Academies to Educate and Politics to Govern

I’ve just read an article in The Independent entitled  “Overwhelming number of school leaders ‘opposed to Government’s new academies policy’“. What this and most articles on this subject ignore is the incontrovertible though much denied fact that education is a political football.

The reason for the move to academies is purely political, just as setting up the old comprehensive system was political. The existing system was set up to empower Labour Party ideology. The new proposals are put forward to benefit Conservative Party ideology. Politicians always want to shape the minds of the next generation because doing so gives them the power to control the future agenda.

The Labour Party have effectively controlled education for decades and have dumbed it down by subjecting it to tis own unrigorous world view. This worldview is based on an idealism that often ignores and sometimes actively resists reality

Those who joined the teaching profession during that time obviously favour the existing system and they are highly resistant to change. However, the existing system has failed. Proof of this is that businesses claim that they need to import skilled staff from oversees. They claim British people lack the skills! If true this is a clear indication that the education system is currently not fit for purpose and must be changed.

People may complain that the education system should not be a political football. The reality of the situation is that it is! The status quo will complain about supposed politicisation despite the fact that their own positions are themselves the direct result of politics. This point is something they never acknowledge.

The main problem with politics is that it’s practitioners believe that if something is initially a good thing then ‘more of the same’ is better. This is not true, more of the same makes a system extreme and imbalanced. This has happened with the Labour Party model for education and has left us with a system that is not fit for purpose.

Radical change is now required to restore the balance. Unfortunately while the current proposals are necessary to bring an end to Labour’s tight grip, the Conservatives will ultimately, after many years of making it better, take it too far in the opposite direction. Perhaps knowledge of this problem combined with wise decision makers may ensure we ultimately have a balanced system – but don’t hold your breath!

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Have Left and Right Lost Their Political Meaning?

Written on 14 September 2012.

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Winston Churchill once famously said:

“If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, my early political affiliations were with the left.  I was sympathetic with the liberals from my time as a teenager until I left university when I became involved in the Labour Party.  I now consider myself a conservative (please note the small ‘c’ – I am not a member of the Conservative Party), though more to the left wing of conservative thought.  I did the political compass test just the other day and ended up near the very centre, though located slightly within the section for the libertarian left!

Political-Compass

It was interesting to discover, though not altogether unexpected, that the Labour Party is located quite far within the quadrant depicting the authoritarian right.  Perhaps that’s why they call it ‘New’ Labour and why the Labour Party no longer represents the interests of the working class.

The political world today is nothing if it is not peculiar.  Looking at the political scene is like looking at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the situation is bizarre.  It seems that politicians who are not ‘in it for themselves’ are a very rare breed indeed.  Perhaps the poor quality of leadership in the Western world explains our decline into the Spenglerianwasteland we see around us.  I believe that the lack teaching of history in our schools and the popularity of the socially destructive moral relativism has played a role too – but they are based on political choices too.

I witnessed authoritarianism within the Labour Party while serving as Chairman of my local Young Labour Party group.  This was before the election victory in 1997 but Tony Blair had already taken the reins of power within the party.  My friends and I, within the local Young Labour group had taken it upon ourselves to create a political magazine so we could express ourselves politically and exercise our young intellects with something that is becoming increasingly rare – free thought.  One of my friends was a politics student who had applied to work at the regional party office during the summer vacation.  However, he was in the unfortunate position of writing an article that the party apparatchiks did not perhaps quite agree with – to cut a long story short, he did not do his work experience at regional office!

We were all aware about the concept of being on message, and my unfortunate colleague found out about that the hard way.  However, the Labour Party once in power made being ‘on message’ almost your civic duty and draconian laws were enacted to ensure those who were off message were suitably punished.  Seems that I have learned the lessons of the excesses of socialism myself too, and my own work in helping the party gain power is something, even though my contribution was minute, for which I will suffer eternal shame.

The Conservative Party on the other hand, bruised and battered by over a decade in opposition has failed to reverse the authoritarian socialist legacy – we are still lacking the freedoms that were stolen from us by New Labour.  In many ways the Conservative Party is just a watered down version of the Labour Party.  We have socialists who are not socialists and conservatives who are not conservatives both wallowing in a social and economic disaster of their own making.  From a democratic point of view a world without values has become a world without choice.  If left and right are indistinguishable is democracy even possible?

Today we live in a Western world where those with power are incapable of using it wisely and those without it are powerless to improve their lot.  Going back to the Churchill quote at the beginning of this article, the political class have neither heart nor brain and those that they govern have no choice.  Left and right have lost their political meaning and our societies have lost their way.

Banana Split: The Great Banana War Rages – Is No Tropical Fruit Safe?

3_Bananas with size reduced from 1563 x 1321 to 640 x 541 px

Above: 3 bananas on a yellow background. 19 February 2007. Originally posted to Flickr as [][2]. Uploaded using F2ComButton. Author Rick Harris. Republished under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Modifications: File size changed from 1563 x 1321 px to 640 x 541 px. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#/media/File:3_Bananas.jpg Licence: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

The Yanks, a curious group, when they’re not dropping bombs on our lads in the Gulf (friendly fire, etc.) they’re starting a trade war with us!

Well, what are allies for, if you can’t piss them off what can you do with you time[?]

In late 1998, as our bombers were being deployed to back up our American cousins in their quarrel with Saddam, a far more serious and heinous plot was being hatched against the Euro-banana.

What I call the Euro banana, is the fruit produced in former British and French colonies, which is distinguished from its American multinational-produced counterpart by its size, it’s a bit smaller (well, size isn’t everything!).

The problem of course, as with many Euro-American disputes, is that we give a trade preference to bananas produced in countries with wish we have historical links and responsibilities.

Naturally the greedy American companies which produced those bendy yellow pieces of fruit, are a bit upset that they can’t monopolise yet another market, that of the EU.

Oh, what a shame how will the American economy ever survive[!]

We have strong cultural and economic links with our former colonies (America included), and some are very poor countries.

When will the US come to realise that some countries take their international responsibilities seriously?

Sometimes we put historical commitment before stuffing our pockets full of cash and claiming to be the most moral and the most correct country in the world.

How many countries does the United States want to offend with its overbearing economic presence, its swaggering attitude, and its imposition of sanctions on countries [whose] leaders or policies it does not like[?]

Well, what do you expect, history has ended, Uncle Sam’s the only remaining superpower, and everyone else has to tow the line.

As Europe moves towards political unification, we might be able to actually have a truly independent foreign policy, a policy that allows a more benign social market capitalism to assert itself on the American version.

Perhaps the real reason behind the dispute is that Europe’s social market capitalism, with its welfare states and social safety nets, is too much of a diversion from the true faith that produces the deprivation and social malaise that is apparent in the US.

At a time when Europe is asserting its independence with a new currency that is a threat to the pre-eminance of the Dollar, the Americans have to come to terms with their decline. The American Century is all but over, and they are beginning to worry about what the future holds. American leaders may ultimately come to realise that the American way may not necessarily be the ultimate destiny of humanity, and that alternatives do in fact exist. The future is a very uncertain place indeed, and as America’s power wanes it will needs its European friends more than ever.

If America continues its aggressive economic posturing, Europe and America could suffer a banana split with serious implications for both. AMERICA BE WARNED!

By Chris Knowles

Originally published in the REaction! the political magazine of Wakefield District Young Labour, ISSN 1464-8105, Vol.2 no.1 April 1999.

People’s Europe for a Bright Future

Hemicycle_of_Louise_Weiss_building_of_the_European_Parliament,_Strasbourg 640 x 427

Above: The European Parliament in debate. 18 May 2010, 15:01. Source:
078 Strasbourg
. Author: jeffowenphotos. Licensing: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Original size of 2,000 × 1,333 pixels reduced here to 640 x 247 pixels. Obtained from Commons.Wikimedia.org

We have heard a great deal in recent years about the process of European integration. Invariably, we have been baffled by political rhetoric, bamboozled by esoteric terms and confronted by economic wrangling that replaces common sense with confusion.

Young people, spared the horrors of European civil war, apparently feel more inclined to accept a European identity. They are more willing to embrace our commonalities as Europeans than react to that which divides us.

We have not known a world in which the United Kingdom has existed outside an integrating Europe, be that in the form of the EEC or EU. Nevertheless, we remain uninspired and uninterested by the current focus of debate.

We need an ideal, something that puts this grand project on a human scale, something that shows how it can improve the human condition or produce a more just society. Discussions relating to legal and economic mechanism fail to motivate the energies of a new generation.

Europe seems to be more relevant to big business and a small elite than to the needs of the people who would constitute the citizens.

This is sad, because the power of Europe could be harnessed to help protect the rights of its people, as the forces of globalisation become more rampant.

Increasingly we are subjected to global forces apparently beyond our control. Once great powers now stand in line, heads bowed, begging multinationals for their patronage. But what is the price of this financial influx?

As we in Western Europe begin to compete with the non-unionised sweatshop economies of the Far East, wages are forced into a downward spiral, welfare states are deemed to be too expensive and individuals are ostracised if they fall upon hard times.

The very essence of democracy is put into question too. Countries which sign up to treaties that are geared to promote “far” trade become bound to the whims of corporations who use legal technicalities to prevent the formulation of legislations demanded by electorates.

In the absence of international regimes that establish rules to protect individuals and communities, as well as promoting the legitimate requirement for free trade, a social malaise results that impacts negatively on the lives of us all.

The position of Europe as one of the biggest markets in the world would be sufficient to put pressure on these transnational forces and impel them to operate more reasonably.

After all, it is states and not private companies where democratic legitimacy lies. It should therefore be states that have the upper hand when formulating “global rules of the game”.

A unified Europe, speaking with a united voice would thus be able to succeed where competing nation states have failed.

It could act to promote the establishment of such global norms. It could establish a “Fortress Europe”, making access to its market dependent upon countries operating according to European standards of welfare and wage levels.

This would act to create a level playing field, preventing our industries been undercut as a result of our Government’s benevolence in providing the welfare safety net.

We have seen quite recently how the global interests of leading international tycoons are put before basic rights and privileges enshrined in our constitution.

The case of Rupert Murdoch’s veto on the publication of Chris Pattern’s book on Hong Kong illustrates this perfectly.

Imagine a world where all publishers had interests in a country like China, and all refused to publish books that were deemed incompatible with their interests there.

The result could be a curtailment of the right of free speech equivalent to that experienced in any of the totalitarian police states of former communist Eastern Europe. Free market thinkers of the 1980s were all too keen to embark on a moral crusade against such bastions of tyranny. Where are those voices now?

Is it that private organisations and powerful moguls have the right to take away freedoms that were considered too precious to be withdrawn by mere governments?

The arguments in favour of this view are tainted with hypocrisy.

Europe could be big enough and powerful enough to stand up to such companies and individuals. It could shift the balance of power back in the direction of democratically elected governments.

In international forums such as GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), Europe would be able to present the case for its own, more socially responsible brand of capitalism.

It could offer a counter weight to American capitalism that seems to ride roughshod over communities across the world, setting people against each other and driving down the wages of the developed world.

Our generation has been the first truly European generation. However, simultaneous developments in the world economy have meant that we have also been the first one deeply affected and influenced by the process of globalisation.

This has meant that we have witnessed the dismemberment of great industries and seen the image that this has had on the communities in our own area.

We have had our own employment and prospects and choices of career changed and incorporated in to what has become euphemistically known as the flexible labour market.

In this respect, we have seen first hand the awesome powers that are at work in the international capitalist system.

The flexible labour market is likely to have continued influence. It may drive us from our communities to seek opportunities elsewhere in the country and in some cases the world. The real question however is flexibility for whom?

Increasingly it seems that it is the average person who pays the price, working longer hours, often for less pay, increased stress levels and reduced family contact and quality of life.

Society suffers too. Children are increasingly brought up not by their parents but by paid employees.

It seems that nuclear families are going the way of their extended predecessors, as they degenerate into dysfunctional chaos. Individuals look at how they can beat down their compatriots in order to get ahead.

Can Europe buck the trend? Can it take us forward into a new social order that sees us as individuals rather than mere units of production in the global economy.

My view is that it can, but only if it responds to their needs and aspirations, and only if it inspires our confidence.

A people’s Europe is one whose prime purpose is to improve the lot of the mass of the population, not just the chosen few.

It is also one, which reconciles the relationship between the multinational corporations on which we depend for employment opportunities and wealth generation, and the people and communities that help to generate this bounty.

Finally, it is one which captures the imagination of the generation who will one day act as the custodians of its future.

Maybe the Prime Minister can use his apparent genius for international affairs to help bring this about.

By Chris Knowles

Originally published in the REaction! the political magazine of Wakefield District Young Labour (Pilot Edition), ISSN 1464-8105, Mpril 1998.