1 July 1971

‘Schoolbook’ declared obscene by court

On this day in 1971 the proprietor of Stage 1 publishers was found guilty of having in his possession obscene books for publication for gain. Richard Handyside was fined £25 on each summons and ordered to pay £110 costs.

The obscene publications were copies of The Little Red Schoolbook by Søren Hansen and Jesper Jensen. These radical Danish school teachers urged young readers to question authority and challenge social conventions, and described adults as ‘paper tigers’. Pupils were encouraged to disrupt lessons that they found boring.

The book was widely regarded as an invitation to anarchy, and it was banned in Italy and France. An abridged version was eventually passed for publication in the UK, but by this time its notoriety was assured. In September 1971 an Essex schoolboy became a cause célèbre when he published his own reply, as this report shows…

The book created controversy in numerous countries


From the Essex Examiner

An Essex schoolboy has declared war on progressive education in a pamphlet he believes will “fire the imagination of young people everywhere”.

Barry Richards, 16, is a pupil at the Wat Tyler comprehensive in Grays, and a leading member of the Essex Young Conservatives. His Little Blue Schoolbook is a riposte to controversial Little Red Schoolbook, which was published earlier this year. But whereas the original enjoins pupils to organise strikes and demonstrations, Richards’ version extols the virtues of obedience, patriotism and polished shoes. “It is aimed at normal, decent young people who have no interest in pop music or demonstrations,” he says, adding that he did not wish to be “brainwashed by left-wing teachers – or ‘commissars’, as they should more properly be called.”

Some staff are unhappy about his outspoken views, and the National Union of Teachers is said to be watching the situation closely.

Richards is no stranger to controversy. Two years ago he attracted headlines when Wat Tyler abolished its uniform. Richards responded by creating his own, complete with cap, blazer, tie, shorts and socks. Letters to national newspapers created wider interest, and led to the launch of his “Stand Up for Standards” campaign. Richards was particularly critical of teachers, whom he accused of having no pride in their appearance and setting a poor example to pupils. “It’s high time some of them had a bath and did a bit of business with Mr Wilkinson and his sword,” he declared.

Richards’ shorts may have gone – replaced by smart grey trousers – but his attitude is as uncompromising as ever. “This will put the Reds on the run,” he told reporters, brandishing a copy of his manifesto outside the school gates.

Fellow pupils appear to be unconvinced by his rhetoric and most declined his offer of a cut-price copy. Two bearded protesters proffered a leaflet entitled The Truth About The Little Fascist Schoolbook, but there were few takers for this either.

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