I did not go to the Sunday Times Festival of Education last year. Colleagues and friends attended and I even encouraged other people to go to experience the educational substance and froth alike. I was invited to speak but I turned the invitation down.
Why? The main reason was The Times nominating Nigel Farage as ‘Briton of the Year’.
It should be pretty clear that I don’t agree with his politics on race/identity and I thought it pretty insensitive (if I am being generous) for him to be given the title on that basis. At the time, I tried to find the criteria used for selection but I could not find a published rationale (I would be very interested in it if it does exist). It may be that the title ‘Briton of the Year’ is awarded based on notoriety or impact, but as any teacher knows, highlighting the impact of someone’s poor behaviour usually confers legitimacy and creates a social norm where it is acceptable to act in the way identified. There is even some research on this problematic effect in society. See this from the ‘Nudge’ unit on page 31.
But what does the The Times have to do with the conference? Well, The Times is not The Sunday Times but there is a little more to it:
- The registered offices are the same address in London;
- They are owned/published by the same company (News Corp & News UK)
- You pay one subscription for access to both papers (I pay the student cost as I like to read very different views to my own. I knew my university card would come in handy).
If an organisation (News Corp/News UK) wants to support such views through one of its publications, no problem. However, I did not feel it was appropriate to attend/speak at an educational conference (focussed on inclusion and human betterment) when it was sponsored by another publication of the same company that unthinkingly (being generous again) supports such divisive politics. The reasoning is simple. If one department in a company had acted inappropriately, would the department be the focus of concern or the company itself? Out of respect for the organisers on the ground, I decided not to publish my withdrawal.
I only mention not attending/speaking now because I referred to it on social media over the weekend when commenting on equality and diversity (see my last post) and was challenged about it. I apparently ‘glommed’ the two publications together (despite the fact that they are owned by the same company etc).
The conference has a new sponsor this year and I might actually attend so I can listen to a few select people talk about the great work they are doing in schools. Of course, it does depend on whether the Telegraph writes something incredibly daft.