Daily Telegraph: Thatcher's descendants are in danger of losing the culture war

Toby Young argues that ‘the state is entitled to insist that all schools teach children to respect the values that are part of our common culture, but it isn’t entitled to dictate every last detail of what’s taught in the classroom or to instruct schools about what teachers they can and can’t hire.’ He will speak at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty on Wednesday 18th June.

To read the full article, please visit the Daily Telegraph website

The Centre for Policy Studies, the think tank founded by Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher, has played an important part over the past four decades in making the case for economic liberalism. On Wednesday, at their 40th anniversary conference, I’m on a panel with John Howard, the former Australian prime minister. Our discussion: has the other side won, or can popular capitalism fight back? Certainly, with so many forces ranged against classical liberalism – the BBC, the Civil Service, the trade unions, the voluntary sector, the Blob – it sometimes feels as if the Left’s long march through the institutions is complete. Our side won the economic argument in the Eighties, a victory complemented by the collapse of the Soviet Union, but we’re in danger of losing the culture war.

This was brought home to me last week by the reaction to the news that six schools in Birmingham had been taken over by Muslim extremists. I naively expected this story to lead to an urgent national debate about the threat posed to our way of life by Islamic fundamentalism. Surely we all now recognise that this toxic combination of anti-Western ideology and religious fanaticism has replaced communism as the greatest danger to freedom and democracy?

Apparently not. Instead, this scandal was seized upon by critics of Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who saw it as an opportunity to discredit his policy of extending more freedom to state schools. The fact that the religious fanatics at the centre of the “Trojan Horse” plot are Muslims is irrelevant, according to these critics, and anyone who draws attention to that fact is an “Islamophobe”. No, the important point is that they are a faith group and this story just goes to show that all taxpayer-funded schools should be secular. Not only that, but all schools should be under local authority control as well. The moment you grant governors and head teachers more autonomy, say the opponents of Gove’s reforms, this kind of disaster is inevitable. The solution is to claw back the freedoms currently enjoyed by academies and free schools, insist that they teach the national curriculum and employ “qualified” teachers and, while you’re at it, force all Christian schools to embrace secular humanism.”

To read the full article, please visit the Daily Telegraph website

Date Added: Monday 16th June 2014