On Friday I had the pleasure of attending two debates by schoolchildren at the International Slavery Museum (ISM) as part of the Children's Commissioner's Takeover Day. It was also the occasion of the launch of the ISM's new Teachers' Guide to the Legacies of Transatlantic Slavery.
The two debates were: "We believe that racist memorabilia and objects such as golliwogs should not be used in everyday life" and "We believe that all of those who acquire British citizenship should follow the British way of life".
I have to say, both my forecasts for the voting proved to be wrong. The children decided that racist memorabilia should NOT be banned, and that newcomers to Britain should NOT have to follow the "British way of life".
The basic reasoning for the result of the vote on golliwogs etc was that the children felt that banning such items itself could be considered racist (why not ban white dolls, or Barbie dolls?). Clearly, the children were expressing anti-racist attitudes.
They questioned what "British way of life" means, and beyond thinking that everyone who lives in Britain probably ought to be able to understand English, the children were very much of the "live and let live" persuasion, that diversity of experience should be celebrated, not suppressed.
In many ways the debates were uplifting and life-affirming. Thanks to the children from St Mary's College, Rainhill High School, Broadgreen Primary School, St Oswald's Primary School, Our Lady Immaculate Primary School, Holly Lodge, St Austin's Primary School, St Gregory's Primary School and Pinehurst Primary School for uplifting the adults who were there.
And if any of you read this, I forgive you for deliberately covering up my face with copies of the Teachers' Guides when we had our photos taken together, and I'm sorry I called you "little rats"…