Today’s cabinet reshuffle has seen the downfall of despised Education Secretary, Michael Gove. Here current education worker Daniel Dawson discusses Gove’s replacement, and the radical class conscious education they want to see in place of the current system.
Within less than a week of the largest public sector strike since November 2011, the Conservative Cabinet reshuffle sees the most gangrenous attachment to Education since trench foot, Michael Gove, demoted to Chief Whip. Schools across the nation rejoice! I myself allowed a moment of intense relief as I spread the good news among the staff of the mediocre academy where I work, before reminding myself the old adage: Never trust a Tory.
Nicky Morgan, Gove’s replacement is an unsurprising choice by Cameron, having expressed the desire to be rid of the ‘pale, stale and male’ image of the Conservative party. Affirmative action in practice! And I’m not even against affirmative action, but what I am in opposition to is the Tory Neo-liberalist take on Feminism which propels an equality minister, who famously opposed gay marriage, into a position she has no experience of just because Cameron wants more women in plain view for a pre-Election bid for support.
And so, that sigh of relief fades. Even as the distrust of Tories meanders through hazy, odorous hallways of this academy we are faced with the lesser of two evils. And evil, no-matter in what quantity, is still evil.
I’m an educationalist, a young unqualified teacher/intervention coach and an idealist. I’m also not going back to school this September, principally, because I believe anarchism conflicts with the current institution of education. Schools act as monolithic knowledge booths that fill supposedly empty brains with meaningless information and skills that allow for a workforce (an apt title for the Labour Army) to be produced. I enter the classroom and I see unwitting commodities on an assembly line upon which I am expected to fit identical parts upon them sending them out with fingers tightly crossed that they don’t breakdown or explode. And they often do.
Paulo Friere was a revolution to me. His book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, opened up a possibility of teaching that I’d been yearning for before I even knew it. In it Friere writes on the importance of teachers to learn from their pupils, to pose problems that they can go away to study and learn from through experience, instead of forcing them into regurgitation and repetition for arbitrary grades and data. The man himself dedicated two decades of his life to teaching illiterate Brazilians to read in forty-five days so that they would be eligible to vote, a stipulation forced upon them by the post-colonial Brazilian elite. He also worked towards a tradition of his pupils critically analysing their social status and why it was they were expected to live in poverty. In a region registered in the top 5% of deprived areas of the UK, my pupils would do well to learn how to think for themselves, but the model does not allow for that.
Critical pedagogy, that is the means of educating people to think and act for themselves, is a necessary function for survival within Capitalism. Will Nicky Morgan instil this method of education into her policies? It’s doubtful. Would you trust your children’s education in the hands of a corporate lawyer without a background in teaching? I thought not.
This reshuffle is a distraction from the broader scope of things. More representation in parliament is of course welcome to most but the issue at hand is that the future of our state-educated children is in the hands of corporate interest. With Cameron this week stating his desire to reform strike laws, to make it more difficult for public sector workers to speak out, as well as the increasing proletarianisation of youth, building fodder for the majority non-unionised private sector, we are building an unsustainable future. Just as the precarious nature and unkept promise of work has affected the graduate class of 2010 onwards, so does the future of our current schoolchildren balance on a fraying tightrope.
Gove or not, it’s going to be a long, hard road ahead.
By Daniel Dawson