Earlier this week, I wrote about the (necessarily) harsh disciplinary regime in place at Michaela Community School in London, under the rule of its famously authoritarian headmistress, Katharine Birbalsingh. Michaela is located in a massively multi-ethnic area where, in order to keep a lid on religious and racial tensions, Headmistress Birbalsingh has developed a policy of effectively forcing her pupils to become British, or at least to temporarily act as if they are so during school hours. Children are made to figuratively salute the flag and sing the national anthem.
Meanwhile (as a recent court case has shown), Michaela students are quite rightly not allowed to do things like perform public Muslim prayer rituals in the playground. But, in the name of enforcing community cohesion – or a temporary public simulacrum of it, anyway – neither are the white Christian children allowed to eat any meat, of any kind, just to avoid alienating or offending the bacon-dodgers. And, just to make absolutely sure nobody talks about anything that might inflame delicate sectarian tensions, neither are any of the kids allowed to even choose their own topics of conversation during break and dinner times.
Well, a school is a school, and a school needs rules, as I well remember from my own time as a teacher. If that’s the only way Ms. Birbalsingh can keep order within an otherwise potentially unmanageable environment, then what other choice does she have? I find some of her more excessive measures rather unpalatable personally, but possibly the other potential option is even worse. Rather than facilitating the creation of an infant multicultural utopia, more culturally laissez-faire behaviour policies may instead just end up producing total chaos.
Consider the case of Pimlico Academy which, back during the height of George Floyd hysteria, found itself becoming a kind of accidental ‘Anti-Michaela’. Whereas, at Michaela School, pupils respect the flag (at least officially), at Pimlico during September 2020 the kids tore down their building’s own Union Jack, stole it away to a nearby housing estate and then set it on fire to what the Guardian described, no doubt approvingly, as “resounding cheers”.
The Guardian took rather a lot of interest in the Pimlico Academy affair (see its reports here, here, here, here, here, here and here – that’s a whole lot of heres). National newspapers don’t usually run over half a dozen separate reports upon obscure disciplinary disputes taking place inside local London schools. Why did the Guardian care so much about what was going on at this one? Because, I would guess, it represented in adolescent microcosm precisely the kind of country Guardian writers would like to see Britain itself henceforth become for its adult inhabitants too.
Pimlico’s problems began when the school appointed a new adult Headmaster (sorry, “Principal Designate”), Daniel Smith, who initially attempted to be a traditionalist Birbalsingh-style disciplinarian who flew the flag, introduced rigour into the curriculum and reformed the previously lax uniform policy. Good for him. Unfortunately, the wonderfully diverse cohort of kids locally didn’t seem as minded to obey the new school rules as those at Michaela – not helped, I imagine, by our longstanding Government policy of handing out to any foreigner who asks for one his or her very own Passport to Pimlico, no questions asked.
One of the issues objected to by children was that, under Smith, the school’s history curriculum had been rewritten chronologically, with the focus placed upon what were termed “white British kings and queens”, presumably on account of the fact that there have never been any non-white ones, due to Britain historically being a white country. This left less space in the curriculum for kids to learn about more recent non-white British individuals of supposed historic significance, such as Mary Seacole, Mr. Motivator and Paul Ince, to say nothing of the now sacred Black History Month.
A sit-in protest attended by hundreds of student rebels was held in school grounds, leading to constables being called out to Police the Academy, as teens picketed the main entrance bearing BLM banners and chanting “We want change!” Soon, graffiti calling for Governor Smith to be sacked and sent trailing back to the Foreign and Colonial Office clutching his pith helmet appeared on walls, alongside phrases like “White schools for brown kids are u mad” “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack” and “Pimlico Academy … run by racists … for profit!!!” which should actually be the true slogan of Buying Large Mansions.
New elements of the stricter uniform policy, which asked hijabs not be “too colourful”, and banned massive afros so large they “block the view of others” were decried as racist: pity those poor Pimlico dwarfs unlucky enough to be sitting in the back row of desks behind Sideshow Bob and the Jackson Five. A petition of dissent was drawn up by members of the local TeenWolf community, declaring that “We as students have the right to express ourselves however we choose, and also have the right to have our natural hair whether it be big hair [or] small hair or loads of facial hair or no facial hair.” The petition gained almost 1,200 signatures from those pupils and parents who had successfully learned to write their own names.
As things kicked off, kids began complaining about literally everything at the school – even the fact the walls were painted white. The level of self-righteous self-entitlement displayed amongst some of the Pimlico students interviewed by the Guardian has to be heard to be believed. Just listen to this little Junior Marxist:
We believe the school has unfairly targeted groups of students. The school should protect marginalised races, religions and other groups instead of target them. We should see ourselves and our backgrounds represented in our studies. … Previously, Pimlico may not have been the best school but we were represented and we felt we were heard when we raised issues but now that’s not the case. The [Union Jack] flag has become a symbol of us not being listened to. It’s strange but feels like we are being colonised.
Are you sure you’re not the one doing the colonising here? The insufferable infant continued: “In September, many students expected assemblies… in light of the Black Lives Matter movement to show solidarity and support for black students, but were disappointed. Instead, students were told to form a club to discuss their experiences, rather than uplifting the voices of black students.”
And here’s another one, a mixed-race individual named Lucinda Merritt: “I always thought Pimlico was a beautiful, diverse place. It was where I felt the safest and it would have been my dream to teach there. … The flag issue has become a bizarre symbol. The school were aware of how it was making students and parents feel. The timing of putting it up was so insensitive and inappropriate – where students felt like they were backed into a corner and that’s why they removed [i.e., stole and burned] it.” Any student who feels the Union Jack to be “a bizarre symbol”, but the raised fist logo of BLM to be perfectly normal and unobjectionable, may not really be all that well integrated into our national way of life, I would suggest.
Except, actually, Ms. Merritt was not a Pimlico student at all, but a parent. A parent whose day-job was being a drama teacher in another London school, evidently not a terribly strict one. Prior to Headmaster Smith’s arrival on-site, she told the Guardian, Pimlico Academy was not only “beautiful [and] diverse” but also “a rambunctious, rebellious place” – presumably the latter two allegedly ‘positive’ qualities being a direct result of the former. (Although, to be fair, one of Merritt’s other, more valid, complaints was that her daughter had been pointlessly suspended for “eating a sandwich in the school playground contrary to new Covid policies”.)
Merritt would probably have fitted right in with the actual Pimlico teaching staff had she indeed ever found employment there: disgusted by their new Head’s policies, many of the Lefties working there threatened to hand in their notice or strike, calling and winning a vote of no-confidence in Mr. Smith with their union’s collusion. One such educator complained to the Guardian that: “Part of education is to experience lots of different perspectives… If you are only hearing the perspective of the white middle classes it becomes very restrictive and shuts off our ability to build empathy with those from different backgrounds – it becomes isolating for students from minority backgrounds.”
That sounds to me like a comically stereotypical illustration of the average Guardianista-style “perspective of the white middle classes” in and of itself to me. Incidentally, within the specific context of Pimlico Academy, white kids are in fact the true “students from minority backgrounds”, making up only around a quarter of the student body according to data from the time, so should this teacher not have been delighted to see theh history curriculum rewritten to focus upon such long-forgotten and marginalised figures of Caucasian royalty as Alfred and Aethelred?
Other adults were also on the kids’ side. After letters were sent home threatening student protest ringleaders with expulsion, several Labour MPs, including Jeremy ‘two Es at A-level’ Corbyn and Diane ‘the human abacus’ Abbott, wrote their own threatening letter to the school leadership team, saying that “as Members of Parliament, it would concern us deeply if their faith in democratic principles were shaken by incidents like these, rather than nurtured”. The MPs’ definition of ‘democracy’ here would appear to be ‘racial mob-rule’.
Eff Off, Mr. Chips
Coming under intense pressure, Mr. Smith and his senior leadership team met around a table with the rival senior leadership team of the pupils themselves, before bowing to their demands to remove the flag, end the “discriminatory” anti-afro policies and “make students from a black and minority ethnic background feel more welcome”, like good little subaltern natives should. “Being part of a diverse community is exciting but not without its challenges,” Headmaster Smith now declared, quoting an old Lebanese proverb. Capitulating to the multicultural mob, Smith about-turned and promised now to “celebrate our differences”, rather than ironing them all out by force, as Katharine Birbalsingh would prefer.
Meanwhile, he even went so far as to issue what amounted to a public ‘thank you’ notice to the kids for ritually sacrificing him to the dark gods of multiculturalism in the middle of the playground:
The right to protest is a civil liberty which, in the United Kingdom, we all enjoy, one that was hard-fought for and which not everyone in the world is fortunate to have [e.g., the people in all the countries the ungrateful kids’ parents came here from]. Our students are bright, courageous, intelligent young people, passionate about the things that matter to them [i.e., themselves] and acutely attuned to injustice. I admire them hugely for this [staging protests] though I regret that it came to this.
But, still this wasn’t enough, and on May 18th 2021, Smith waved the white flag (certainly not the Union one, that would have been racist) and resigned. I think there’s a parable lurking in here, isn’t there, about what kind of likely fate awaits the adult world outside the school gates once racially radicalised kids like these grow up and begin throwing their weight around the nation more widely?
Politics of the Playground
So, in these two contrasting London schools, Pimlico and Michaela, we see outlined in embryonic form the potential future political fate of our country. Personally, I wouldn’t wish to send a child to either of them. But, in the end, a parent has to choose: and, understandably, many would choose the regimented military boot-camp over the chaotic anarchic training-complex.
Katharine Birbalsingh’s school/compound is, I believe, massively oversubscribed. Well, in the middle of a war, who wouldn’t want to live inside a big, well-protected castle? If you give people a choice between two competing dismal options – tyranny or anarchy – then a substantial majority would probably choose tyranny, and not irrationally so.
When faced with increasing racial, ethnic and religious chaos of the sort which is clearly growing worse with each passing year across Europe, the temptation for electorates will only grow ever stronger to one day vote in a Michaela-type figure who promises to end at last the ruinous war of all against all by curtailing the liberties of everyone for the sake of the ‘greater good’. Such figures may well be malign, and simply seeking yet more power for its own sake, or they may well, like the real-life Ms. Birbalsingh, only be trying to provide society with the least worst option still left open to it.
Our ancestors, those who once fought and died for actual freedom, would be bemused we have allowed ourselves even to be placed in such a position. And yet, today, alea iacta est, the die is cast: no easy or agreeable options are any more left open to us, just hard and unappealing ones. For tomorrow’s schoolchildren, the choice will be between attending Michaela School or Pimlico Academy. For tomorrow’s adults, likewise, the choice may well be between living in North Korea or civil war-era Lebanon. I can’t help but feel, overall, I’d much rather be living in England again, thanks very much.
Steven Tucker is a journalist and the author of over 10 books, the latest being Hitler’s & Stalin’s Misuse of Science: When Science Fiction Was Turned Into Science Fact by the Nazis and the Soviets (Pen & Sword/Frontline), which is out now.