Britain's Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi says that kids are not “snowflakes,” and that it is unnecessary for teachers to add trigger warnings on books or prevent students from reading books that challenge their beliefs.
Zahawi said that teachers should be teaching children “how to think, not what to think.”
Speaking to the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast, Zahawi pushed back against progressive activists who are demanding that secondary school teachers censor themselves when reading the classic novels To Kill A Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men, two books that tackle sensitive topics of race and disability.
“We don’t need to put warnings on things,” said Zahawi, adding that it was wrong for adults to dismiss adolescents as “snowflakes” who are more likely to take offence than older generations.
“These kids are resilient. They have come through the COVID pandemic, the mistaken closure of schools. They’re not snowflakes at all. They are really resilient, and I think it’s important to remember that,” he said.
Asked if children should be allowed to read racial slurs in books like To Kill a Mockingbird, he said “Totally. I think it is really important that children are allowed to be able to be curious to understand where this stuff comes from rather than create these sort of false filters for them.”
“Those in a position of responsibility should be teaching young minds how to think, not what to think,” he added. “Those in a position of responsibility should be teaching young minds how to think, not what to think.”
“‘Don’t take your own fears and prejudices into the classroom’ would be my mantra,” said the education secretary, who recently published new guidance requiring certain sensitive topics to be “taught in a balanced manner.”
The guidance also calls on teachers to “stop promoting contested theory as fact,” referring to decolonization theory, critical race theory and queer theory, also known as woke gender ideology.
“You don’t become a better nation, a more cohesive community by denying the past, removing the past. Half of Whitehall will have to be demolished... You explain the past, you explain both sides,” Zahawi said of colonialism. “There are some really important things that happened that are great things that we exported to the rest of the world, as well as the less good things. I think that’s really important.”
“And I’m deeply uncomfortable with us beginning to view everything through the lens of 2022, when life was very different in previous centuries and the values then were different,” he added. “It worries me deeply. It worries me that it is happening not just in the United Kingdom, it’s happening in the U.S.”