Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Right to the City

(As with the previous post, this one is taken from my personal blog and is a few days old...)

To Glasgow again, to participate in Right to the City's education forum in Partick. The format of the event was facilitated discussion in small randomly assigned groups of various pieces of writing relating to the current crisis in education. The group I was in spent a lot of time discussing the potential conflict between protecting what we have and trying to bring about something better. I found this pretty thought-provoking - sure, I'm tuned in to both narratives (protecting education from cuts and engaging critically with the education system, particularly higher education since that's where my experience mostly is), but hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about how they square. But of course it is a vital question - there are problems with the nature of education in Britan, these problems were there before the current government started the latest and most extreme round of trashing, and if there is anything left standing when Gove and friends have had their wicked way chances are we will still see these problems.

Another point that struck a chord with me was someone's reference to a narrative of students (particularly those at university level) being somehow undeserving; portrayed as an elite group acting out of self-interest or for a thrill (haha yeah being kettled is so fun and exciting!) and expecting the rest of society to subsidise a privileged existence. What interests me in this case is WHERE the narrative is coming from. It is being constructed and perpetuated by the likes of Cameron, Osborne, Johnson and similar people - public school, Bullingdon Club types who are commonly regarded as overprivileged brats. (They are also of a generation that did not have to pay tuition fees. And the fact that they broke windows for fun is already a meme...) I could actually be convinced that they have genuinely no idea that university students exist who aren't like them, that anyone has to struggle to get any non-compulsory education, that anyone is being priced out of going to university by the increased fees. I *could* accept that line, but that would be letting those guys off the hook - more likely they do know but don't care, and would paint any picture, however flimsy the canvas, to push their wider agenda.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Thoughts on a workshop

(Nb this was posted at 'another' blog a little over a week ago, but I think it warrants a cross-post)

I spent a large part of today in a popular education workshop organised by So We Stand, a climate justice group with a node in Glasgow. It's a while since I've been involved in anything like that, or even anything activisty - I admit that going to the workshop today was a way of scoping out the local scene to see where I might be able to be involved. But it was interesting and useful in its own right too.

The main session I attended was on techniques for community education, it was very much 'learning through doing' as in we were using the techniques themselves. I was familiar with some elements such as the position game (physically taking a position to answer a question, by standing in a line according to your response - in this instance it was the distance of your birthplace from the venue. One person was born in the hospital up the road! Being born in a Midlandsy town most (lucky, normal...) people couldn't located put me somewhere in the middle) but not so much with some of the other exercises, so that was an interesting insight into how to prepare to organise for action.

The end session was a world cafe-style discussion with democratic selection of topics - everyone wrote some questions and attached them to a wall, and we voted by sticking stickers on them. A topic was assigned to each table, but people had to rotate between forums every ten minutes or so. We had two rotations, both times I was unhappy about having to move on - in addition to being interesting questions and ones which I believe are necessary to deal with when doing activism, they were also relevant to some of the academic work I'm doing at the moment.

On another note, I was very impressed with the Glasgow subway - the 'clockwork orange' as it is apparently known. Less impressed with the fact I ended up on it during chucking-out time at Ibrox, and subsequently getting a crash course on why Celtic are c*nts. It brought me to the conclusion that Rangers were pr*cks, but I kept that to myself. I also refrained from sharing my views on Ipswich Town, which can't necessarily be summed up in terms of basic reproductive anatomy.