My mother, who worked in education for her whole life, always used to say that it was a political football; what I never quite grasped was that education is the first knackered old ball a new government reach for when they want a kickabout.
I spoke to the deputy at the kids’ school the other week. The subject of the new government saw her slump in her chair, her face fell. My words in her mouth are that education in schools is just a merry-go-round and there is little new thinking. Instead a sense of: oh here we go… we’ve all get to get out of the red teacup and into that blue teacup on the roundabout and spin round until we are dizzy and sick.
All the news is about cutting funding to our universities and allowing them to raise their fees. Certainly that’s going to make a lot more families think twice about the cost of a degree. Maybe it will put it out of reach of some them. It is a devastatingly efficacious way for the “progressive” coalition to begin to reverse the effective Labour policy of many more young people getting a university education, thereby restoring the natural, elitist order of things. Keeping the majority of people in their place, whilst ensuring we all know that the poor smelly kids will get extra help from a caring regime.
And that’s a problem isn’t it? It’s patriarchal munificence – like chucking a penny in the beggar’s hat. It might help the odd young person follow their dreams and aspirations, but most of them will be left as they are. The Tories may believe in a meritocracy where the Sir Alan Sugars will rise to the top regardless, able to flourish as individuals in a market economy, but actually aren’t they banking on keeping just enough of the electorate in the style to which they are accustomed and not worrying too much about the rest?
I think the main problem, at the root of many ills, is that education in schools has been designed to meet the needs of the market place. Do we really teach kids what they need to be fully-functioning human beings or are we educating future worker bees, drones if I want to be really negative? So many adults I meet don’t know how to think independently and believe what they read, see or hear whilst absorbing capitalist and government messages by osmosis. If people are not taught as children how to learn and think for themselves, what use is school?
Yet the government are in there like Flint, tinkering around at the edges and cutting budgets, because they know best. Schools are factories, and the product is mainly people who conform without challenging the status quo. How can they not be when they are dealing with the quantity of kids that they do. Of course not all schools are equal, some teachers are gifted and inspire children, but even gifted teachers must surely become bowed under the sheer weight of the unequal task, wrapped as it is in unremitting bureaucracy and in a perjorative political climate.
David Cameron and his crew misunderstand humans because primarily they are marketeers selling a product. Today he is going to tell parents who don’t get on with each other that their children are going to be poor, and probably criminal when they grow up. Don’t worry though, Dave is going to fix your problems with the Family Champion scheme. The help offered is of the Victorian kind, where they keep the power and influence entirely for themselves and the effluent is the oppression of others. Until schools are free to produce adults that know that learning is their lifelong right and that their independent thought is vital to resist the pervasive influence of the market, nothing much will change.
43 students went to hospital yesterday, maybe some of them were what the media will brand troublemakers, but I know in my heart there will be at least one brave and independent thinker amongst them. Hope is not quite dead.
It might have been that the number of abstentions could have swung the vote on University Fees against the Government, but although one hoped, it never seemed really possible.
It might have been that some of the protesters got a little bit over-excited.
It might have been Boris Johnson’s comment that throwing paint at the Prince of Wales’ car was an insult to democracy (explain how a Royal Family fit in to that concept).
But it was none of those.
Before I say what it was, I have to say I was incredibly heartened by the protest, the majority of students and the resignations of certain MPs from their party posts: perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for direct action and a few principled people still knocking about.
The big fat disappointment was Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry of the Metropolitan Police. I have never seen a senior woman police officer on the BBC (we’ve had Dame Helen on ITV) so today was a bit of a moment for me. Then she opened her mouth. I can’t find the clip to transcribe her exactly but it more or less went thus:
I am disappointed that the protesters were a bit naughty and did not stick to the previously agreed route. Plus they threw some missiles.
She said this well before they started
a) setting fire to things
b) breaking up breeze blocks and pelting the Treasury
c) throwing paint at the ill-advised Royal Variety vehicle
So, in my lifetime, I eventually see a woman police officer break through the glass ceiling onto the telly, only to draw herself up to her full Mother Hubbard height and admonish students for not doing what they were told by the authorities. Get real love.
*back to the drawing board*
This may be Twitter’s finest hour so far.
- Protesters have failed to stick to the agreed route.” To be fair, neither did the Lib Dems
- Student protester ‘not prepared to have her dreams broken’
- Putting individuals into debt to get the government out of it: go figure
- Protesters are advised that toilet and water facilities will be in Great George Street for those in the containment
- There’s a massive fire in Parliament Square – police believe it may be Nick Clegg’s pants
- Student on BBC: “When the next election comes we will be old enough to vote and we will not forget that they betrayed us
This is a warning: I may go off on one in the next few days.
Working in education, I can see significant changes in the political climate already. This government have been nothing if not like shit off a shovel for driving through their failing capitalist agenda.
So, I am waiting to see what happens with the vote on university fees later today with interest. I am also warming my hands on the glow of students protesting this afternoon. University fees is not even the half of it.
I’ll be starting my rant from about here:
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
— Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)