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Melanie Phillips

British journalist and columnist for the London Daily Mail, the Sunday Times and other papers, author of All Must Have Prizes (1996, Little Brown)


The idea of a common culture, common bonds, a shared story and a network of obligations and duties rather than rights has become synonymous with oppression.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
In education, what children [are] being taught and the way they [are] taught it [has] been transformed by the belief that the child's own values and ability to make sense of its own experience [are] equal to that of the teacher, who [is] taking a back seat as a result. Yet more and more children [are] leaving school functionally illiterate as a result.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
The insistence that the only alternative to a moral free-for-all is authoritarian oppression seems to indicate a high degree of confusion about what liberal values actually are. ... I would suggest that these confusions have resulted from a corruption of liberalism into license and libertinism, whose proponents do not take kindly to their liberal fig-leaf being blown away. This corruption of liberal values is, however, the biggest threat to our democratic way of life and settled social ethic. It's responsible for much of the social fragmentation and disorder which increasingly trouble us.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
[In contemporary liberal societies] Everyone is now a consumer in the free market of values.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
Liberalism ... originated in England with John Locke, who produced a blueprint for English society based on individual rights and natural law, rational Christianity, the sanctity of property, a liberal economic policy, faith in education and an empirical attitude towards progress through experience. He would have been horrified to know how his thinking paved the way in the latter half of this century both for the social egalitarian politics of the British left and the economic individualism of the right.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
The idea that things are intrinsically right or wrong has given way instead to whether they are expedient. Things are judged not for themselves but for their consequences. We appear to have moved into not just a post-modern but a post-moral society.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
We tell ourselves we live in a liberal society. But our definition of liberal has become corrupted. It has fallen victim to a mindset which says the individual is paramount, personal choice and self-fulfillment trump everything else, all values are subjective and there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. These beliefs aren't liberalism. They are its antithesis.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
Down this route [of the liberal evolution of society], liberal values turn into coercion and hedonism. Freedom and equality turn into absolutes, ends rather than means. Thus broadcasters and film-makers can drench our screens with sexual voyeurism or gratuitous violence regardless of the way such influential abandonment of moral constraints helps lower the threshold of unacceptable behaviour. Since their creative freedom is considered an absolute, any plea for self-restraint is condemned as censorship.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
By the time he died in 1952, [American educator John] Dewey was the most influential philosopher in the United States. The intellectual heir to Rousseau, he believed that children had to be taught to discount their culture and tradition, that values had to be invented afresh by every child from its own experience, that children had to think out solutions for themselves and that the teacher had to become as much of a learner as the child. He rejected the idea that the teacher had to impart knowledge; to do so would be to act as a dictator. Subsequently, when he saw the developing chaos in American schools which were implementing his philosophy, he tried to repudiate his own ideas. But the damage was done.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
... corrupted liberalism [has become] the creed of dispossessed radicals. The long march through the institutions is being carried on now not by Marxists. It is being carried by people who call themselves liberal but who are in fact promoting very different agendas of radical egalitarianism or individualism. These agendas are now the orthodoxy among the fashionable upper-middle class.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
The hallmark of a liberal society is tolerance. The extreme intolerance of [present-day] corrupted liberals reflects the fact that in junking judgementalism, we have also junked tolerance. To be tolerant presupposes there is something of which we disapprove and which we tolerate.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
The education department's rhetoric [under British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair] about ending educational failure is certainly refreshing, and marks a significant and courageous departure in Labour policy. And yet the stated aim to re-impose equality in education; the hostility to diversity and desire to bring all schools back under the control of the local authorities which have done such terrible damage in the past; the endorsement of the shift from teacher to learner which has abandoned so many children to ignorance and error; these signals and more indicate that in the most important policy area of all, New Labour is alarmingly compromised by those corrupted liberal values which have undermined the transmission of our culture.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
John Stuart Mill ... was certainly no libertarian. He believed in a shared morality and the enforcement of moral constraints. Yet he would be appalled by the way his principles have been pressed into the service of today's moral relativism.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
In education, children need equality of opportunity; which means some will succeed, some will not. But if equality is not the means but the end, then outcomes must be equal. Every child must succeed equally. As the [British] Labour party's pre-election education policy document proclaimed, 'excellence for all'. That might mean that prizes, as the Dodo told Alice in Wonderland, are for everyone, since everyone has won; and if that is how it is to be interpreted, then all relevant statistics exam grades, curriculum test results, numbers getting good university degrees will doubtless continue to be manipulated to produce that illusion, as they were under the [British] Tory government.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies
Right from the start, liberalism contained the seeds of its own destruction: those many ambiguities and contradictions within its own tradition which have been reflected in the struggle since the 18th century Enlightenment between personal autonomy and social obligations.

May. 01, 1997 - from her lecture "The Corruption of Liberalism" delivered at the London-based Centre for Policy Studies