Following the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the recent series of affrays across the political landscape, with a resultant refreshed exposition on the economy, the topography of industry is now littered with claims for an upsurge in economic flexibility, innovation, challenge and growth.
We revisit Sir Ken Robinson talking about ‘How to Change Education?’ as a consequence.
What better time in the current climate to look again at the education reform focus of the Robinson arguments about schools as Enlightenment driven, rigid, formulaic and command and control industrial systems.
The RSA Animate, featured above was a wonderful synthesis of those arguments and offers a direct challenge to some more traditional ‘informed thinking’ about the educational process for our children.
You can see the full, original RSA talk (24 mins) by Ken Robinson in July 2013 here…
With the socio-political present focus on ‘the other’, isolation and insularity – the call to arms for fresh thinking about creativity embedded in the Robinsonian education reform argument, to secure the future of all our children, becomes now doubly telling, we think.
‘…Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, warned that there is a continuing crisis in the education of the poor white working class. Some don’t like to hear that, because they think concentration on difficulties experienced by the white working class detracts from the attention owed to disadvantaged minority students also left behind. But I have little time for that zero-sum game. I think we should address all underachievement‘.
The concept of the working class as a distinctive cohort is problematic. Whether white or dosadvantaged the label attempts t make a singular ‘mass of people’ from a bewildering variety of experience, expectation and shades of outcome.
In her recent article in The Guardian, ‘Why Class Won’t Go Away’, Lynsey Hanley powerfully reflects upon the schisms revealed by the recent referendum and the Brexit debate. The vote, she argues, was split by class and geography.The rising wave of social and economic inequality which has been tolerated for so long at last, in the referendum process, found an outlet for its harboured discontents.
In her work, we would argue, she defines a much more granular and subtle mapping of the working class experience.
Hanley declares that the epithet ‘white working class’ has been a way to define an amorphous cohort in society certainly, ‘…who sort of look like us but who don’t seem to be like us, and we can’t work out why’. ‘The idea that, in a group as heterogeneous as the British working class, it is only the white members who have been “abandoned” has proved magnetic to both columnists and politicians‘, as referenced in the opening remarks from Ofsted above.
Even the Labour Party, Hanley argues, has embraced the singular entity of the white working class as a means to aggregate reasons for the failure of the party at the polls. She nicely evidences the distance of The Labour Party from its ‘working class’ electorate with a narrative of how, pre the 2015 election, Labour Central Office had been unable to find a ‘worker on the minumum wage’ for commentary recording as no-one in the office knew any.
Perhaps it also highlights the vast distance between Party machines of all colours from their grassroots members lived experience.
‘Far more than in other western European countries, if you are born poor in Britain, in a poor area, the chances are that you will remain poor for the rest of your life. If you are born rich, in a rich area, the likelihood is that you will find a way – or will have ways come to you – to stay wealthy and privileged throughout your life, and your children will do the same’.
Hanley describes living in Solihull in the West Midlands in the 1980’s, where the term ‘working class’ was never used. Instead ‘people like us’ or ‘the likes of us’ held sway she says. This is the working class, arguably, defining itself as separate, as a methodology to protect individual and family from the depredations of ever mounting scoial and economic inequality.
‘It needs to be acknowledged that “helplessness” or “dependency” – as defined by politicians seeking to blame individuals for structural failings – is an adaptive stance rather than an innate fact of character’ Hanley says.
In a recent article in The Huffington Post, Sarah Newton argues that class persists too. The schisms defined by Hanley are securely entrenched by the use of, what Newton calls, ‘constructive cultivation’.
This is a framework of social, economic, educative and psychological processes that push middle class children to engage with and perpetuate a class based educational and expectational life landscape.
‘Until we accept in this country that the class system is having an impact on education choices later in life and face it head on and challenge it, then nothing will ever change’.
Equally important for Newton is the cultural legacy of the working class. This neatly chimes with the Hanley thesis of identity as defence. The layering of approaches to low expectation and social prejudice that condition the individual’s approach to life progress. They are, she argues, inherited from generation to generation.
Class has not gone away, it has become bound to the rocky strata of education, politics and economic behaviour. It is bound to the bedrock of inequality. It is this restraining shale which education reform should try and shatter, permanently.
To make the phrase ‘…I think we should address all underachievement’ a la Hugh Muir really mean something.
Read Lynsey Hanley’s book and explore her argument about working class culture and the enduring nature of class inequality – Respectable: The Experience of Class, Allen Lane, April 2016.
Why is class still so central to the experience of living in Britain? It is an urgent question, evaded through a kind of collective shame, but Lynsey Hanley approaches it with wit and passion.Respectable is pithy and provoking, spiced with the personal but solidly grounded in a lifetime’s experience of analysing the world around her. It is one of those valuable books that enables the reader to re-think her past and re-experience her own life. (Hilary Mantel, a review))
Thursday 22 September, 2016 7pm-8.30pm
Venue: King Solomon Academy, Penfold St, London NW1 6RX
Join us next Thursday for a gathering to show our collective support for comprehensive education and our opposition to the creation of new grammar schools.
This will be a positive rally that will involve a number of inspirational speakers, a chance to find out what happens next and the opportunity to share any ideas you have to try and win the argument in public and in parliament. It should also be great opportunity to meet others who share your concerns about the Green Paper.
Confirmed speakers include: Fiona Millar, Writer and Founder of Local Schools Network Becky Allen, Director of Education Datalab Joanne Bartley, Kent parent and chair of Kent Education Network David Weston, Founder and Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust Laura McInerney, Editor of Schools Week Melissa Benn, Writer and current Chair of Comprehensive Future Katrina Black, Regional Director – Europe, Teach For All Louka Travlos, Impact Strategy, National Citizens Service Ndidi Okezie, Executive Director – Delivery, Teach First
(Flotsam is our occasional series of educational ideas from other places…)
Linking this to live commentary/chat by Facebook sign-in, Karim’s experiment seeks to make the idea of MOOC’s more accessible and discursive. Taking out the loneliness factor from on-line educational consumption? He calls it ClassroomFM.
The early model streams YouTube videos from Stanford University, across a range of themes including enterprise, health, society, technology and education.
As the project develops we would like to see some form of timetable or forward view of upcoming talks, perhaps with ‘time available localised’ to your machine or device, along with other forms of sign-in rather than just Facebook perhaps.
This early iteration of the feed has some way to go to be a mature service, but offers an interesting idea that might be adopted by schools, universities and groups like IETT?
Our growing catalogue of filmed debate could be available on-line, looped continuously 24/7, and interested visitors could drop in and comment and discuss, in real time, with their peers the ideas being presented by the featured speaker. (An IETT tech development project for 2016 perhaps…Ed?)
You can see Karim speak at TED AmsterdamEducation below. It is perhaps a talk strong on chutzpah and less pronounced on reforming detail, but it is entertaining. Those who currently teach and lecture may find it challenging…
The Great Room at The RSA was full. Like a Calima, drawn towards the depression that is education in England, conversation and debate swept across the room.
We had assembled to hear Profesor Danny Dorling and Professor Diane Reay give their assessments of English education today, and to provide us with both data and questions of challenge in our collective pilgrimage for reform.
The short films below give you a flavour of our event and the messages delivered by our speakers…
Professor Dorling challenged his audience to imagine an education system without so much testing. His exposition included illustrations of how we value memory above problem solving and experimentation. He was delighted to see in the audience, after general questioning, that so many of us had achieved ‘A’ grades. A triumph of conformity, alas, in the Dorling assessment. The whole treatise bringing into doubt the formula that a more expensive education is a more privileged education.
Professor Reay used her allotted time to deliver a statistical analysis of the inequalities in education in our country. Highlighting the fact that in the private sector, for example, spend per pupil is 2.5 times higher than in the state sector. She also highlighted the deficiencies in access to the broad and balanced curriculum which children and young people need, along with a strong section in her presentation, on happiness and wellbeing. Often disregarded, she argued, in any assessment of educational utlilty or achievement.
Whether for learners or teaching staff, levels of distress and dissatisfaction have never been higher, Professor Reay argued. Much was also made of the increasingly low level of professional autonomy afforded teachers in England now.
This was a well attended IETT event, with very high quality engagement and telling analysis from our speakers. This prompted some very lively discussion across the room, as well as new networking and professional acquaintance for many visitors to our conference. Ed.
Bregman argues for the universal dispersion of the basic income, as a human right. His opening argument is based upon the notion of standing on the shoulders of giants. ‘Our forefathers have worked so hard to achieve our level of propserity, we should now be able to give everyone a share of that prosperity…’
He argues that in communities where basic income experiments have been attempted, the outcome can be measured in better educational achievement, lower truancy rates, and higher economic growth. Developing an active, participatory counter to inequality.
In a disenfranchised community, he argues, a basic income frees human capacity…it does not diminish it or whither it out of laziness or lack of engagement in societal progress.
Nixon, in the 1970’s nearly passed legislation that engendered the basic income in the US, arguably at the cost of only 25 per cent of the US Defense Budget. A development now long forgotten in US economic thinking.
The London charitable experiment, cited in the film, to give long term homeless men free money, as an alternative to counselling, police monitoring and other forms of ‘traditional’ support also resulted in a variety of sustainable self help outcomes that was, by conventional critiques of ‘the benefit society’, surprising and enduring.
Bregman argues against the three most often made arguments for a universal ‘citizen wage’. It’s too expensive, all people will stop working and it will never happen, politically. The film highlights both optimism, human nature and the individuals need to make a contribution to society as counters to these narrow objections.
The Green Party have argued for the universal wage in their UK manifesto at the last election. Is this an idea that can stand a return to wider national focus?
Might this economic reform be the very bedrock of enduring and effective educational reform too?
Might the introduction of a universal, non-means tested income prevent the collapse of the middle -class through the unending pressure of inequality?
‘From our inception, we realised this will be a many-to-many effort—involving many talented experts at the core of the Institute collaborating with many talented participants in the movement itself…from deep understanding about the science of learning to design thinking skills, from fueling the movement to building compelling digital tools that spark imagination’.
What the XQ Super School project can do is offer some simple and effective road maps and sound structural examples for delivery of projects like IETT.
We are just beginning our journey of levelling inequality in education in the UK, but the steps needed to make challenge and change effective can, arguably, be drawn from models in other educational locations and cultures.
Thus, with XQ, there are four key steps to their development agenda/competition…
Team Up – ‘Assemble your team and head off into the unknown’. With an open mind and focus on the proposed project outcomes, then a wide variety of voices can be heard and included in the work.
Discover – ‘Start by understanding young people’. A wonderful, people first, philosophy. Deploying knowledge, research and experience that so often gets buried in the political agenda or mainstream educational currency.
Design ‘…take what you’ve learned and use it to come up with audacious, unconventional, unconstrained ideas…’. Made us feel positively dizzy in the IETT office today!
Develop – ‘Map out a formidable plan for turning your…idea into reality’. From human capital, to governance, to implementation capacity – a good plan is sound thinking for any project or agenda.