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There’s an old saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. It’s a maxim with validity, and essentially speaks for itself, but I sometimes feel as though the message has still to get through because it’s a metaphor. Sometimes metaphors need to be more specific, which kind of undermines their purpose but some people need to be spoon fed, and sometimes those people include me.

So here’s my amendment.

“Teach a man to pass an exam, and he passes the exam. Teach a man the ability to analyse, to reason, to interpret, to question and even challenge, and you create a leader.”

(Which is something I wish University administrators and educators would return to understanding in the way they used to when graduates knew more than ‘just’ the content of their thesis.)

Let me give an example of how that doesn’t happen. In my years as a copper, I concluded that a lot of the training we received was designed to tell us ‘what was what’ and to accept the wisdom of our trainers. In fairness to some trainers, they were just given material and told, “Teach this.” I remember being trained about the new surveillance laws in 2000 and walking away convinced I couldn’t do any active police work, so bad was the explanation of the law. Later, I was engaged in an argument with a trainer over another misunderstood process, and I have always been bemused by how data protection legislation continues to be taught by threat, rather than as a relatively straight-forward concept.

You see, people were seeing only the overall objective, but never researching deeply enough to understand the details – which, more often than not, made life easier than their poor understanding allowed. They worked on a ‘you can’t do that’ basis instead of finding out what you could do.

They’d been given a fish, but not taught how to fish.

Giving fish is how young people seem to be learning, these days. Ideologies proliferate without question, which is troubling. Blind obeisance to the prevailing wisdom is causing old, practically settled identity politics to rear its ugly head again, because ideologues shout louder than people who challenge those ides with analysis, research, considered reasoning, appropriate questions and robust challenge (see what I did there?). The worst example is Critical Race Theory, which appears to be a form of reverse-racism, in that three or four decades after the question was settled in principal (it will never be settled in universal practice, fact of life), now those who accepted the responsibility for overcoming all the isms – and arguably the belated credit for doing so – are now expected to account for their guilt for offence caused a hundred years or more ago. Apparently, me, born 1961, must accept guilt for 18th century slavery despite the fact that me, born 1961, never knowingly owned or trafficked a slave.

It’s divisive, and the shouty side is trying to stifle debate either because it has no reasoned argument, or because there is a terrifying motive behind it. In other words, I believe that the unintended consequences of their violent demand for tolerance will be even more intolerant division. They must actually want that, and we’ll all have to pick our side. (And by the way, their leaders never put their heads above the parapet, like most Marxist generalissimos.)

Well done, educators. You’ve fed our kids poisonous fish, stifled challenge, invented reason, and now the rest of us are reaping the rewards of your stupidity. Or, at best, you’ve sat by and let it happen.

It’s not too late. You can stop imposing your ideas on the young and, instead, debate with them. If your ideas are valid, then they will stand. If not, they should die. If you’re quiet, stand up and be counted.

Doing that will take character and competence. And it’s the best service you could ever provide.

In conclusion, let me put it this way – an intellectual argument for CRT is the same as an intellectual argument for that rectangular pile of concrete blocks in the Tate gallery.

Total b—-ks.*