22:45 GMT +318 October 2018
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    A balloon of the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) party can be seen during an election party in Berlin on March 13, 2016.

    Germany's AfD Party Asks Schoolchildren to Expose Politically Biased Teachers

    © AFP 2018 / John Macdougall
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    Alternative for Germany (AfD) has launched an online initiative allowing pupils to report politically partial teachers. Despite intense mainstream criticism, the party says it’s a vital tool for preventing classroom indoctrination and protecting freedom of speech.

    Dubbed ‘Neutral Schools Online', the portal allows students and parents to anonymously send information to the AfD about educators who may be violating Germany's neutrality code, forbidding them from expressing political views in classrooms. Offences include encouraging pupils to take part in demonstrations, "crude criticism" of the AfD, or distributing "incorrect and subjective learning materials".

    Launched in September in Hamburg, it will be introduced in other states in due course — party officials claim to have received more than 1,000 reports within days. On October 12, hackers overloaded the site causing it to crash.

    Spy Kids

    The move has prompted considerable controversy in the German mainstream, with politicians invoking comparisons with the Stasi, East Germany's extensive secret police force, and even the Gestapo.

    For instance, Justice Minister Katarina Barley, slammed the initiative, saying "organized denunciation is a method of dictators", and warning it could cultivate a culture of unease and suspicion in classrooms. Similarly, Education Minister Susanne Eisenmann said teachers needed to be able to present opposing points of view in order to teach pupils how democracy works.

    "This grasp in the instrument box of authoritarian systems shows some actors in Baden-Württemberg are in dire need of political education," she added.

    The AfD has hit back against its critics however, insisting the portal will help parents who feel children are being manipulated by schools and teachers with pronounced left-wing tendencies, and "strengthen democratic and free discourse". Moreover, the party claims to have collected considerable evidence of schools drawing "a very severe picture of the AfD as radical, inhuman and cold" in advance of the resource's roll-out.

    Don't Ask, Don't Tell

    Whatever the truth of the matter, there are strong indications schools elsewhere in Europe are potential hotbeds of left-wing political thought. In the UK, for instance, an educational professional who became the face of a Government-funded teacher recruitment drive warned in July children are being subjected to "left wing brainwashing" in British classrooms.

    Calvin Robinson, head of computer science at St Mary's and St John's School in Hendon, north London, said pupils were being "indoctrinated to a left wing mentality" and encouraged to see the Conservative party as "evil". He said he was shocked at the levels of left-wing indoctrination on display in the two previous schools he taught at, as well as other schools around the country he has visited.

    "We want young people to challenge authority but in the right way, we don't want them brainwashed against authority, especially not by teachers. I don't think schools should be a political environment. Pretty much throughout their entire education, young people are trained into a lefty way of thinking. I've seen this first hand on too many occasions. Some of the behaviour I've seen from teachers is outright disgusting — a very evident bias not only in teaching practices, but in the way they present their arguments. I'm not talking about obvious party political biases of 'Labour = Good, Tory = Evil', although that does happen, but most teachers take a less obvious approach along the lines of tolerance being a good thing, so long as you agree with their way of thinking," he explained.

    Robinson is a member of the Conservative party — but the left-wing culture of UK schools has also been criticized by left-wing voters themselves. In a 2017 Guardian opinion piece, an anonymous Labour-supporting teacher at a school where "a large majority of staff" vote Labour noted while teachers were bound by the 1996 Education Act to present different political beliefs impartially and not promote partisan political views, her school was "often an echo-chamber for the left-wing views of its staff and students' parents".

    "Views that fall outside the accepted liberal-left spectrum get short shrift in my staffroom. I have watched teachers react incredulously when colleagues have tried floating a reasonable case for Brexit. It worries me few of my colleagues seem to understand why Conservatives think as they do. In lessons I've seen teachers make half-hearted attempts to present a rightwing line of reasoning about the major issues. Their bored or frustrated tone of voice says it all. By shaping our students' climate of political opinion, my colleagues implicitly define what students come to regard as reasonable and acceptable political views," they wrote.

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    Tags:
    teaching, indoctrination, brainwashing, propaganda, Alternative for Germany (AfD), Germany, United States
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