Teaching citizenship protects young people from extremism

‘The teacher’ (our newest contributor) writes about a recent lesson in ‘Citizenship’ that certainly seems to have hit the  spot. The Biffers probably won’t like lessons like this one but we do. Read on to see what y0u think…

Writing to argue against the right wing of this country has always been an ambition of mine so I was delighted when I was given the chance to write a piece for the Exposing Britain First blog.

EBF BF citizenship education memeI am a teacher in a local secondary school. I teach Citizenship which gives me some freedom to cover topics that have an influence on society and are also current and relevant to my student’s lives. I was inspired to contact EBF when I decided to teach a lesson to my students about how propaganda is used to manipulate people to adopt a certain way of thinking.

The main body of the lesson was to have the students look at some Britain First posters that were taken directly from their Facebook page. I asked the students to build up an image of what these pictures meant. The conceptions that came from the students was one of shock. One student in particular said she couldn’t believe that Britain was changing so much and that she was concerned that it was losing its identity. This was exactly the sort of response that I was looking for and I am sure it is the intended response of Britain First.

Whilst it was the response I had intended it was still one that shocked me. Young people have unprecedented access to an unprecedented amount of information and can easily be exposed to propaganda that can unduly influence their way of thinking. Without a proper filter or someone to draw attention to the amount of bullshit out there this could lead to society heading in a dangerous direction. The rest of the lesson was spent looking at pictures created by EBF that gave the students the correct information and allowed the students to make an informed decision about the content raised by Britain First.

The responses of the students was pleasing as it allowed them to arrive at an informed decision. They could not believe that they had been so easily duped by the original pictures. A number of students felt ashamed and there was a feeling of anger aimed towards BF. The lesson ended with the students asking me to tell them how they could become a part of EBF and asking for their Facebook details.

Prior to this we had spent a number of lessons looking at Migration and the concept of integration. The school I work at is situated in a poverty stricken area and has a high proportion of white working class boys so on the face of it one would expect some resistance to the concept of integration. However, on the whole the students really showed a high level of maturity and a free thinking attitude. This came as quite a surprise to me and made me question my conceptions of the level of influence that right wing groups have on our young minds. I think the growing popularity of UKIP and other splinter groups such as the EDL and BF led me to believe that young people would carry the torch and we would end up with a right leaning Government. However, it would seem that all young people need is some guidance and education to allow them to open their minds and make an informed and well-rounded decision.

I had been meaning to write this piece for a while and following the events in Paris it felt apt to do it now. Following the tragic events in Paris I decided to review the BF Facebook page to see what the general consensus was when it came to the comments made about the attacks. As expected the comments were vile and racist and involved Muslim bashing and a general lack of knowledge and any form of intelligence to the comments.
Obviously when writing about such a sensitive subject it is important to tread carefully as to not offend people. I personally chose to remain silent on social media following the attacks but like a nosey neighbour I was happy to view what others thought about the events. Generally I feel that people are of the opinion that the terrorists who carried out the attacks were not Muslims as their actions are in direct conflict with the Islamic Faith. However, BF and its members seem unable to make that distinction and simply tarred peaceful and loving members of Islam with the same brush.

If it wasn’t for the views of my class giving me some comfort that society isn’t doomed I think I would have been incredibly scared following the comments I read on the weekend after the events in Paris. I feel that society has a long way to go and I do feel that the direction we are heading in is not the best one. For me education is the key to reversing the damage caused by right wing groups. Our young people need to learn the skill of questioning what they read or are told by people and reaching their own informed conclusions. Tension and racism will, sadly, always be present in our country but we all have a collective responsibility to educate our youngest members of society to ensure they make the right choices in life.

We live in a multicultural society and it has been that way for hundreds of years. That is what makes Britain great. Multiculturalism is my Britain and hopefully that view will eventually be the same for everyone else.

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