Gradually I’m emerging from writing, presenting, teaching, mentoring and marking exams (just orals to go this week) and I am determined to find some time to think and share thoughts through this space again. This piece in the Observer today by Will Hutton has prompted me to pull together several threads which have been troubling me for a while.
Firstly on voting. Our recent local elections gave an opportunity to express my support for Labour and, as Warwick was billed as a battlefield, it was good to see that we hit back at the Tory controlled council which is now under no overall control. This should at least reduce to some extent the austerity measures which are hurting vulnerable local people.
The voting continues, and I am pleased that the UK will have to hold European elections (you know, that organisation which was roundly derided as non democratic by Leavers) on May 23rd. However Labour will not be my vote of choice here. My research into the positions of MEPs on the threats to the Internet showed me that the big parties are not really paying attention, nor or they protecting the voices which stand up for the Commons. I expressed my concerns in this recent tweet. Since then my thinking is going more towards the Greens: they are putting the planet before economics and that is a fitting message to send to the EU. Let’s get our priorities right. Making money doesn’t save the world, it continues to endanger our futures.
Of course voting is the only way we get to influence anything at a political level but we can also contribute to changes in the zeitgeist. Education helps us to understand how to critically analyse what happens around us and how to make informed choices (this is not how Nick Gibb would see things of course, education in an authoritarian regime is all about control and compliance, using exam results and league tables as instruments to justify their actions). Recently there has been some discussion about private schools and their role in entrenching divisions in our society, deepening inequalities. Full disclosure here: when I was about 7 years old my parents decided to take me out of the small local primary school I loved and paid for me to go to Warwick Prep (aka The Squirrels). Their reasoning? The 11 plus exams were approaching, my local primary were short on resources and I had a hearing difficulty. Smaller class sizes would help they thought. I have no idea if that move would have in any way affected my passing the 11 plus or not but certainly taking the bus to school every day and enjoying a rather privileged ambiance where I mixed with the children of wealthy doctors and lawyers widened my rather narrow set of experiences gained through village life. They also put my parents under huge pressure to get me a pony!
My subsequent grammar school place (all girls) taught me that girls can succeed despite an overwhelmingly male dominated hierarchy. I needed that education and self belief in order to find appropriate schooling for our first son as again there was insufficient state support for young people with special needs. If it were not for the possibility in the UK for independent schools which do provide more tailored education (in our case Alderwasley Hall School in Derbyshire was a real lifeline for our son who was really suffering in an unsuitable setting). What would have been the point of my education if I had been unable to stand up for him? However, I admit private schools do drain resources, they rely on a good infrastructure and yet contribute little to local councils to offset their demands, thanks to their charitable status. They have no obligations to National Curriculum, no inspection regime and their claim to provide a better education is based on providing the freedom and flexibility which state schools, starved of funding and bound in red tape, can no longer provide. Why does the UK not just commit to a great national education system? and while we are at it, maintain a world beating NHS? Or is income the only measure of entitlement? The failure of all governments since the 2nd world war to address this lack of investment in our own people plays out in the disadvantage and misery of ordinary people.
Back to Will:
“Economics itself – and even the discourse in business schools – has begun to ask searching questions about how today’s capitalism, meant to be unleashed by rolling back the state, has gone so evidently rogue. The derided state is emerging as an essential partner in co-creating a value-creating capitalism”
Surprise, surprise! Deregulation, free market economics and “trickle down” do nothing to protect the needs of our most needy. The greedy just get greedier. The rich are doing fine.
So where is hope? Hope as shared in #oer19 recently requires work, to claim hope we need to find ways to enact what we hope for. Open educational practice (OEP) gives me hope.