Schools in a post truth political world

Until last week I had never heard of the phenomena known as post truth politics.  For those of you who like me have been living under a rock, this is the idea that politicians don’t have to stand by what they say they are going to do when campaigning, they simply have to be the loudest voice on the stump drowning out all who attempt to stand against them.

This week has seen the election of a politician who has built a campaign on isolationism.  The same has been true of issue based campaigns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world.  Very soon France will have the chance to decide its political destiny.  Such is the beauty of democracy; people can turn the pollsters over.  Voters can confound expectations.  People can register their dis-approval with the political classes.   But as an educationalist I wonder why we as members of a democracy seem happy to accept shallow answers and brash slogans rather than demanding of our representatives carefully thought out political ideas based on meticulous research?  Do we hold our leaders to account when they do something that they didn’t say they were going to?  Should we?  Is it inevitable that promises made pre-election can’t be fulfilled in government?  Perhaps this is so.

I hope that here at the BSP we are developing young minds (sometimes very young minds) that have the capacity to question rigorously, to look beyond posture politics and to consider approaches carefully and with all the relevant evidence.  Education and politics are often uneasy partners. Clearly it is not for us as teachers to dictate or to inform the political minds of those in our care, but we have a great responsibility to equip young people with the skills that they require to find out the truth behind the sound-bite approach to politics that we currently endure. Politics at present seems to be moving from logical thinking, rational debate and moderation to a wholly different approach. The polemic and the sound –bite seem to be winning in the war for our attention.  Perhaps we here at the BSP can do our bit to promote deeper thinking and careful reflection so as to avoid potential divisions and misunderstandings emerging around the world.

Next week our Year 9 students head up to the battlefields of the Western Front.  If ever there was a case of a human cost to a political decision then this is an appropriate place to reflect and to see the horrific consequences of knee jerk political decisions and national suspicions. Our community is one in which there are different views, varying beliefs and lively opinions. We welcome discussion among our pupil body and aim to give them the skills to argue thoughtfully and with respect.  As a consequence our horizons remain wide, our scope global and our endeavours hopeful. If only the world was a bit more like the BSP. I hope that you have a restful bank holiday weekend.

Nicholas Hammond