teacher students classroom school
© Pexel / Max Fischer
Once upon a time, teacher training was informed by the imperative of helping them to become effective educators of subjects like mathematics, physics and history, but that was back when we thought kids should actually learn stuff.

Today, however, the Scottish government wishes to train teachers to develop the skill of dealing with 'white fragility'. In order for Scottish teachers to be able to deal with this imagined problem, they will be given 'white privilege lessons' by designated experts. According to the 38-page document published by Education Scotland, teachers will be asked to take a 'white privilege test'! Why? Because before teachers can effectively guilt trip their students about their 'whiteness', they need to feel uncomfortable and guilty about their own white privilege.

When teacher training is transformed into a medium for guilt-tripping it is evident that something has seriously gone wrong with Scottish education. This philistine initiative for politicising schooling bears the official imprimatur of the Scottish government, making it clear that the imperative of indoctrination has subordinated education to a second-order role in schools north of Hadrian's Wall.

The recently invented concept of white fragility features widely in Education Scotland's document. The main merit of white fragility is that it serves as an unanswerable quasi-religious construct. Anyone who refuses to identify as a fragile white automatically demonstrates that they suffer from this cultural affliction.

White fragility is defined as the clumsy defensiveness of a white person "confronted with information about racial inequality and injustice" which supposedly reinforces and "upholds white supremacy." According to the document, "white fragility safeguards a person's privilege and directs support to the offender, instead of protecting/extending support to the survivor of racism."

The premise of the concept of white fragility is that someone's assertion of white privilege is beyond discussion. The very act of questioning it serves as conclusive proof of white fragility. It does not matter if you feel entirely confident in your belief that you do not have a racist bone in your body or that you are confident in your skin. The very act of rejecting the claim that you are the beneficiary of white privilege serves as proof that you are fragile, likely to harbour unconscious bias. If you are too strident in your rejection of your white fragility you are likely to be perceived as an out-and-out racist.

The beauty of the concept of white fragility is that it not only pathologises those who refuse to be guilt-tripped but also people who are prepared to roll over and acknowledge their racial guilt. Professional guilt-trippers condescendingly refer to the phenomenon of 'white tears'. The guidance issued by Education Scotland defines this phenomenon as one where "a white person starts crying in response to an accusation of racism that they have committed." Apparently feeling guilty is not enough and white tears are not deserving of sympathy. The guidance states that "while the committer might feel sad/guilty/ashamed, focus should not be with them, but with the person who has experienced harm."

Education Scotland's guilt-tripper guidance possesses a grotesque quasi-religious tone. It promotes a conformist doctrine about the meaning of being white that simply cannot be questioned.

The tragic logic promoted by the doctrine of whiteness is that it turns racism into a normal and eternal fact of life. Why? Because the concept of whiteness turns racism into an unconscious act. Consequently, no light-skinned person can claim immunity from racism. Indeed, those who protest that they are not racist, or do not even perceive themselves as white, are denounced for failing to come to terms with their white privilege. In effect, whiteness serves as the equivalent of original sin, and white racism becomes an inescapable fact of life.

It looks like professional guilt-tripping experts have a job for life!
Frank Furedi is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte