development, Dr Alison Kitson Associate professor of education, Dr Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou Associate professor of sociology, Dr Claudia Lapping Reader in psychosocial studies and education, Lucy Leon Research assistant, Dr Ralph Levinson Reader in education, Dr Jim McKinley Associate professor of TESOL and applied linguistics, Prof Martin Mills Director of the Centre for Research on Teachers and Teaching, Sipho Morrison Deputy programme leader, maths education, Christine Nevin PGCE tutor, Dr Mark Newman Reader, associate director of Social Research Institute, Dr Amy North Associate professor in education and international development, Prof John O’Regan Professor of critical applied linguistics, Prof Amos Paran Professor of TESOL, Dr Caroline Pelletier Reader in culture and communications, Dr Kirrily Pells Associate professor of childhood, Dr Jane Perryman Associate professor, Dr Alice Pettigrew Principal research fellow, Dr Tejendra Pherali Associate professor in education and international development, Prof Ann Phoenix Professor of psychosocial studies, Prof John Potter Professor of Media in Education, Mark Quinn Educational leadership, Dr Victoria Redclift Associate professor of political sociology, Dr Rebecca Rees Associate professor, head of teaching, Prof Michael Reiss Professor of science education, Dr Rachel Rosen Associate professor of childhood, Prof Toby Seddon Professor of social science, director of Social Research Institute, Qasir Shah Teaching fellow, Dr Victoria Showunmi Lecturer, Camilla Smith Lecturer in modern foreign languages education, Dr Holly Smith Lecturer in higher education, Dr Gillian Stokes Researcher in public participation and health policy, Prof Judith Suissa Professor of philosophy of education, Dr Stuart Tannock Associate professor, Dr Helen Thouless Lecturer in mathematics education, Dr Matteo Tiratelli Lecturer, Dr Katherine Twamley Associate professor of sociology, Prof Elaine Unterhalter Professor of education and international development, Prof Carol Vincent Professor of Sociology of Education, Dr Nalini Vittal Economics, UCL CLIE, Prof John Vorhaus Professor of moral and educational philosophy, Alison Wiggins PGCE tutor, Dr Adam Wood Research fellow, Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research, Dr Tom Woodin Reader in history of education, Sarah Worton Lecturer in education, Dr John Yandell Senior lecturer, Dr Sophie Zadeh Lecturer in social psychology

UCL Institute of Education

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