Left Luggage

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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The radicalism of action, not words

Posted by Left Luggage on July 20, 2009

We’ve argued previously that the Left needs to tackle such thorny issues as anti-social behaviour, crime, and morality if it is to launch itself from the political wilderness to centre stage. Blogger Vengeance and Fashion took up these issues in an excellent post that furthered this debate. Generalising from the case of teacher Peter Harvey, who was charged with the attempted murder of one of his pupils, the writer goes on to discuss problems of behaviour in the classroom and how this relates to wider changes in society.

He relates his analysis to the Independent Working Class Association’s identification of a “lumpen attitude”, highlighted in a previous piece on Left Luggage, that is ultimately counter to working class values and destructive to communities. The writer correctly argues that the Left as a whole needs to recognise such attitudes and behaviour as something that needs to be countered:

It doesn’t do the left any good to pretend that the attitudes of a significant section of the school population stink.  The constant invokation of ‘rights’ and selfish disregard for anyone else (be they other pupils or teachers) is prevalent in many classrooms.  As is the baiting of teachers, who have little real power over pupils.[…]

The lumpen attitude, as identified by the IWCA, of ‘venal and brazen opportunism’ and the decline of working class ideals, is undoubtedly as a result of the atomisation and decline in traditional working class organisations and institutions. This has in turn led to a decline in the working class values identified in the quote above, to which I would add the spirit of self and collective improvement. This does seem to have been a significant factor behind the escalation of problems in the classroom over the last 30 years.

Much of the Left might find fault with this analysis, given the strong tendency to romanticise an idealised “working class” while largely remaining distanced from it. Even if such a heretical notion were permitted, the solutions offered would not doubt be along the lines of: “Unless we abolish capitalism…”, merely reinforcing the Left’s impotence as regards practical politics in the here and now. V&A attempts to bridge this gap by suggesting a “twin-track approach”:
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Posted in Education, Morality, Strategy, Youth | Leave a Comment »

Parents occupy South London primary school

Posted by Left Luggage on April 23, 2009

The spirit of the Glasgow school occupation and the Visteon workers has spread and parents of children at Lewisham Bridge School in South London have occupied the roof of the school in protest at its closure.

You can read about the background here. There is also a facebook group.

Parents involved in the occupation would really appreciate any visits to the school or anyone who can do shifts on the roof. The BBC, Evening Standard and others have already been down to cover the occupation.

There will be a public meeting outside the school tomorrow (Friday 24/4) at 3.30pm. The school is on Elmira Street, Lewisham, SE13 7BN. A map can be found here. Messages of support can be put on the facebook group and sent to handsofflewishambridge@yahoo.co.uk.

We fully support the parents involved in this protest and wish them every success.

Posted in Education, News | 1 Comment »

Snapshots of a divided society

Posted by Left Luggage on April 18, 2009

One of the sillier responses to Left Luggage since we launched three weeks ago, has been the argument that class is a redundant category. A poster on our opening article about the Left, argued that “working class” was a redundant category, basically suggesting that it had no structural reality in society.

Of course, the fact that 53% of British people self-identify as working class gives us some indication that it is a relevent political category. And two new pieces of research published this week further underlined the point. The first, in a paper presented by Dr Will Atkinson, of Bristol University’s Department of Sociology, showed that the class in Britain is alive and well. In the study:

He found that those whose parents had a limited amount of money, education and social connections had had a much narrower choice during their lives.

He found that the working-class people he interviewed were disadvantaged in getting into higher education because their parents had had less money to spend on private education or supplementary tutoring for them, and were less able to cover their university fees.

This was consistent with the fact that although the expansion in university places over the past 20 years had allowed the number of working-class people at university to rise, they were under-represented as a proportion of those attending.

Dr Atkinson said his findings help explain why only 13 per cent of those from working-class backgrounds go to university, whereas 44 per cent of those from middle-class backgrounds do. He said: “The precise characteristics of the classes in terms of occupations, educational experiences and work life experiences has shifted with the social changes of the late 20th century. But the fact that some are better educated, with more choice in their lives and with more money still persists, and this maintains class differences that are as wide as they were in the 1970s.”

The fact that this system of entrenched privilege, far from disappearing, is stronger than ever was shown by a Cabinet Office report released on Tuesday showing that jobs in elite professions have become more socially exclusive.

The report suggested that privately educated people took the lion’s share of jobs in some professions, despite accounting for only 7 per cent of the population. Three-quarters of judges, 70 per cent of finance directors and 45 per cent of top civil servants went to independent schools, for example.

The middle-and upper-class domination has increased in recent decades, the report suggests. For example, lawyers born in 1970 grew up in families with an income 64 per cent above the national average, compared with a gap of 43 per cent for lawyers born in 1958. For top journalists, the trend is even more marked, with the 1970 generation coming from families with incomes 42 per cent above the national average, as against a 6 per cent gap for those born in 1958.

Class-based differences in aspiration, as well as educational attainment, affect recruitment patterns for the professions, the report suggests. More than four out of 10 – 41 per cent – of young people from the AB socioeconomic groups aspire to be a professional, against only 13 per cent of young DEs.

The report includes this illuminating graph, which shows how the privately-educated dominate the elite sectors of society to a remarkable degree given they constitute only 7 per cent of the population as a whole:

This graph shows how the proportion of those in different elite professions that were privately-educated. The top bar, in yellow, shows the percentage of the population as a whole that has a private education, 7%.

This graph shows how the privately-educated (top bar, 7 per cent) dominate the elite sectors of British society.

Posted in Class, Education, Social mobility | 2 Comments »

Video from school occupation

Posted by Left Luggage on April 9, 2009

Parents in Glasgow continue to occupy two primary schools that are under threat of closure as part of a city-wide plan to close 25 schools affecting 2,000 children. We featured news about this action in an earlier post. This video features an interview with the mothers involved in the action by an organiser with Glasgow Save Our Schools campaign:

Posted in Education, News | Leave a Comment »

Parents occupy under-threat schools

Posted by Left Luggage on April 4, 2009

About 30 parents in Glasgow yesterday occupied two primary schools that are under the threat of closure.

The actions at Wyndford Primary and St Gregory’s Primary in Maryhillare are over plans by the local council to close both schools by merging them with other primaries. Glasgow City Council is proposing a series of cuts that would result in 13 primaries and 12 nurseries either closing or merging.

The protestors denounced a “sham” consultation process undertaken by the council and said the closure of the schools tear the heart out of the community. One of the mothers occupying St Gregory’s said: “They are the heart of our community. If they take the schools away it will just kill it. I’m a former pupil and this school means a lot to us.”

As of last night, reports from Wyndford Primary said the occupation was going well and the parents had “barricaded themselves in” for the night. A demonstration is planned outside the school for midday today (Saturday, April 4).

Posted in Community, Education | 3 Comments »