Andy West

Flawed heroes give pupils the freedom to speak out

Anxiety about race shouldn’t shut down discussion about the topic in the classroom, says Andy West

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I wanted my Year Six class to think about whether a hero is still a hero if they do bad things. I needed some real-world examples.

Edward Colston: philanthropist who built schools, hospitals and almshouses. Also a slave trader. Caravaggio: masterful painter. Killed someone in a fight.

Then I thought of another example.

Martin Luther King: Nobel Peace Prize winner who cheated on his wife.

At first, the idea of a white teacher asking this to a class of children mostly from West African backgrounds felt forbidden, even dangerous. What if they think I’m implying a glib parallel between Colston ...

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