Honeyford døde 5. februar, 77 år gammel. Hans historie har ikke bleknet med årene. Han fremstår som et ekstraordinært modig, rettskaffent og ærlig menneske, som tok lærergjerningen alvorlig.
Er Honeyford en historisk skikkelse som viser vei i kampen for å bevare et sivilisert samfunn? Eller er han bare siste anskrik fra en generasjon på vei ut?
Hva har skjedd på de 28 årene siden artikkelen sto på trykk i Salisbury Review? Gir artikkelen mer eller mindre mening enn den gang? Få kan være i tvil om at artikkelen virker mer relevant. Den som leser om problemene i norsk skole vil kjenne seg igjen.
Honeyford ble mobbet ut av skolen, fysisk og mentalt. Han ble tvunget til å gå av.
Når man leser om Honeyfords familiebakgrunn blir man full av beundring for hvilke anstrengelser og oppofrelse mennesker med dårlig utgangspunkt er i stand til. Det er samtidig en saga om mulighetene et mer sosialt Storbritannia ga arbeiderklassen. Men man må spørre hva fremtiden bringer, både når man ser på Honeyvords analyse og den behandling han fikk.
Ray Honeyford, who has died aged 77, was the unknown headmaster of a school in Bradford until, in January 1984, he published an article critical of multiculturalism and its effect on British education; widely accused of racism, he was subjected to a barrage of abuse, forced to take early retirement, and never taught again.
Honeyford had been headmaster of Drummond Middle School — where some 95 per cent of the pupils were Asian — for four years when he wrote his article for the Right-wing Salisbury Review. Local politicians and pressure groups responded with a campaign to get him fired; he received death threats, and had to enter his own school under police protection owing to the presence of pickets. His health, and that of his wife, began to suffer, and in December 1985 he accepted early retirement.
Honeyford’s article did not pull its punches, and his critics viewed some of his language as intemperate. He referred to “a growing number of Asians whose aim is to preserve as intact as possible the values and attitudes of the Indian subcontinent within a framework of British social and political privilege, ie to produce Asian ghettoes”, and “an influential group of black intellectuals of aggressive disposition, who know little of the British traditions of understatement, civilised discourse and respect for reason”.
He cast doubt on whether his pupils were best served by the local educational authority allowing such practices as the withdrawal of children from school for months at a time in order to go “home” to Pakistan on the grounds that this was appropriate to the children’s native culture.
He added: “Those of us working in Asian areas are encouraged, officially, to ‘celebrate linguistic diversity’, ie applaud the rapidly mounting linguistic confusion in those growing number of inner city schools in which British-born Asian children begin their mastery of English by being taught in Urdu.” Honeyford accused the “race relations lobby” of employing “a dubious, officially approved argot which functions to maintain a whole set of questionable beliefs and attitudes about education and race attitudes which have much more to do with professional opportunism than the educational progress of ethnic minority children”.
“The term ‘racism’,” he wrote, “functions not as a word with which to create insight, but as a slogan designed to suppress constructive thought. It conflates prejudice and discrimination … It is the icon word of those committed to the race game. And they apply it with the same sort of mindless zeal as the inquisitors voiced ‘heretic’ or Senator McCarthy spat out ‘Commie’.”
Meanwhile, Honeyford said, there was “a small but growing group of dispossessed, indigenous parents whose schools are, as a direct result of the multiracial dimension, failing their children”.
This was not the first time that Honeyford had gone public with his views. In November 1982 he had written an article for the Times Educational Supplement (TES) attacking misplaced multiculturalism and political correctness in schools.
It was the piece in The Salisbury Review, however, that led to his downfall. The then mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb, called for Honeyford’s dismissal, because the headmaster had shown “an inclination to demonstrate prejudice against certain sections of our community”.
Honeyford was suspended in April 1985, but reinstated five months later after an appeal to the High Court. Some parents then formed an action group and kept their children away from school, and in December 1985 Honeyford accepted a financial settlement and took early retirement. Drummond Middle School was eventually burned down in an arson attack.
It has since been rebuilt and has been renamed Iqra Community Primary School, though it is still known locally as the Drummond.
Raymond Honeyford was born on February 24 1934 into a large, impoverished working-class family. His father was an unskilled labourer whose wounds in the First World War had left him able to work only intermittently thereafter; Ray’s mother was the daughter of penniless Irish immigrants.
There were 11 children, six of whom died in childhood, and the family occupied a small house in Manchester with no indoor lavatory (and not one book). Ray failed his 11-plus and went to Manchester Technical School, but left at 15 to work in an office to support his family. A the same time he went to evening classes to train as a teacher. He later took an MA in Linguistics at Lancaster University.
Honeyford taught at various secondary schools in the Manchester area, including Lostock School. He was appointed headmaster of Drummond Middle School in 1981.
After leaving Drummond, Honeyford never returned to teaching. He remained bitter about his experience, believing that he had striven to do his best for very disadvantaged pupils . He occupied himself with journalism and giving talks, and was on the education panel of the Centre for Policy Studies. He also served for three years on Bury council as a Conservative.
Ray Honeyford is survived by his second wife, Angela, whom he married in 1982, and by two sons of his first marriage.
Ray Honeyford, born February 24 1934, died February 5 2012
Nekrologen over Ray Honeyford står i daily telegraph