Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Education : Fighting The Neo-Liberal Assault

Workers in France are today stepping up their attempts to defend themselves against the gathering neo-liberal assault of Sarko, whose attacks are being given the full support of the right-wing media apparatus. Students are already in struggle, along with railworkers, joined today by other public sector workers and teachers. Sarkozy's attack on pension rights and the all-too familiar attempts by the media to set private sector workers against public sector ("Why can't they have as crap conditions as we have?")are just the latest stage in the global neo-liberal assault as manifested in Europe.

Meanwhile in Britain the policy auction, whereby the two main neo-liberal parties try to outbid each other in their attempts to break up and privatise the remaining elements of what could be democratically controlled and fairly provided public services continue. The Tories have announced their latest wheeze - a variation on their trojan-horse mutualism/co-operativism that I commented on previously. The Tories want to give "parents" (no prizes for guessing what sort of parents!) the right to set up their own independent schools - funded by the tax payer. New Labour, for their part are quite miffed at this, being as it is an attempt to upstage their own corporatist break-up policy - City Academies - whereby religious evangelicals of various stripes and entrepeneurial "evangelicals" for free market dogma are given the right to get their sticky fingers into local education.

The net effect is of course the same - to impoverish and deprive the remaining locally controlled schools and prepare the way for the final destruction of any potential for locally controlled and fairly resourced education. A small example of this process is the policy on exclusions - City Academies are allowed to break free of the penalties that normal schools now suffer for expelling disruptive pupils and are allowed to expel far more frequently. And where do these disruptive pupils end up? Result - a downward spriral, hardly a "level playing field". Education should not be a field for commercial or religious exploitation or competition, but a field of common endeavour where the interests of young people and their communities should come first.

In a way we should be grateful that this is all so blatant. Both Tories and Labour are now acting quite blatantly in class interests - the interests of the ruling class and their ideological and philosophical props in the churches and "entrepeneurial" communities. The French are showing at least part of the way it can be fought - through militant workplace organisation and action. We should not be afraid to put forward our own demands - we are not in the position of simply defending the current inadequately resourced and over-examined education system in the UK. Education should become more democratic and accountable - with the involvement not of religious zealots, big business and empowered selfish elements of the middle classes - but of pupils, teachers and the whole local community.

For those in East Anglia there might be chance to look at these issues at a meeting organised by Norwich and District Trades Council at 7.30 on Tuesday November 27th. They have Bill Greenshields, Vice President of the teachers union, the NUT, speaking on "The Future of State Education" at the British Legion Club, Aylsham Road, Norwich NR3 2HF.

Elsewhere the opportunity to organise for a more general fightback against neo-liberalism is given by the first Midlands meeting of the new National Shop Stewards Network. (NSSN) This is from 1.30 to 5.30pm on Saturday, November 24th at the Gallery Room, Birmingham and Midlands Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham 3. (The venue is 10 minutes from Snow Hill and New St Stations.)

Meanwhile, the IWW (Industrial Workers Of The World) are beginning to organise militants in the eduction sector in the UK through their IU 620 organising efforts. They have set up a UK web page here.

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At 11:56 pm, Blogger Charlie Marks said...

Luckily the Tories will not be able to win Scotland or Wales, which both have devolved control of education policy...

So the Tories and Labour are competing to foul up education in England...

At 8:11 pm, Anonymous WorldbyStom said...

Great post. Still, troubling to see some odd things happening in Northern Ireland in the education sector.

At 8:12 pm, Anonymous WorldbyStom said...

sorry, I meant to add in

'... despite devolution to a local political structure...'

At 2:51 pm, Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

The left needs to draw an ideological line in the sand over this. Too often cuts and closures are framed solely in economistic terms - we have to show what we're for as much as what we're against.


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