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Before the culture war on universities, there was a culture war on schools

Reading Factories for Learning by Christy Kulz, I was fascinated to learn of the new right’s cultural war on the educational establishment in the 1980s which I had only been dimly aware of. I knew the central place of the local authorities in this but I hadn’t realised how central education was to these attacks. From loc 376:

These changes intersected with the widely publicised ridicule of some local councils as bastions of ‘loony-left’ policies by New Right Conservative politicians and the popular press. The New Right used numerous fictitious tales targeting white anxiety to attack anti-racist education, presenting it as the cause of British cultural decline (see Gordon, 1990). Concerns over local anti-racist movements were crafted ‘into popular “chains of meaning”’, providing an ‘ideological smokescreen and hence popular support for the Thatcherite onslaught on town hall democracy’ (Butcher et al., 1990: 116). Outlandish tales of political correctness gone awry blurred the lines of causality, with New Right organisations tying left-wing extremists and slumping educational standards to the development of anti-racist education (Tomlinson, 1993: 25–6). Many local authorities adopted less robust approaches to race equality towards the late 1980s owing to negative publicity, while the Labour Party avoided directly identifying with radical urban left authorities. Sally Tomlinson (2008) describes how there was far more commentary on anti-racist, multicultural education than action within schools. Yet the political climate of the late 1980s veered towards framing anti-racists, rather than racist attitudes, as the problem (Ball and Solomos, 1990: 12).

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