The European Parliament has decided that the classroom could do with some new math, specifically this:
2+2 = 5
Children should be taught about the benefits of the European Union in schools to ‘help to overcome euroscepticism’, MEPs demanded today. The European Parliament called for Brussels to be ‘more visible’ in textbooks and lessons on ‘the values on which European integration is based’. British MEPs accused the EU of ‘seeking to fill ‘classrooms with propaganda’, but the report setting out the measures was passed by 482 votes to 146. The ‘Learning EU at school’ report said it was necessary for citizens to ‘be encouraged to take an active interest in the European unification project’.
‘One central way to do so is enhancing an EU dimension in school education that can help to overcome euroscepticism,’ it added. Suggestions included giving teachers training on how to give lessons about the EU in schools, urging textbooks to be rewritten with more of a focus on the EU and for the Commission to draw up guidelines on the curriculum. ‘Given its impact on citizens’ everyday life, the EU should be more visible in teaching materials, at all levels and in all forms of education,’ it said. ‘Teacher training needs to systematically prepare educators to teach about the EU and the values on which it is founded, both in theory and in practice.
MEPs said the European Commission should continue to ‘actively disseminate information’ such as with pamphlets and worksheets on the EU that are sent to schools. They warned that ‘insufficient knowledge about the EU and poor understanding of its concrete added-value may contribute to the perception of a democratic deficit and lead to widespread Euroscepticism’.
This motion is not binding (the school curriculum remains something that the EU’s member-states are free to decide for themselves), but the whole episode is interesting for the insight it gives into eurofundamentalist thinking. Even if we can overcome the (surely unworthy) thought that the EU’s ‘values’ might not be taught in an entirely objective manner, it’s impossible to miss the claim that there is only a ‘perception’ of a democratic deficit, a deficit which is, in fact, all too real. Add to that the implication that euroskepticism is something that needs to be ‘educated’ away and it becomes clear that what the MEPs would like to see is propaganda rather than education.
The EU was and is a post-democratic project.
Over on the European Parliament’s website, there’s an interview with the MEP responsible for the report.
This caught my eye:
According to a survey, 44% of Europeans don’t understand how the EU works and many feel they don’t have a voice in the European Union, so I believe that if I was a young adolescent, I would want to know my rights, I would want to know not only my history, the European history, but how I could get involved in creating a better European Union and a better European project, especially in this time when eurocepticism is growing enormously.
But Europeans were never meant to understand how the EU works. From the very beginning, those running it have always understood that the opacity of the European project was one of its strengths. There was never the degree of genuine democratic support for the degree of integration that was envisaged. Under the circumstances, voters were better kept in the dark.
Jean-Claude Juncker (then the Luxembourg prime minister, now the EU’s top bureaucrat) explained it this way in 2012:
We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.