Schools (Propaganda)

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1950.

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Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes 12:00 am, 20th July 1950

asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware that Communist propaganda is being taught in many schools; and if he will issue a circular insisting that all such propaganda ceases forthwith.

Photo of Mr George Tomlinson Mr George Tomlinson , Farnworth

It is a long established and well understood rule that teachers should not use their position to propagate their political views in the course of instruction. I have no evidence that this rule is being broken, but if the hon. and gallant Member has any particular case in mind and will let me have information I will investigate it.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

If I give the Minister a copy of the text book I hold in my hand called "Life in the U.S.S.R." written by Mrs. Beatrice King, well known for her Communist associations, will he undertake to have this book withdrawn immediately from circulation, since it is Communist propaganda at its worst? Is it not a shocking and scandalous thing that the British taxpayer should pay for this subversive propaganda which is being taught to our children in the schools?

Photo of Mr George Tomlinson Mr George Tomlinson , Farnworth

If the book is drawn to my notice, I will certainly look at it. I would point out that it was published in 1944, when people were saying different things about the U.S.S.R. from what they are saying today; but if it is being used for propaganda purposes, and I can find evidence of that, I will certainly inquire into it.

Photo of Mr Ralph Morley Mr Ralph Morley , Southampton, Itchen

Is the Minister aware that the question of the hon. and gallant Member constitutes a gross reflection on the professional integrity of the teachers of this country, and that all teachers are united in condemning any attempt at political propaganda in the schools, whether it be Communist propaganda or Conservative propaganda?

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin

Does not the Minister agree that it would have been a shocking thing to him to have found that 2,000 teachers in State schools in 1939 were members of the British Union of Fascists, and does he not find it equally shocking that today there are the same number at least, and probably more, Communist teachers in the State run schools of this country?

Photo of Mr George Tomlinson Mr George Tomlinson , Farnworth

I have not made any inquiries as to the number of people who profess various political beliefs; it is no part of my business to do so.

Photo of Mr George Chetwynd Mr George Chetwynd , Stockton-on-Tees

Would my right hon. Friend be careful not to interfere with the selection of text books, but to leave that to the responsibility of the teachers concerned?

Photo of Mr George Tomlinson Mr George Tomlinson , Farnworth

I have no authority to interfere with text books.

Mr. F. P. Crowder:

Is the Minister aware that Mrs. Beatrice King, who is the author of this pamphlet, is a leading member of the executive of the British Soviet Society and that she was chairman of its women's organisation last year? Is the Minister further aware that this Society is condemned and proscribed by his own party, and if it is not thought fitting and good that Socialists should have any contact with it, is it not worse that children should have their minds polluted by this insidious form of propaganda?

Photo of Mr George Tomlinson Mr George Tomlinson , Farnworth

No single point that has been mentioned by the hon. Member has anything to do with the Question on the Paper.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether this book was not issued at a time when there was a Conservative Minister of Education?

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

We had better get on with the next Question.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

On a point of order. In view of the fact that this book is still in wide circulation and use, and in view of the extremely unsatisfactory nature of the replies by the Minister, I give notice that I propose to raise this matter as soon as possible.