BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
The future of education will hinge around pupils’ skills at source valuing and judgment. In a world where the best teachers will be available to pupils in hologram format, what other skills will pupils have to hone?
Stimulated beyond our imaginations, their task will be to ride the knowledge stream and skilfully embrace the real while avoiding the fake; recognising that at times secondary or tertiary sources are all they can base their conclusions upon; that the world is rarely perfect and almost always intelligence is determined less by knowledge accumulation and more through individual dexterity in managing judgment trade-offs.
We are still in the early days of the Web. Fake news is proliferating. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference between truth and lie, feasible and smear. We often look to trusted sources for our information but even they are being probed as their impartiality wanes; either in their frantic pursuit of a scoop or out of fear for their survival in a world where the US President renders them impotent by tweet.
In the fake news squall, literature and poetry should be an island of tranquillity – exempt from the source verification scramble.
Yet even they are under attack – the PC propagandists insist upon forcing some of the world’s finest out of circulation because, by their PC standards, they were racists or misogynists. They demand their own Säuberung bonfire of these authors’ and poets’ works – as if they are forever sullied by their creators; as besmirched as the artwork of Adolf Hitler or Rolf Harris.
Do these book burners of our day have a point?
By today’s standards, Kipling was unquestionably, at times, a racist; a white supremacist even:
Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden is seven stanzas long and is a pointer to the way Europeans justified their colonial ambitions, which are now considered un-PC. The poor white man, said Kipling, is doomed to the hard work of going to foreign places and raising up the local savages into civilised society. It begins like this:
Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half child.
Kipling’s Jungle Book is also barred say the PC book banners. And, yes, the story can be interpreted in multiple ways. Having watched the Disney version recently with a five and six-year-old, their and my conversion into racists by its racist and imperialist undertones still seems somewhat distant.
And therein lies the point.
Source judgment depends on the skills at a certain time of an individual. Taking away an individual’s freedom to judge is dangerous.
While recognising the benefits of awareness generated by the PC experiment – civility, neighbourly politeness and an increase in empathy – its pigeon-holing of everything has been a fool’s over-extension to the point now where PC’s more radical proponents often merit the daily mocking they receive.
The PC brigade’s hypocrisy somewhat renders its censorious stance to dust – calling for the removal of the works of Rudyard Kipling from the syllabi of schools and universities does not sit at all well with their failure to demand the removal of G.B. Shaw, the Bible or Quran.
Yet still they vociferously protest and insist Rudyard Kipling was a piece of offensive, racist and imperialist trash. Giving no benefit of the doubt to individuals’ judgment abilities.
Kipling’s opinions changed drastically over his lifetime, especially after his son Jack was killed in the Great War. Mark Twain’s views had a similar trajectory. As the men got older and saw more examples of how things can go wrong, they distanced themselves increasingly from policy espousing imperialist adventure.
If today’s PC Brigade were transported into the future they would fail as pupils. Their inability to put works of literature and poetry into context would see them scoring U’s. They would especially fail because their demands for the removal of all the works of an author or poet are foolish – when certain works within a partial context of an author or poet’s life are valuable in their own right even judged against a contemporary PC backcloth.
So, bring on the future. Like light to the vampires, the PC brigade will be cast aside by luminescence.
It is time the world started using its brains, which are currently lying mostly latent.
It is time Kipling became fashionable again. Quality, like cream, should permanently reside at the top. Let us all read Kim and any resistance will melt to mere whimper.
How should we treat the PC extremist experiment?
Let’s move on.
As that great man who wrote exceedingly good stories and poems once said, “Never look backwards or you’ll fall down the stairs”.