For his 66th birthday, WMD enthusiast Alastair Campbell wants primary school students to come in from the playground and start arguing over politics.
While this may initially seem like an extreme point of view, his logic isn’t complete bananas. Alastair said, speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales: “Some of the most enjoyable stuff I do is going into schools and trying to teach young kids what politics is.
“When they sit down and they start thinking about stuff, it’s just so fascinating and innovative.”
The heart of his argument lies with the fact that private schools produce more Prime Ministers than state schools, leaving us with an obvious elitism problem in Parliament.
Ministers in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet are nine times more likely to have gone to an independent school than the general UK population.
It’s not just kids, though; Alastair wants everyone to be more media literate, telling the crowds to stop reading the Daily Mail.
“It’s political dumbing down, and we’ve got to stop that.”
I suppose Campbell is really looking to unearth the problem at its very core, and that’s at least earnest work. Political dog-whistles and empty promises have infested politics as of late – arguably thanks to that little orange surge in populism between 2016 and 2020 – and the best way to combat it is by challenging the lies we are fed by media outlet and politician alike.
I think Alastair is going about it in a weird way, though. He said, “Maybe you don’t call it politics”, instead suggesting names such as “arguing”, “policy”, or “big issues” which leaves me even more baffled. Imagine the chaos that would ensue from timetabling a bunch of kids to go from Maths to RE to Arguing class.
When I was in primary school the only way you could get us to learn addition was by playing Number Shark and they had to make that scary for it to work. How does Alastair think getting kids to “argue” will pan out? Is he going to let the 8-year-olds loose on 4Chan?
Either way, while I agree with Campbell’s message, this sort of thing is already happening in some primary schools.
Shirley Hammond, a retired teaching assistant, said: “Some schools already do that in years 5 and 6, but I don’t think any education authority would actually call it arguing. They usually call it debating.”