It has been an interesting couple of days in politics. Yesterday, Afropunk writer Erin White penned an article titled “Betsy DeVos Is Not ‘Dumb’, She’s a Dangerous White Woman with an Agenda”. In it, White simply and devastatingly points out how unfit DeVos is for her job – her crusade to divert public funds to private schools is particularly unsettling – and makes clear that she believes that “her idiotic disposition is just sheep’s clothing”. I could write 800 words about this and I’m pretty sure the feedback would congratulate me on a takedown of DeVos. There would be at least one that would say something along the lines of “thank God it’s different in England”.
But it isn’t remotely different in England.
The Department for Education has been run by idiotic ideologues for years. Today in The Guardian, former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, wrote an open letter to the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, taking him to task for a number of failures in the education system. One paragraph in particular caught my eye:
You did squeeze in one thing before we all head for the beach: a bit of ideological control through selective funding. It seems that only “knowledge-rich” schools – those that teach according to your preferred model – will be eligible for your department’s goodies. Diktat by chequebook.
In different ways, DeVos and Hinds are making the job of educators almost impossible. This story isn’t about education, though. It is about perception and discourse. I am lucky to have friends on both sides of the Atlantic and I enjoy talking to them about politics. My American friends seem to think that things in the UK are really bad, mentioning Brexit and terrorism, whilst my British friends think the same way about America, mentioning the Trump administration and guns. Both perceive the other to be tangibly worse off than the other, sometimes whilst only being dimly aware of the problems on their own doorstep. I want to write about that today.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the teenager’s bedroom analogy. I wrote this to a friend a few months ago and feel it resonates today. I have used Trump, but you can switch his name for May without too much difficulty.
The average male teenager has raging hormones which leads to bad body odour.
Add to that they spend a lot of time masturbating and that generates another odour. His friends, all male, come over and the odour to them is normal. His parents, however, are fully aware of the odour and try to convince him to clean it up. The teenager is predisposed to not believe his parents. He asks his friends who tell him that the room is fine. And so he continues to live in an increasingly smelly room. This continues until the first time he brings a girl round who informs him that his room smells. It is at this point and this point only that he realises there is an odour. The teenager in this analogy is Trump. The friends are his enablers, which are supporters or those that know better but out of loyalty to a misguided sense of party politics won’t check him; his parents are the Republican party who know he stinks but won’t definitively tell him and the girl is the court case that comes that he can’t win that forces his friends and parents to realise their mistake in enabling him.
The point is, the political discourse in both countries stinks. From afar, I look at stations like Fox, CNN, MSNBC and wonder how they could have been so reckless in their coverage in the 2016 election and its aftermath. Then I recognise the odour around me and remember that Question Time is regularly accused of bias, the only time all UK television media has to be impartial is during a general election and the links between our newspapers and politicians are so tight that a former Chancellor is the editor of a national newspaper and the last Foreign Secretary is now a columnist for another. It is a pungent odour indeed.