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Multiracism in the Isles

March 16.

As an antidote to excesses of bureaucratic language and jargon, columns like John Macleod's are surely valuable (March 16).

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Officials in the Western Isles council should reflect on his comments on the tone of their advice to playgroup leaders and consider if there are ways it can be made less disconcerting to those it is intended to help.

I recognise that to be its intention and am concerned that someone as intelligent as your columnist should see in it the language of ''despotism''.

If, however, the main point of the column is that the advice itself is of no use, then that has to be challenged. The term ''despotism'' seems to be provoked by a section dealing with equal opportunities and multiculturalism. John Macleod clearly thinks that multicultural education is not a relevant matter in ''all-white'' communities. This commonsense view is profoundly mistaken.

It cannot be possible for children in one community culturally to isolate themselves from multiracial societies physically close to them. It would be interesting to find out what members of the vibrant Muslim community in Lewis feel of the view that tolerance of other cultures and religions is not something that need trouble children in nearby Harris.

Indeed, on a wider scale it is now being recognised that communities which consider themselves ''all-white'' often suffer from a perverse form of racism which is all the stronger from not having any opposition from local victims.

Nor should we take seriously the view that ''they are only children'' for whom this is not relevant. Over the past decades primary teachers from all over the UK have been expressing alarm at the pre-formed attitudes that some five-year-olds bring with them into their schooling.

Advice to playgroup leaders to be on the alert for this danger and to provide alternative influences on young people is hardly ''despotism''.

If a three-year-old were to arrive at John Macleod's playgroup full of the exciting ultra-violent sex videos he had spent the weekend watching, would concern at that be ''despotism''?

The fears which seem to underlie John Macleod's comments on equal opportunities initiatives and multicultural education are deeply misconceived and stem from misinformation.

It would be instructive for him to spend some time with the education advisers charged with carrying these aspirations into practice and to support teachers doing so; his fears would surely be replaced by understanding and support.

He should read the ''Katie Morag'' stories. The figure of Granny Island in her dungarees is a ''positive image'', a celebration of the strength of women and a challenge to gender stereotyping. The books are also a good read that any kid can enjoy, and there are many more that celebrate the diversity of humankind and help our children to grow into a world in which that diversity is to be welcomed, not seen as a threat.

Surely it is an act of responsibility to encourage young people to read them.

Despotism? John Macleod should think again.

Bob Waugh,

Education Officer, Scotland,

Save The Children Fund,

76 Southbrae Drive,


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