Momentum Kids: Political education for the Corbyn youth (It’s not weird)

Momentum Kids has been trending on Twitter, but why all the fuss? Two women from Stroud have decided to tackle an issue with childcare which is preventing mothers from being politically engaged and active. The idea is to have crèches for political meetings and conferences thereby encouraging the attendance of women and facilitating their political activities. Not a bad idea, I suppose, what’s the harm in it?

Certainly many people have leapt to the defence of the initiative, denying that there is any underlying motive or hidden agenda. Momentum members are incredulous. ‘We just want to get women involved in politics, it’s a mere childcare programme, the criticism is typical right wing smears!’

Actually, there is no “underlying” motive, nor a “hidden” agenda; James Schneider, a National Organiser or Momentum, has been perfectly open about the true purpose:

‘Momentum Kids’ To Provide Political Education For Children And Childcare For Parentshttps://t.co/fMsi0xNfFE

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) 18 September 2016

Maybe It’s just me, but the idea of getting kids “politically active” from a young age seems very strange. Creepy actually. Who in their right mind would want to train children to be political activists? Looking back through history – and I’m sorry James Schneider (who has been offended by the historical comparisons) – political education for children is typically a policy of totalitarian states. The types of people who think it’s a good idea are generally ideological zealots who have no qualms with enforcing their political ideology onto children because they are unwavering in their belief that they are right and any actions in pursuit of their political goals therefore justified; they have absolute moral certainty.

I have a three year old son and the idea of him beginning his political education anytime soon is absurd. Sure, when he’s older, perhaps in his mid-teens, it would be good for him to learn about politics and develop an understanding of it so that, when the time comes, he will be able to form his own opinions, make his own choices and express himself in the ballot box. Perhaps he’d even choose to become politically active. But proactively getting young children politically engaged, and schooled in ideology, is distinctly odd. No?

Yes, I know that no form of education is totally apolitical, but this is taking it to an extreme. Political education for children is a socialist tradition and there something very sinister about it. Or are we to believe it will be a means of providing a balanced education in which children learn about a variety of opinions and are encouraged to think with an open mind?

Sasha Josette, one of the founders of Momentum Kids said: “It sounds like such a cliché when you say it out loud but it remains true, our kids are the next generation of people who can change the world […] We don’t underestimate the contribution they can make. Let’s create a space for questioning, curious children where we can listen to them and give them a voice.”

Children, I encourage you to question.

“Miss, what’s a Tory?” Asked little Jimmy.

“A Tory is a filthy piece of vermin SCUM, dear, they want to starve the poor and sell off your playground to the bankers. All you need to know is that you hate them, okay?” Said Comrade Josette.

“Miss, what’s a Blairite?” Asked rosy cheeked little Julia.

“Well Julia, a Blairite is a person who wants to do terrible harm to your beloved uncle Corbyn.”

No, no, I’m sure it’ll be balanced and reasonable.

Am I being unfair? The youth wing of momentum is apparently a bid to improve “political engagement” and teach campaigning skills to children… campaigning skills… for children? Erm… The group will, it is said, help children who want to become activists to attend marches, learn how to use offline and online campaign techniques and discuss key policy issues.

*Jaw hits floor*

Okay. So let’s recap. Momentum want to politically educate children, teach them campaigning techniques, and get them to attend marches, having encouraged them to discuss “key policy issues” (totally objectively of course)… am I wrong to think this is utter madness and slightly horrifying?

The World Transformed, Momentum’s four-day festival of arts, music, politics and culture which will take place in Liverpool during the Labour conference, will include a children’s programme on the opening day. “Workshops featured range from storytelling to sharing campaigning skills among young people,” the group said.

There is no real ambiguity here. This is a mean of training up young Labour activists and teaching them in the ways of socialism. It’s the Corbyn youth. It’s weird. It’s all the more unsettling because its defenders in Momentum don’t see anything wrong with it. Of course they don’t; they are brimming with self-righteousness, how could there possibly be anything wrong with them training kids in the wonders of socialism from an early age? Their political beliefs are right, and good, so why not train little platoons of progressives? Children are the future after all.

Children’s author, Alan Gibbons, who will be part of the children’s programme at the party conference event, said: “Socialists are not just people who organise in the Labour Party, trade unions or campaigns…” (Oh God) … “As young people grow, they need stories, poems, songs, (the internationale perhaps?) drama and play to develop as complete human beings. An education system that treats them only as future productive drones develops only part of their personality. […] We believe that children are naturally inquisitive and creative and we seek to develop that potential in the hope that a new, freer society, more responsive to human need, will fulfil their hopes, dreams and aspiration to the full.”

Develop their potential for a better society with workshops, poetry classes, sing alongs… sounds like good fun, and not at all cultish.

So there is now a pocket of Twitter wondering what all the fuss is about; but there is simply no pretending that this is simply about providing a crèche for conferences and meetings. It isn’t. There is a lot more to it than that.  And it gets weirder as the details come in.

This weekend at the Momentum fringe event, children will be asked to consider “what does your teddy stand for” and stage a mock protest at a Momentum fringe event at Labour conference this weekend. The ‘Teddy Bear Mandate’ session will require youngsters to imagine which party the toy might join and what its values are. The event will also encourage youngsters to “make signs and banners and stage a mock protest”. Again, nothing at all weird about any of that.

How will your teddy change the world? Revolutionary socialism perhaps? Can concerns about possible indoctrination really be dismissed? As Leftist activists lead youngsters by the hand intellectually, perhaps suggesting what values a right-wing teddy bear might have, casually passing on their prejudices,  it is clearly a fantastic way of shaping young minds. I’m afraid I’m struggling to give Leftists the benefit of the doubt here. Fanatics cannot offer an open minded, balanced and moderate means of learning about politics, if you take your children to Momentum political education classes you’re taking them to be brainswashed.

Marx once proposed that children be raised communally, so society would be one, big, harmonious family rather than fractured into competitive, squabbling family units. Momentum Kids is a good first step, why not go the whole hog? 

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 Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Online Director.  Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle

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