By Jim Slaven
At first glance it might look like just another cartoon character. Colourful and odd looking it is designed to get young children’s attention in primary school. Placed alongside a cartoon cop and spaceman it does not stand out. However that is only part of the story as this cartoon character is not like others it is the official cartoon character of an organisation famous for bigotry and hatred: The Orange Order.
Last night’s BBC Newsnight Scotland programme had a film discussing education in Scotland. The film included an interview with a teacher based at Edinburgh’s Granton Primary School. Shockingly the backdrop for this interview included the Orange Order’s official cartoon character Diamond Dan, or Sash Gordon. The idea for this cartoon character came from the Orange Order in Ireland but was named after a competition run by the Orange Order in Scotland.
The cartoon image was designed specifically to appeal to young children in the hope of gaining their support for the Orange Order. That it should now find its way into children’s classrooms is indicative of the broader societal problems Scotland must address. This is not an educational tool fit for primary schools, this is the emblem of a bigoted organisation which is a blight on our society.
This can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to normalise a bigoted organisation (and their attitudes) through images and emblems of the Orange Order aimed directly at children. That this should be dressed up as an learning tool, ostensibly used for literacy makes it all the more shocking. This cartoon design was originally stolen from a harmless cartoon but it is clear from the image below that there can be no doubt, it is not the harmless image which is being peddled in primary schools.
There is clearly a problem within this school and this must be addressed immediately. However there are other issues which must be addressed. Scotland’s school children should not be exposed to the Orange Order or their ideology. Questions must be asked about the oversight of Edinburgh Council currently run by a Labour and SNP coalition. Parents must receive assurances that these cartoons are not being used in other schools in the city? The Scottish Government must address this problem as a priority. We have heard much from the SNP government on ‘sectarianism’ in the recent past now they must act. Communities across Scotland should be confident that schools are safe and secure environments conducive to children’s learning and development. They cannot be breeding grounds for bigots or places where bigotry is normalised through cartoons like this one. How many other schools in Scotland are using such inappropriate images as teaching tools?
For those who will argue this is just a cartoon or just harmless in some way, would they say the same if it was a cartoon used by the BNP or the KKK. Organisations peddling hatred, bigotry and racism have no place in our society never mind in our primary schools.
Since last nights Newsnight Scotland was broadcast 107 Cowgate has received numerous complaints from people, many in North Edinburgh and others across Scotland. For those looking for contact details for those responsible for Education in Edinburgh and nationally find the details below.
Edinburgh Council’s Education Convener
Councillor Paul Godzik (Labour)
Scottish Government Education Secretary
Mike Russell (SNP)