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.

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