HC Deb 20 June 1968 vol 766 cc1291-2
20. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will seek powers to enable him to investigate the extent to which the content of school text books in current use encourages racial discrimination.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

No new powers would be needed to promote such an investigation, but I do not think this would be the best way of spending the limited amount of money available to us for research.

Dr. Kerr

Would my right hon. Friend note that there are some differences of opinion and that there is considerable prima facie evidence to suggest that the content of school learning is often, very subtly, to encourage an attitude of racial superiority, derived from our Empire stance? Would she have another more sympathetic look at this proposal?

Miss Bacon

The only reason I replied as I did is that we should like to concentrate our efforts on new books rather than conduct a survey of old books, which would be very clostly. It is important that new books and teaching materials should be of good quality, and should be the right kind of books, and that teachers should be fully aware of what is available. We are doing our best, through various publications, and through State courses and so on, to bring this to the notice of teachers.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Would the right hon. Lady add that it is most undesirable in principle to tamper with school books in order to try to ensure that they represent particular political views?

Miss Bacon

I am sure that that is not what my hon. Friend was suggesting. He is anxious only that the books in schools should put forward a present-day view on these very important matters. I think that teachers are well aware of the problem and will ensure that books of the right quality are available in our schools.