chapter  1
0 Challenge and Hesitation
Pages 76

Let us take the constitution first. Taught in a legalistic manner, a study of politics is hardly worth having (although, it is fair to add, it is hardly likely to have much effect either). The analogy between the difficulties of teaching about political and sexual behaviour is irresistible. Both are natural activities in which it is as proper for the child to be curious as it is for the school to take up the burden of teaching what is socially acceptable and what is conventional morality. Some teachers and some parents wish strongly to avoid both or either of these things, while others conceive it their duty to be dogmatic - whether directly or indirectly; so the usual compromise or line of least resistance is to teach these things in a purely structural, anatomical or 'constitutional' way. But in both spheres the proper role of education must be to create an awareness of why it is that some people regard these matters as either taboo or as dogma, and to offer some practical protection to the child by instilling not a knowledge of what is right or wrong (which is beyond most of us to presume to teach), but a knowledge of what his society and the sub-groups in which he may move regard as right or wrong. I think we often overestimate the difficulties of leaving some questions quite open and explicitly quite open, without either shattering personal faith, trust in the teacher, or encouraging a sort of educational hypocrisy. As a political theorist, I seem to spend half my teaching life attempting to create a sense of the plausibility and practical importance of ideas that I do not myself accept either morally or as universally true empirically.