Campaigning for environmental and social justice in the London Borough of Brent and beyond. Against cuts and privatisation and for real democracy. Managed by Martin Francis of Brent Green Party but open to all who share these aims.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Time for school students to organise?

PRECOCIOUS
In blue lagoons I once did play,
Tossing the surf,
Catching the spray.
Living my life as each day came,
Never looking for fortune or fame.
Clever and youthful,
Strong and brave,
Carelessly riding the tidal wave -
but I was only 4.

From BLOT magazine 1976
 
 There is a connection between my last blog on SATs and the previous one on young people and the cuts.

The connection is that the generation now experiencing the cuts, whether through their school buildings not being rebuilt, losing their Education Maintenance Allowances, having Kilburn College sold off from under their feet,  seeing tuition fees increased or facing unemployment, is the generation that has experienced the full force of the target culture in schools. They have been the most tested generation of pupils ever.

Yes, there has been investment in schools but often of the wrong kind: thousands spent on the SATs regime and national curriculum materials and all serving the purpose of meeting targets..  Throughout, the mantra repeated by the government, teachers and often parents has been, "Keep your heads down, do what the teacher says, work hard and you will end up with good qualifications, a good job and enough money to have a decent quality of life".

Back in the 70s and 80s I remember when that mantra was blown apart in the face of unemployment and we are approaching that point now. Youth will be arguing "What was the point?"  I remember very well back at that time, when a child in my primary class in Fulham remarked, after I had foolishly repeated the mantra,  "My brother worked hard and got qualified and can't get a job so why should I bother?"

This is particularly true now because the Blair government, and the Tories before them, have reduced education to individuals getting the employment skills to keep the UK ahead of competitor nations. Having narrowed the purpose of education and reduced schools to qualification factories they will face resentment and rebellion, disaffection and desperation.

In the 70s school students organised in the National Union of School Students and other organisations. One of their major campaigns was against the use of corporal punishment in schools. The NUSS publicised their activities through a magazine called BLOT and for some time they got a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation. At the height of their influence they had the support of 30 or so MPs.

Now such magazines are 'last century' compared with social networking sites and their power to mobilise large numbers at short notice. I wonder how many would answer a call such as this (taken from a 1976 edition of BLOT):

You've got no rights, none at all - you've got no voice. No-one will hear you complain. You haven't got a chance to change a thing - you're too young to hear, speak or think. 

That's what a lot of people think of us. 

Well we know different - we know we think and we've got a lot to say but nowhere to say it. No-one to listen. I, me, myself will never be heard. I've got to be louder so I can shout and if we all shout together then we'll be heard.

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