Dear Mr Cameron,
I’m a little confused. If you follow my blog (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you on your tea break) you would know that this often happens, usually following the announcement of some education policy or another. Then the confusion gets coupled with a bit of research, some healthy debate and then an opinion.
I thought that was what I was meant to do this time, with the whole ‘EU in-or-out’ thing. I’ve been doing my homework as an independently minded, resourceful citizen, and reading up on the EU from a variety of sources. I’ve looked at academic research on various aspects of the EU and Britain’s relationship with and in it. I’ve read opinions from experts on economics, politics, human rights and business. I’ve had some hearty discussions well past my bed-time with my husband on the subject, and with a wider audience (even the mummies and grannies at playgroup). And then your leaflet drops through my door.
It’s probably fair to admit at this point a couple of things:
1. I am broadly in agreement with the sentiments expressed in your publication;
2. I’m a qualified history teacher.
The first point should make you smile over your chocolate hobnob, as that’s one less person to worry about stuffing up the government’s plans for the next few years. The second point probably made you drop the rest of your biscuit in your tea and you’re wrestling with whether to read on, or find a fork and rescue it (your biscuit I mean, although education might be nice).
You see, when I trained as a History Teacher back in the days of independent thought, emphasis on skills, and teachers actually enjoying going to work, we learned how to examine source material for bias. We learned the importance of constructing well-supported arguments, quoting relevant evidence and referring the discussion at the end of each section back to the question asked. As History Teachers, we then imparted in our students the importance of testing sources against a premise, of spotting leading information and considering the provenance of sources as that may prejudice the information presented. We encouraged students to form their own independent conclusions, which may differ from their peers, from their teachers and indeed leaders in that field, but as long as their arguments were well argued and justified, that was ok.
If I were to use your leaflet as a lesson resource with a class in the future (presuming you stop my government butchering my profession and I can actually face going back) I would expect them to identify the obvious weakness, the determined bias and the lack of any counter evidence that supports the other side of the argument. Sadly the drawback of this resource is that as a rather clumsily produced and obviously loaded piece of government propaganda it would fail to provide the requisite level of challenge for higher level students.
So I’m posting it back to you as sadly it is not fit for purpose. It does not fairly examine both sides of the argument, and it does not provide the necessary supporting evidence in order to critically examine the question that voters will be presented with on June 23rd this year. I could also opine at length about the paternalistic tone of the leaflet which makes the assumption that I am too stupid and incapable of researching this issue independently prior to voting that you need to tell me what to do…but then your tea is probably long cold.
And the 34p?Apparently that’s how much it cost to send each household your little note*. Well, I feel really bad that you’ve wasted such an exorbitant sum of money attempting to patronise the electorate of the UK when you had such an opportunity to send us some useful info, that I’m giving you a helping hand. Maybe you can rustle up a leaflet for me (we’ll call it Volume #2) before June 23rd that gives the other side of the debate. You know, for balance.
I hope you’ve had a nice tea break. It’s been great to chat. If you’d like some help next time you want an informative leaflet knocking up, maybe you could let me and the mums at playgroup know. We’re quite smart really, and we’d be happy to help.
*I’m happy to spend another 34p if it means you do your job properly. I’ll try not to consider the fact that another £9m to fix this makes a total of £18m that could build a couple of schools and stuff.