Posts Tagged ‘Grammar Schools’

Labour Left Proposed Motions for the Labour Party Conference

September 4, 2022

The Labour party conference is looming and Arise, the Labour festival of left-wing ideas, has sent these suggested motions out to their supporters so they can propose them to their local constituency parties, in the hope that they’ll accept them and propose them at conference. The email I had and the proposed motions run:

Model Motions Recommended for Labour Party Conference 2022

Hello David

Please find below and online here suggested model motions for Labour Party Conference. The deadline for submissions is Thursday 15 September 2022 at 5pm and the word limit is 250 words. They are on supporting public ownership, defending asylum seekers, supporting a pay rise for workers plus those unions taking industrial action to this end. and speaking up for Palestine.

Best wishes,
The Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas Volunteer Team.

1) Public ownership Motion from the Labour Assembly Against Austerity

Public Ownership is Necessary and Popular
 
Conference notes:
That public ownership is popular with voters, with polling indicating these levels of support:

  • Energy – 66% (Survation, 2022)
  • Water – 69% (Survation, 2022)
  • Royal Mail – 68% (Survation, 2022)
  • Railways – 67% (Survation, 2022)
  • Buses – 65% (Survation, 2022)
  • Social Care – 64% (Survation, 2020)
  • NHS – 84% (YouGov, 2017)

Additionally, 61% of the public think local and central government should try to run services in-house first, before outsourcing (Survation, 2015,) 82% want schools to mostly be run in the public sector (Survation, 2020;) and 63% want utilities to mostly be run in the public sector (Survation, 2020.)

Conference believes:

  • The crisis caused by soaring energy bills and the scandal of raw sewage being dumped into rivers this Summer have highlighted the failures of privatisation in Britain.
  • Private companies are making mega-profits from public services – these vast sums should instead be invested to improve services, to give their workers a pay increase and to lower costs for consumers.
  • That the Tory corruption and outsourcing crises during the pandemic have further illustrated the need for public ownership and democratic control.
  • A clear commitment to extending public ownership of key utilities and public services can be a big vote winner for Labour.

Conference resolves:

  • To oppose further Tory privatisation and outsourcing, including of the NHS, education and council services.
  • To support public ownership of key services and utilities including energy, water, railways, buses, social care, the royal mail and the NHS.

2) Motion on asylum seekers & Rwanda from the Arise Volunteer Team:

Labour should oppose the sending of asylum seekers to Rwanda

Conference notes:

  • the commitment of both candidates in the recent Tory leadership to the unethical, inhumane and racist Tory policy of forcibly sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, and the widely-condemned Nationality and Borders Act (NABA,) with its two tier system of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ refugees that would prevent some 99 percent of refugees from seeking asylum and its threat to the citizenship of 6 million people in Britain. UNHCR said the Nationality and Borders Bill would “penalise most refugees seeking asylum”.
  • the scale of opposition to the Government’s inhumane treatment of refugees who just want to rebuild their lives here in safety.
  • the decision of the European Court of Human Rights which forced the cancellation of the first scheduled flight on 14 June 2022.
  • Public polling shows increasing support for asylum seekers’ rights, including their right to work.
  • Other disastrous aspects of the ‘hostile environment’ policy over recent years including the Windrush Scandal and the notorious ‘Go Home’ vans.

Conference resolves:

  • For the Labour party to clearly oppose this obscene Tory policy in its entirety as part of campaigning for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ and against racist anti-immigrant narratives, including through a commitment that the next Labour Government will immediately cancel the Rwanda Asylum Scheme.
  • To oppose “no recourse to public funds”, NHS access restrictions and other ‘Hostile Environment’ policies.

3) Pay and backing trade union action motion from the Labour Assembly Against Austerity:

Britain Needs A Pay rise

Conference notes:

Twelve years of the Conservative Government’s low-pay agenda has significantly diminished the real value of people’s incomes with average real wages still below 2008 levels;

The situation is getting worse. Real pay dropped by 4.1% in June compared to the same period last year, with record falls of 3.4% in the private sector and 6.7% in the public sector;

The imposition of significantly below-inflation pay awards which amount to real terms pay cuts;

An increase in trade union campaigning for improved pay awards, from protests to strike ballots and industrial action;

That 76% of people support the view that pay should rise in line with the cost of living (Survation August 2022)

Conference believes:

Below-inflation pay offers will increase poverty and hardship;

That the Government should not impose real terms pay cuts on public sector workers;

It is wrong that many private firms are imposing real terms pay cuts while making big profits, awarding bonuses and large dividend payments;

Recent trade union campaigns, including strike action, have led to numerous enhanced pay awards.

Conference resolves:

To oppose the Conservative Government’s imposition of real terms pay cuts;

To support inflation-proofed increases in pay in both public and private sectors and urgent measures to restore the real value of pay lost under successive Conservative Governments since 2010;

To support a National Minimum Wage of at least £15 an hour.

To support trade union campaigning, including through backing workers taking industrial action, to achieve these aims.

4) Palestine motion from Labour & Palestine / Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Justice for Palestine

Conference strongly condemns:

  • Israel’s renewed bombing of Gaza in August 2022 killing 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and notes the UN Special rapporteur description of it as an  act contrary to International law. 
  • the Israeli army’s killing of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and beating of her coffin bearers by Israeli police.
  • the outlawing of 7 NGOs including Addameer; the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and Defence for Children International – Palestine.

Conference recognises that these events are illustrative of the conclusions of leading human rights organisations including B’tselem, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, and further erode any possibility of a just solution.

Conference notes policy passed at Labour Party Annual Conferences 2018 ,2019 and 2021 in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against Israel’s ongoing violations of their rights and of international law.

Conference Resolves:

  • To support the application made in April to the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling for an investigation into the Israeli government’s systematic targeting of journalists.
  • To stand in solidarity with all human rights defenders and fully oppose the Israeli government’s attempts to silence them
  • To adhere to an ethical policy on all UK trade with Israel in line with policy passed at previous Conferences, including banning trade with illegal settlements and ending the ongoing arms trade.
  • To oppose fully any UK legislation aimed at preventing legitimate and democratic solidarity actions in support of the Palestinian people.’

These policies are popular and necessary. Among the polls showing public support for renationalising the utilities, I’m massively impressed that 82 per cent want schools to be in public hands. As for the motion on Palestine, it really amazes me how anyone in a genuinely left-wing party could support the closure of quangos devoted to protecting women and children. If ‘100 per cent Zionist’ Starmer supports this, then he’s a depraved monster, utterly unfit to govern any country devoted to humanity and the rule of law. This shows that hardly anybody wants academies or a return to grammar schools, despite the Tories constantly pushing them. I’m going to check with my local constituency party to see if these or similar are among the motions they are going to discuss this Thursday prior to conference. If they aren’t, I will propose them.

This will undoubtedly annoy the Blairites, especially the motion on Palestine. I’ll let you know if they start throwing around any fake accusations of anti-Semitism again.

Grammar Schools Did Not Benefit the Working Class; They Excluded Them

August 13, 2022

I got the book I ordered on James Callaghan’s period as Prime Minister, James Callaghan: An Underrated Prime Minister, edited by Kevin Hickson and Jasper Miles through the post yesterday. It’s a collection of papers on various aspects of Callaghan’s government. I’ll put up a piece introducing it later. I’ve only been dipping into it, reading the odd chapter.

The defeat of Callaghan’s government at the 1979 general election and the victory of Maggie Thatcher ushered in a period of Tory rule that lasted until 1997 when Blair got into power. But he was also a Thatcherite, and in some ways it was a change of face, not a change of direction. Callaghan’s defeat meant the end of the old social democratic consensus, but as recent events are showing, elements of this consensus are still very much relevant and desperately needed. Such as the return of the public utilities to public ownership.

One of the issues the Tory leadership candidates have been promising is the return of the grammar schools. Well, bog-eyed Nicky Morgan promised this a few years ago, and the policy was a failure then. There’s a considerable nostalgia for them in certain parts of the British electorate that still resents the establishment of comprehensive school. For these people there’s a simple difference between the two. Comprehensive schools are nasty failures showing everything wrong with progressive attitudes to education, while the grammar schools with their tradition values were so much better. The Tories have been pushing this line since 1969 or so. The line is that through scholarships and the 11+, working class children who went there had a far better education than they now have in comprehensive schools. But this is a very rosy view of the reality, which was that the grammar schools were solidly middle class institutions from which the working class were largely excluded.

Jane Martin, one of the contributors to the book on Callaghan, makes this point in her chapter ‘Education: Politics And Policy-Making with the Intellectuals of ‘Old’ Labour’. She writes

‘Government reports and sociological surveys soon evidenced the reality behind secondary education for all. It was obvious that middle-class offspring dominated grammar intakes, owing to advantages imbued by family background, and social class remained a major influence on educational achievement. From 1946, the secondary modern schools and bottom streams of the grammar schools were full of working class children who had largely negative experiences. Defenders of selective education argued only a small number of children had the academic ability to attend grammar schools, but research showed that coaching and intensive tuition, used by the middle classes, improved test scores. Added to which, successes secured by fifteen- and sixteen-year old secondary modern school candidates for the new ‘O’ Level examinations exposed the fallibility of a selection process that made it acceptable for around 80 per cent of mainly working-class children to ‘fail’.’ (p. 166).

This is what the Tories are really promising when the start the nonsense of going back to the grammar schools: the exclusion of the working class from a superior set of school intended to cater for the middle classes. Even Thatcher’s education minister, Rhodes Boyson, recognised this. When he was a teacher in a secondary modern he put some of his pupils forward for ‘O’ levels, because he knew they could pass them.

Sunak and Truss are once again pushing for policies designed to keep the working class down, all based on nostalgia for a previous education system that was seriously flawed, but has been promoted as far better than the comprehensive system. But the fact that they’re now talking about how wonderful grammar schools were is also a tacit admission that their academy schools are also a failure.

There is no alternative to keeping comprehensive schools. What is needed is not their abolition, but their better funding and a real drive to improve educational standards. Not more class snobbery disguised as educational meritocracy.

One Third of Teachers Planning to Leave Over Next Five Years

April 19, 2022

I hope everyone had a great Easter bank holiday weekend. I said I wouldn’t post anything then, partly because a few days earlier I felt too ill but mostly because it was just such a beautiful spring weekend that I didn’t want to spoil it by putting up material that would get me angry and depressed. The weekend has passed, and I’m now ready to tackle the serious issues. But it’s still a beautiful day, or at least it is in Bristol. So if it gets too much, there’s always the sunny spring weather to enjoy for a breather.

One of the headlines I caught a few days ago was that a third of British teachers apparently are planning to leave in the next five years. I’m honestly not surprised. My mother was a junior school teacher and I did my first degree at a teacher training college. And despite what the right-wing press would have us all believe, teachers don’t have it easy.

One of the issues is that both Labour and the Tories have used education as a political football, demanding every more additions to the curriculum and increasing responsibility for teachers while at the same time cutting wages and funding for schools. Teachers don’t just stand in front of whiteboards talking to their pupils about algebra, poetry or whatever the subject is. They also have to mark the students work, as well as run various extracurricular activities like the school sports teams. And the responsibility and the workload seems to have increased during the Covid crisis, as pupils still have to receive an education. And then there’s the appalling fact that, because of the grinding poverty Johnson and the Tories have inflicted on working people, they’ve had to supply free school meals to kids in the summer holidays because otherwise the kids’ families would be able to afford to feed them.

As for the messing around with the curriculum, some of us can still remember when Dave Cameron’s government added so many extra subjects that they couldn’t fit into the school day. Add to this the constant requirement for testing school children and the immense pressure this places on the children as well as the school. I said on this blog a few years ago that there seems to be something in the Tory psyche that wants to crush all the joy out of education. Yes, children should work hard, but they should also be allowed to enjoy school and childhood. The Tory vision of education seems to want to make it just one long round of joyless drudgery. And there are also issues with the league tables the Tories set up to monitor the school performance. Some schools are left near the bottom for no fault of their own. I’m thinking here of those schools serving areas with large immigrant populations, where English isn’t the first language of many of the pupils. These pupils may struggle initially, but then make huge improvements. However, it may still be because of linguistic difficulties and so on that these schools are still below the national average, despite the immense improvement those children may have achieved in the few years they’re there. Improvements that aren’t reflected in the league tables.

And then there’s the problem of pupil behaviour. Depending on the school and the area, this can extremely disruptive and even dangerous. Back in the ’90s, when Private Eye was still worth reading, they did a supplement on teaching reflecting the views and concerns of teachers themselves. Some of them said that they seemed to spend most their lessons simply trying to keep order and they felt they’d achieved something when they actually got around to teaching something. One teacher described meeting parents for a talk about their child coming to school without the proper equipment. The father immediately blamed the mother, who shuddered. Which definitely suggests domestic violence back home. Now there’s the problem of children bringing knives to school and the threat of lethal violence. I remember the case a few years ago when a gang stabbed a headmaster to death outside the school gates after he came to confront them when they turned up looking for one of the pupils. It also seems that female teachers are also at risk from sexist remarks and treatment by pupils. There was a report in the Groan that 70 per cent of teachers had experienced misogyny at work. The feeling among many teachers as reported by the Private Eye article was that they were overworked, harassed and underappreciated. They complained that they received little help for difficult situations with problem pupils from their headmasters. Given all this, I’m not remotely surprised many teachers want to leave.

And if that happens, it’ll take more than trying to turn even more schools into academies or screaming about bringing back grammar schools to restore the education system.

The Republican right in America keep pushing for more state schools to be transformed to charter schools, which I gather is the American equivalent of the academies over here. They also advocated home schooling children. There’s a real, ideological hatred of state education. And the Tories certainly share it, to the point where I’m starting to wonder if the threats of a mass exodus of teachers is all being engineered by them to harm state education over here.

James Lindsay Tears Apart Queer Theorist Paper Attacking Childhood Innocence

December 31, 2021

I hope I’m not boring you with all this, but I thought I should post this video by James Lindsay up as well. It follows his first video attacking Queer Theory and its deliberate grooming of schoolchildren through pornography and grossly inappropriate topics being taught in sex education. Lindsay argued, citing the postmodernists and Marxist writers themselves, that Queen Theory really isn’t about genuinely helping gay, bi and trans children and adults come to terms with their sexuality and find acceptance in society, so that they can lead normal, functioning, happy lives alongside straight people. Rather, it is all about increasing their alienation and making them even more angry and transgressive in order to turn them into a revolutionary mass which will overthrow capitalism instead of the working class. This follows closely Georg Lukacz’s sex education programme in Hungary, which was explicitly designed to use sexual liberation to alienate children from their parents and conventional capitalist society. This was then taken up by the Frankfurt school and played a very strong role in the sexual liberation movements of the 1960s. Lindsay backs up the arguments in his previous video by going through a Queer Theory paper, written by Hanna Dyer, a woman at Carlton University in Canada, that explicitly states this.

Queer Theory’s Rejection of Gay Rights

Early on in the paper, Dyer denounces the recent legislation granting gay people equal rights. Lindsay is not homophobic, even though his attacks on Queer and Critical Theory and calls for those promoting it to be put in gaol make him sound like a very right-wing Conservative. I don’t know what his political views are. He may be a man of the right, but he makes it clear that all parents should come together to combat what is being taught in schools in Social Emotional Learning and Comprehensive Sex Education regardless of politics, race, sexuality and religion. All that should matter is the class ‘parent’. Lindsay states that gay acceptance has been of immense benefit to society. But Dyer attacks it because such liberal legislation will help reconcile gays with the capitalist society they wish to overthrow. This continues throughout her wretched article. Later on she attacks Dan Savage’s video on YouTube, ‘It Gets Better’. Savage is gay, and with another man, produced a video to reassure gay children that even though they’re bullied and have an awful time at school, it gets better when you grow up. People are more accepting. I think this often depends on your particular place in society. Working class culture could be traditionally extremely homophobic, and there is a vicious homophobia prevalent in some parts of Black culture. But in general middle class culture has become very accepting to the point where one YouTuber described how a Conservative friend had completely accepted gay equality. Savage produced his video in response to the high rate of suicide amongst gay kids. He wanted to stop it by showing that ‘It Gets Better’. He released the video on YouTube because he felt schools would resist its message. According to Lindsay, Savage is actually ‘super liberal’. But to Dyer he’s an evil White man – she doesn’t call him a scholar or researcher, just ‘White man’ in order to show how evil he is. Apart from his race, she sees him as a servant of capitalism, trying to stop the revolutionary potential of the gay masses by incorporating them into neoliberalism and promoting upward mobility.

Now I strongly believe that the sooner we dump neoliberalism the better. It is doing immense damage to ordinary working people of whatever, race, creed, sexuality or religion. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to reassure vulnerable gay children that they can still a place as an accepted member of society, who should be able to look forward to the same job opportunities as the rest of us and have the same aspirations to social advancement. And I’d say that attacking a video that genuinely tries to stop gay kids committing suicide is actually evil.

The Attack on Childhood Innocence in order to Promote Radically Alienated Gay Identities

The paper goes on to attack the whole notion of childhood innocence. She hates the idea that children are asexual and proto-heterosexual. Lindsay states that here she comes into conflict with biological fact. Most people across society all over the world are heterosexual. Only a minority are gay. This is aside from any moral considerations that see heterosexuality as more moral than homosexuality. He makes it clear that he supports the teaching that ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’, as Stonewall once said in an advertising programme. Lindsay has said in his previous video that Queer Theorists really don’t like that common sense attitude. Moreover, they see gender and sexuality as identities without essence, social roles people perform rather than are. Therefore they seek to groom children for their role as queer revolutionaries by breaking down barriers and having them sexually experiment. This include the binary oppositions male/female, adult/child. And around the 1hr 14 minute mark, Dyer says this explicitly. Which clearly opens the way to grooming by paedophiles. Lindsay states that children have a very strong belief in these opposition and that he believes them to be biologically innate. He also makes the point that paedophile relationships massively damage the young victims psychologically. A very high number schizoid people have the condition due to childhood abuse. But Dyer seems also to be offended by the biological fact that most people are heterosexual. She wants to changes that, and queer not just gay children, but children as a whole. This is very much how the attacks on heteronormativity have seemed to me, and I’m glad that Lindsay has come to the same conclusion I have.

Later on, she attacks the whole notion of reproductive sex because gay people, who naturally cannot have children through gay sex, cannot achieve the same level of privilege as straight ‘breeders’ in a society that privileges heterosexual reproduction. But this is a revolt against biology, as it is through heterosexual reproductive sex that the human race is perpetuated. Ah, but so too are the mechanisms of capitalist control and repression. Instead the goal should be hedonistic, non-reproductive sex, which she explicitly connects with the death urge through Marcuse and other Marxist thinkers. This is just plain nihilism. Thinking about it, it makes me wonder if Pope John Paul II had a point when he described Enlightenment society as a ‘cult of death’. I think he was wrong about the Enlightenment, but certainly right about these pernicious postmodernist ideologies.

Childhood Innocence Blamed for Racism and Genocide

Naturally, race gets drawn into it in order to produce the broad, intersectional coalition of races and sexualities that postmodernists hope to create as an oppositional front against capitalism. Childhood innocence should be challenged, because it chiefly affects White children. Black children are less innocent, and stereotypically more streetwise. Lindsay says it’s rubbish. Here I think he’s wrong. I think the stereotype is that Black children are tougher, more worldly-wise, and more ‘street’. but that doesn’t mean that their parents don’t want to preserve and guard their innocence just as much as Whites. And apparently childhood innocence is also genocidal. Whites want to preserve their kids more than those of other races, and this is somehow ties in with one of the genuine mass-murderers of the US Indian Wars. This was the general responsible for the Sand Creek massacre, who wanted not only adult indigenous Americans killed, but also to be physically mutilated and their children murdered as well in order ‘to stop lice breeding’. It’s an absolutely horrific attitude and atrocity, but as Lindsay points out, just ’cause someone was an idiot in the past doesn’t mean that everybody who believes in childhood innocence is. She also brings social class into her argument about gay acceptance and queer children, although Lindsay states these are actually non-issues. He also points out that at the centre of all this is are repeated attacks on conventional ideas of childhood development, which stresses that children go through certain stages and that the material they’re given should be age appropriate. Like the books in school libraries that are graded according to suitability for different ages of reader. Dyer talks about getting Queer Theory to influence ideas of childhood pedagogy along with Critical Race Theory. But this isn’t about helping gay children. It’s all about destabilising children’s personalities, to make them angry and disaffected, to make them Marxist revolutionaries determined to destroy western civilisation.

Alex Jones Right about Queer Theory and Transhumanism

At times Lindsay sounds like the mad conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He says at one point that if he goes on reading it, he’ll end up screaming about Satan like the bonkers Texan libertarian. Well, Jones talked a lot of conspiracist nonsense about ‘the globalists’, which is very close to the wretched anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He also falsely accused decent people of being child abusers for the Democrat party, claimed Barack Obama was the antichrist, Hillary Clinton of being possessed by alien demons, a practicing witch and a robot from the waist down, and other nonsense. Like NASA was running a child slave labour based on Mars. Which nobody knew about, least of all NASA, as they took the time to deny it, not least because it would cost $16 billion just to send six people to Mars let alone the legions of kids Jones, or rather, one of his guests, claimed.

But it seems Jones had a point. I’ll admit I had a laugh when Jones ranted about feminism and gay rights being a transhumanist cult to turn us all into sexless cyborgs. But Lindsay says that transhumanism is one offshoot of Critical Theory. The World Economic Forum is made up of transhumanists, who all want to link us to the Net through biological implants so that we will live at least part of the time in Virtual reality. We will own nothing and we will be happy.

This sounds like Star Trek’s Borg to me. In ‘Q Who?’, the Star Trek The Next Generation episode which introduced them, Q transports the Enterprise to system J17, where they encounter and are attacked by a Borg cube that has just finished assimilating a planet. As one of them beams aboard, Q says to Picard, ‘Look at it, Jean-Luc. It’s not a he, it’s not a she… it’s an augmented humanoid.’ But one of the heads of the big American tech corporations is a transwoman and transhumanist, and wrote a paper promoting transhumanism as a feminist project to go beyond gender. And there certainly was a lot of talk about genderless future cyborgs when transhumanism was being discussed back in the ’90s. ‘We are Postmodern Borg. Resistance to Critical Theory is futile. You will be assimilated’.

Destroying State Education Not the Solution

Throughout the video, Lindsay angrily stops his analysis of the text to remind his readers that this is being done by groomers in the sex education now being taught in American schools. This means your children. And this is primarily state schools though some private schools are also involved. He loudly urges people to take their children out of these schools. I see his point. There’s a video by anti-trans ideology activists Kellie-Jay Minshull, in which she goes through some of the material recommended for schools by Stonewall. And it is about sexualising children. One of these is a game in which children put together various body parts and have to guess what sex act may be possible with them. This really is inappropriate. Yes, children should be taught about the changes happening to their bodies and their emerging sexuality in adolescence. And I quite agree that at an appropriate age, children should be taught that some people are gay but should be accepted like anybody else. But this doesn’t do that. It is about breaking down barriers, barriers which are there for a reason. There is an organisation, the Safe Schools Alliance, for parents worried about this form of indoctrination. He also points out that the ideas are very similar to Herbert Marcuse’s proposals for Marxism to take over university education.

But the solution isn’t to pull kids out of state education, as the Conservative right wants. I think the American public school system was founded by Thomas Jefferson, who realised that for America to work as a functioning democracy it needed an educated public. Absolutely. If you destroy public education, you get back to the conditions of 19th century Britain before it was made compulsory. Education was definitely not free, and only the rich could afford to send their children to the public (elite private) and the grammar schools. Working class children could go instead to dame schools, usually run by an elderly woman, hence their name, where educational standards could be very low. Many children couldn’t send their children to school, and so illiteracy rates were much, much higher. Proper state education has made the British public much more educated and informed, though sometimes you wonder.

What needs to be done is for parents instead to fight this indoctrination as hard as they can, so that their children get a proper education and not just indoctrination, whether from the extreme left or the extreme right.

Vox Political on the Real Face of Boris Johnson

August 5, 2021

It’s sad but true that many people have been taken in by Boris Johnson’s image as an affable buffoon. Whatever he does, no matter how inept or offensive, like reciting ‘The Road to Mandalay’ in Thailand’s holiest temple, coming back from talks in Moscow to ratchet up tensions with Russia rather than decrease them, the massive cronyism and corruption, the continuing destruction of the NHS, the tens of thousands whose deaths from Covid could have been prevented, there seem to be any number of people ready to ignore all those because of Johnson’s jovial persona. He’s a buffoon, yes, he’s bumbling, but he’s well intentioned and has the nation’s interests at heart. Yes, he went to Eton, but somehow, like that other scion of money and privilege Nigel Farage, he has managed to convince too many ordinary people that he’s somehow one of them. The American radical magazine Counterpunch once quoted a porter in one of the northern English fish markets as saying that Johnson was working class like him. The reality is, of course, far different. Johnson’s an aristo, and as Jeeves once said to Spode in an episode of Jeeves and Wooster all those years ago, he and the working classes are barely on nodding terms. Like his hair, which is normally neatly combed but which he deliberately messes for effect, all the bonhomie and the image of being a man of the people is a carefully crafted pose. Johnson is genuinely inept, but what is false is the image he projects of having any kind of regard for working people and their concerns.

Mike has put up a very revealing piece originally put up by Damian Furniss, about the real face behind the carefully constructed mask. And, as the Ferengi used to scream about anything they didn’t like on Star Trek, it’s ‘Ugly. Verreeee ugleeee.’ Mr Furniss had the misfortune to encounter Boris while having a pint in the bar while awaiting an interview to get into Oxford. The future Prime Minister then amused himself and his similar rich and snobby friends by sneering at Furniss, mocking everything from his speech impediment to his far humbler social background. Mike’s put up this quote from Furniss about Johnson’s nasty performance.

“Three years older than me, and half way through the second class degree in Classics he coasted through with the diligence he later applied to journalism and red box briefings, you’d have expected him to play the ambassador role, welcoming an aspiring member of his college.

“Instead, his piss-taking was brutal. In the course of the pint I felt obliged to finish he mocked my speech impediment, my accent, my school, my dress sense, my haircut, my background, my father’s work as farm worker and garage proprietor, and my prospects in the scholarship interview I was there for. His only motive was to amuse his posh boy mates.

“In short, he demonstrated all of the character flaws that make him unfit to be our Prime Minister. Nothing I see today suggests he has changed. He’s not Falstaff, he’s Faust. If you are an ordinary working person and think he has your interests at heart, think again.”

I can’t say I’m surprised by any of this. I’ve heard stories myself about how he was a vile bully at Eton, though that’s hardly anything extraordinary given the vicious bullying culture that’s run rampant there and in the other public schools. And for all his aristocratic background, it also shows a monumental lack of good breeding. At some of Bristol’s grammar schools, for example, the pupils were taught that they were to show the same respect to the gardener and the ancillary staff that they would to the teachers. It’s bad form for someone from such a privileged background to sneer at those further down the social hierarchy. But clearly, Boris and his noxious chums regard such morals as for grammar school oiks rather than such lofty personages as themselves.

Unfortunately, I doubt Mr Furniss’ piece will make much of a dent in the impressions of those who continue to be taken in by Johnson. Some of this is, no doubt, because they want to be deceived. They want to believe that somehow Johnson represents the working people of this country, in the same way that there were people more than willing to believe Tweezer when she said that she and her cabinet weren’t members of the ‘elite’, when every single one of them was a millionaire. It’s the other side of the Tories’ equally carefully constructed image of the left and especially the ‘woke’. Membership of the elite isn’t just a matter of wealth and social class, but also of values. The elite, as described ad nauseam by the Tories over here and the Republicans in America, are rich leftists who attack decent, working people with their assaults on national pride and aggressive attacks on racism, misogyny, homophobia and anything else they consider bigoted. Highly privileged individuals, who don’t share the concerns and values of ordinary working people. Unlike them, of course.

But this is all just right-wing rhetoric and propaganda. Johnson, Tweezer and the rest of the Tories are the real elite. They’re millionaires from extremely privileged backgrounds, unlike very many of the Labour party, and particularly the Labour left. There are many MPs from that side of the party, who do come from a real working class background, and whose socialism reflects their genuine concern with improving conditions for ordinary working people. This is despite the attempts by Blair and Starmer to turn Labour once again into a middle class party pursuing Conservative policies and voters.

Johnson and the Tories have nothing in common with the working class, for whom they have nothing but contempt. But they’re very good at manipulating their public image, and so have succeeded in persuading many working people that somehow they represent them.

But every so often the mask slips to reveal the seething mass of class hatred, greed and snobbery beneath.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/08/05/how-can-anyone-support-boris-johnson-knowing-the-contempt-he-has-for-them/

A 17th Century Anglican Plea for Religious Toleration

November 21, 2020

Jeremy Taylor was the chaplain of King Charles I and the rector of Uppingham. After the royalists were defeated in the British Civil War, he fled to Carmarthenshire in Wales, where he wrote his book arguing for religious freedom, The Liberty of Prophesying. After the Restoration he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor. He was also the author of a number of devotional works and sermons, but it’s his defence of religious freedom that I find particularly interesting. He said ‘they were excellent words which St. Ambrose said in attestation of this great truth, that the civil authority has no right to interdict the liberty of speaking, nor the sacerdotal to prevent speaking what you think.’

See the article on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) 958.

I’m very much aware that throughout Christian history there has been very little freedom of religion and conscience, and that the Anglican church’s toleration of Dissenters was very limited until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in the 19th century. Until then Protestant nonconformists were excluded from the grammar schools, universities and government, and could only hold their services five miles away from towns. Atheism and Roman Catholicism were illegal again until the 19th century. But it was clergymen like Taylor and his fellows in the Nonconformist churches, like the Quaker William Penn and a number of Presbyterian ministers, who laid the foundations for the British and American tradition of religious tolerance. The most famous of the works calling for religious freedom from this period is Milton’s Areopagitica.

Despite the passage of the centuries, their message is still acutely relevant. Many countries still don’t have freedom of conscious or religious liberty in the 20th century. The Communists attempted to destroy religious and viciously persecuted people of faith, while the Nazis, apart from trying to exterminate the Jews, also sent their other religious opponents, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the concentration camps.

We have recently seen a French teacher murdered for showing schoolchildren the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in a class about free speech, and mass demonstrations against France for permitting the cartoons in Muslim countries. To many people, their calls for legislation against such disrespect seem like demands for Muslim blasphemy laws. Christians and members of other religious minorities, such as Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan as well as orthodox Sunni Muslims because of supposed blasphemy. This is banned in Pakistan and punishable with the death penalty. The only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam, and a few years ago the Saudis declared that atheism was terrorism. This was just atheist unbelief itself, regardless of any act of genuine terror, such as killing people or destroying property.

I’m sympathetic to Muslims regarding the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I don’t like the way Christianity and Christ are mocked by certain sections of the media and the entertainment business either. I’ve also heard the argument that Charlie Hebdo is a nasty rag. It’s not left-wing, but right, apparently, and its targets also include Roman Catholicism and immigrants.

But there’s a greater principle of free speech and the sanctity of human life here. All religions and ideologies, including atheism, should be up for debate, with people free to choose as they will. They’re fundamental human rights, the violation of which either leads or is part of tyranny.

Complaint by German Socialists and Democrats of Nazi Bullying in Schools

September 28, 2020

Donald Trump in America and the Tories over here have started their attack on our countries’ education systems. Trump has set up a commission to make American schooling more patriotic and teach American schoolkids that they are part of an exceptional nation. Over here, Johnson and his clown cabinet have ruled that it is illegal for schools to teach criticisms of capitalism or use anti-capitalist materials, along with materials attacking democracy or which are anti-Semitic. This seems to be a reaction to Black Lives Matter, which is a Marxist organisation that criticises American society from a Marxist as well as Black anti-racist perspective. Trump has already banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory to federal institutions. In my opinion, Trump was quite right to do so. Critical Race Theory states quite openly that all Whites are racist, and any institutions created by Whites must automatically also be racist and oppressive to Blacks and other people of colour.

Trump’s demand for patriotic American education is different, and it was compared to the Hitler Youth, although I put up a piece a few days ago making the case that it was much more comparable to the Italian Fascists’ reforms of the Italian school curriculum.

The Nazis also reformed their school history syllabus in order to teach their twisted view that capitalism, democracy, socialism and all Germany’s economic and political woes were down to the Jews and would be solved by Hitler and his band of thugs. Johnson has rejected anti-Semitism, but there are many real, vicious anti-Semites as well as anti-Black and anti-Asian racists in his party, so perhaps it’s only time before Boris introduces a racist element into the curriculum.

In addition to the Hitler Youth, the Nazis also introduced a Nazi pupils’ league for grammar school boys and a students’ league for the universities. The kids in these leagues went around beating up and bullying the children of socialists and democrats. I found this complaint about their attacks in J. Noakes and G. Pridham, eds., Nazism 1919-1945, Vol 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934 (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983).

To the Oldenburg Ministery for Churches and Schools, 21 November 1930

The Committee of the Oldenburg branch of the Reichsbanner Black-Red-Gold submits the following matter to the State Ministry with a request for a prompt comment:

Leaflets have recently been distributed in the playgrounds of the schools of the city of Oldenburg and its vicinity, inviting people to join a National Socialist Pupils’ Association. We enclose one of these leaflets.

A number of pupils have already followed the appeal to join this pupils’ association. These consider themselves pledged, in the spirit of the leaflet, to bully those who disagree with them. In the playground these pupils join together and sing National Socialist combat songs. Children of Republicans are called names, their satchels are smeared with swastikas, and they are given leaflets with swastikas or ‘Heil Hitler’ or ‘Germany awake’ written on them. In the school in Metjendorf the son of a Republican was beaten up during the break by members of the pupils’ association so badly that he had to stay at home for over a week. Grown-ups who are known to be members of a Republican party are called names by the pupils when they pass by the school. In one case this even happened out of the window of a classroom.

Since the children of Republicans are unfortunately in a minority in secondary schools they cannot defend themselves against these combined attacks. With an effort they preserve their self-control, but as soon as the child gets home, this too collapses. He then seeks refuge in tears and complaints. The parents find that lessons following breaks in which their child has been molested by his class mates are useless because he is too preoccupied with the events of the break. Sometimes teachers, not knowing the reason for the child’s inattention, punish him as well. The same state of mind influences his homework, which therefore cannot be of a standard which a child in a good, cheerful mood would normal achieve. Again this has its effects at school.

It might be answered that parents and children have the right to make a complaint. This is true and yet at the same time not true. It must unfortunately be said that apart from a group of teachers who would treat such a complaint objectively, there are a number from whom this cannot be counted on and to whom one does not turn because they too are National Socialists or are active in other right-wing associations;. The relationship of trust necessary between teachers and parents and their children has completely gone.

Since we have heard that some headmasters have already declared that they are not in a position to deal with these incidents as required, since they have received no instructions from the Ministry, we request that such instructions should be issued as soon as possible. We can presumably be sure that the Sate Ministry will admit an attitude which does justice to all concerned and will decree tha tpupils’ associations of political organisations are forbidden.

Yours faithfully,

The committee of the Oldenburg Branch of the Reichsbanner Black-Red-Gold. (p. 79)

The Reichsbanner Red-Black-Gold was a paramilitary organisation set up in 1924 by the German Socialist party and other democrats to defend the Weimar republic against the right-wing paramilitaries.

Is this the future of the British school system? Are the Tories going to go further and found right-wing pupils and students’ associations to enforce proper patriotic and pro-capitalist teaching by school staff and the correct patriotic attitudes amongst other pupils? Various right-wing American organisations, like Turning Point, have a university professor watch or something of that name, which compiles lists of left-wing university professors with the aim of getting them fired for teaching their doctrines. Incidentally, the BNP/NF did something similar in British schools in the 1980s. They encouraged schoolchildren to monitor their teachers in case they were teaching Communist ideas, and report to them. Then the storm troopers would come for them and beat them up. Boris hasn’t introduced that, but that’s a natural development of this process of political censorship.

This legislation is also completely unnecessary. There has been legislation banning the indoctrination of children in schools since at least the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher and the right-wing press ran a similar scare campaign about Communist teachers and the introduction of Peace Studies as a subject. Further legislation was introduced over a decade ago by Tony Blair. These laws stipulated that teachers could not present their own personal political or religious views as fact. If they were somehow required to state their views, they had to make it clear that it was only what they believed. As for prohibiting children from studying material which attacks democracy or promotes anti-Semitism, apart from it rather obviously makes studying the Nazis difficult, I believe that schools are already required to teach British values. Which are democracy, tolerance, diversity and so on.

This new legislation seems to me to have absolutely nothing to do with protecting vulnerable and impressionable minds from indoctrination by extremists. It seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to use the fears generated by Black Lives Matter and its Marxist, anti-capitalist ideology to sneak in Tory, establishment indoctrination instead.

Just Who Is Responsible for the Tory Downgrading Algorithm?

August 17, 2020

Mike and Zelo Street have both put up excellent articles tearing apart the Tories in England for their massive class bias and signal incompetence over the ‘A’ level exam results. Yeah, Boris and his cabinet of grotesquely overprivileged ex-public school boys and girls are now doing a screeching U-turn, but this in response to the massive public outcry and dissatisfaction from their own benches. The public is getting the message that the Tories hate everyone below the centre middle classes. The Tories really  believe that the best opportunities and places right across society from industrial management, the arts, education and science, housing, healthcare, leisure and just about anything else they can get their hands on should go to the wealthy children of the upper and upper middle classes. The people, who have received exorbitantly expensive private educations at the elite schools. The same people, who, non-coincidentally, supply a good few of the Blairite MPs in the Labour Party and the Blairites and Liberals, who attacked Corbyn’s Labour Party in what passes for the left-wing press, most notably the Groan, Absurder, and the I. The lower orders – the working and lower middle classes – are there to work in the manual trades and in the lower grade office work. But despite all the loud Tory braying about creating a classless England, a meritocracy where anyone can rise from the humblest origins through talent and hard work, the reality is that the Tories are staunchly behind the traditional British class system.

Owen Jones has a very revealing anecdote about how naked this class hatred is behind closed doors. In his book Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Class, he describes how an unnamed Tory MP, speaking at a university Tory gathering behind closed doors, told his audience, ‘This is class war. And we started it.’ And in the 1990s Private Eye supplied further evidence in their literary reviews. One of these was in Danny Danziger’s Eton Voices, which consisted of a set of interviews with old Etonians. The anonymous reviewer was not impressed, describing just how smug, complacent and self-satisfied they were. One of the interviewees was an Anglican bishop, who confessed to only having respect for other old Etonians. He said that if he found out someone didn’t go to the old school, he felt that it somehow counted against them in some obscure fashion. The Eye’s reviewer wasn’t remotely surprised, and made it clear that they thought that attitude really counted against old Etonians and their school. I don’t think the bias is necessarily conscious either. It’s just there in their whole upbringing, which they imbibe with their mothers’ milk and the very air they breathe.

And because education is one of the keys to social success, the Tories have been keen to use it as a political football and find whatever way they can to stop children from working and lower middle class backgrounds challenging them. There has been survey after survey that has shown that the education ordinary children receive in state schools is actually broader and better, and that they actually outperform their social superiors at university. I’ve remember the results of such studies appearing from the 1990s. But a decade earlier, there were rumblings from the Tories about bring back the 11 +. You remember, the old exam that went out with the comprehensive schools. The one everyone took when they were 11, and which immediately decided whether they went to a grammar school to receive an academic education, or went instead to the secondary moderns to learn a trade. It was scrapped, along with the grammar schools, because it heavily discriminated against working people. They were largely sent to the secondary moderns while the more privileged children of middle class homes got into the grammar schools.

The Tory algorithm looks very much like a similar device, just done through the backdoor. Because in meritocratic, Thatcherite Britain, we’re all supposed to be classless ‘One Nation’ Tories. Well, as Rab C. Nesbitt could remark, they’ve certainly done their job. ‘Cause to paraphrase the great guerrilla philosopher of the underclass, there’s no class in this country any more.

Gavin Williamson is rightly receiving stick for this debacle, and angry parents, teachers and students, not to mention some Tories, are demanding his job. But Zelo Street this evening has asked Carole Cadwalladr’s further question, equally important: who was responsible for the creation of this computer programme in the first place?

He writes

After James Doleman made the obvious point – that Nicola Sturgeon’s swift admission looks better with each passing day, especially as Bozo tried to get away with it, only to be forced to back down – there was only one more question, and that is, as Carole Cadwalladr put it, “Does anyone know who built the algorithm?” Don’t all shout at once.

Because whoever has their paw prints on that part of the fiasco should have some explaining to do, but in a Government where nobody resigns, there won’t be any. But there will be the distinct impression that someone has sanctioned yet another waste of taxpayer funds on a gizmo that caused rather more problems than it solved.

It’s a good question. Zelo Street himself suggests that it might be someone not unconnected to the poisonous Cummings. Well, he is a Social Darwinist, who was prepared to  let the country’s elderly die from the Coronavirus just in order to save the economy. But you also wonder if the company responsible for the algorithm also was connected to the Tories. They’ve had form in giving government contracts to their pet firms, whose management either includes members of the party, or which donates to them. And who have massively failed in their responsibilities. Like the private company that was supposed to take over from the state the provision of PPE to our brave, dedicated and caring medical professionals. Or what about the ‘world-beating’ test and trace programme, which is now being drastically scaled back because it, like the government that commissioned it, isn’t really fit for purpose.

Or is it one of the delightful private companies to which the government have been outsourcing services that should be provided by the state. Companies like Serco, G4S, Maximus, Capita and all the rest that have been delivering failure and rubbish for over thirty years, ever since they were invited in by the Tories in the late ’80s or early ’90s. At one time there was at least one article every fortnight in Private Eye about this clowns. Capita were so incompetent that the Eye awarded them the nickname ‘Crapita’. They started off with contracts to provide IT services, which were just about always behind schedule, over budget and sometimes so dire that they had to be scrapped. But for some reason they failed upwards, and were immediately given more contracts. And the outsourcing companies have gone on to dig themselves further into the infrastructure of government, with worse results. Like ATOS and Maximus manufacturing reasons to throw genuinely disabled people off the benefits they so desperately need, because the Tories and Tony Blair have decided that a certain percentage must be malingerers. The rioting against appalling conditions in our wonderful, privately run prisons and detention centres for asylum seekers. G4S in the ’90s managed to make themselves a laughing stock when a consignment of prisoners they were escorting to trial broke out and escaped. Are these same companies – or  one similar – also responsible for this unjust, odious algorithm?

Zelo Street doubts we’ll ever know the answer. He’s probably right. The Tories are very keen to protect their failures, and would probably argue that the information is too professionally sensitive to be divulged. Just like they’ve done with other private companies involved in government business, like all the private healthcare providers angling for NHS contracts.

This isn’t good enough. Williamson should go, and the company behind the algorithm should be named, shamed and its contract cancelled.

But I very much doubt that the Tories will take that step. Just remember the old saying

‘Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan’.

To which you could add that there are also a fair number of the morally parentless on the Tory benches.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/benevolent-bozos-badly-bungled-u-turn.html

The British Class Room War and the Tory and Elite Feminist Promotion of Private Education

August 15, 2020

There’s massive outrage at the way the education authorities in England, Wales and Scotland have downgraded pupils’ marks according to a set a algorithms. This has unfairly affected the mass of these children, damaging the hopes of all-too many for a university education. In the poorer areas, according to an I headline yesterday, 36 per cent of students have been affected. This is despite the hard work, time and effort these children and their teachers have put in despite the lockdown and necessary school closures. Teachers are angry, students and their parents are angry, and the schools are protesting. The Scots are trying to correct their errors, but there’s been precious little from the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, except excuses and bluster. And only the mildest criticism from the useless Blairite leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer.

Private Schools and the British Class System

But strangely, none of this downgrading has affected students at the elite private schools, like the Eton from which our clownish, mass-murdering prime minister Boris Alexander, DePfeffel Johnson and so many of his cronies and cabinet have attended. Mike has published a couple of excellent articles pointing out the class dimension to this marking down of the hoi polloi on their schools.

And he’s right. This isn’t accidental. The elite private schools are an intrinsic part of the British class system. They supply and educate this country’s elite, who heartily despise not just those below them, but the state schools that educate them.

Britain is one of the few country’s in Europe that has this devotion and the attendant promotion of elite private schools. It simply doesn’t exist in France and Germany, where most children, I believe, attend state schools. Private schools exist, but there isn’t the same cult surrounding them. There have at times been attempts to introduce it in Germany, but it’s failed. And a Fabian pamphlet on education I read in the 1980s stated that in France many pupils at private schools were there because, er, they were less intelligent than those at the state schools.

Some of this difference in attitude comes from the different history of education on the continent. In France following the French Revolution, there was a bitter conflict over schooling between the Church and the liberal, secularist authorities. This has been decided in favour of the latter, so that French republican society has an official policy of laicism – secularism. Germany also had its Kulturkampf with the Roman Catholic church in the 19th century over the Roman Catholic schools. But I think both countries, as well as Italy, had a very strong tradition of state support for schools and state or parish school provision. There was mass illiteracy in these countries in the 19th century, but I got the general impression that after the Napoleonic invasions where education was provided, it was through local school boards. In Britain education tended to remain a matter of private industry and provision. I’d also argue that the attitude that Eton and the rest of the private schools represent the acme of the British education system is actually only quite recent. Well into the 19th century wealthy children had a broader education at the grammar schools – the public schools were criticised for their narrow specialisation on the Classics – and bullying and brutality by the teachers was rife. The diet was also so poor that the pupils boarding there sometimes died of starvation. This changed after Matthew Arnold became the visionary headmaster at Rugby, and his massive improvement in the standards there and influence across elite private education.

There is, apparently, also a class divide in France in their secular, state education system. The children of the technocratic elite attend a set of similarly exclusive, but state-run schools, which are very difficult for someone outside that class to get into. This was part of the argument the Daily Heil advanced in favour of the British public school system in article back in the 1990s, when Eton and its fellows were coming under attack again as bastions of class privilege. According to this article, British public schools were superior because they developed in their pupils an independence of thought impossible in the French state system. This was roughly at the same time the journo Danny Danziger was interviewing old Etonians in his book, Eton Voices, who droned on about how wonder the old school was, praising it for its tolerance. How ideologically independent private school education is, is a highly questionable point. I’ve met a number of ex-public schoolboys who have rebelled against their upbringing and affected a very working class persona. But for the most part, since Arnold there has been a definite emphasis on moulding character – no bad thing in itself – and the existence of these schools and their very narrow class background is responsible for the maintenance of the British class system and all its attitudes against those further down the British social hierarchy.

Tory Hatred of State Education

And the Tories themselves hate state education. Some of us can still remember how they tried to part-privatise it in the 1980s by encouraging schools to leave the Local Education Authorities to become City Academies. That failed, and was quietly wound up. Until it was revived and expanded again by Blair and New Labour. And the Tories have continued, expanding the academy chains and even trying to bring back grammar schools to absolutely zero enthusiasm. I also remember the ignorant pronouncements of some Tory businessmen in the 1980s, who showed their own contempt for education. Pupils, according to these ignorant blowhards, should just be taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Nothing else was necessary, and they should then be sent out to work. But although it wasn’t said, they probably didn’t mean children from the upper and upper middle classes.

Elite Feminist Attacks on State Education

And part of the defence and promotion of elite private schools has come from ex-private schoolgirls arguing from feminism. There’s a reasonable point there, but it’s mixed up with much elite class ideology. And it includes the liberal, Blairite elite as well as Tories. Way back in the 1980s there were articles in the paper during the debate about girls’ education which pointed out that girls in single-sex schools had better grades than their sisters in mixed schools. Girls tended to be pushed into the background in school performance by boys. I don’t know if this has changed, but since then there has been a reversal in academic performance between the sexes. Girls have been outperforming boys for several years now, and the worse performing demographic are White working class boys. Despite this reversal, feminist arguments are still being used to defend what it basically class privilege. Single-sex schools are centres of female excellence, and away from boys, more girls take STEM subjects. So said an article by one of the female hacks in the I. I don’t doubt she’s right.

But this does create some very skewed attitude towards state education in ex-private schoolgirls. I came across about a decade ago when I studying for my Ph.D. at Bristol Uni. Passing through campus one day, I overhead two former private school inmates, who I think I had just met, who were overjoyed to find that they both had the same educational background. They were glad to find another you woman, who went to the same type of school. Which, one of them declared, was better than ‘the little woman thing they teach in state schools.’

What!

Not in my experience, nor my mother’s. I went to the local primary school, and my mother was a teacher in one of the other primary schools in Bristol. Mike and I were also lucky to get into a church school. This had been a grammar school, but was now a state-assisted comprehensive. And in none of them was there any teaching about the ‘little woman thing’. Now there was a debate within the education system at the time about gender and schooling. There was an article in an edition of Child Education about whether girls should be allowed to play with traditionally boys toys in school, like Meccano sets. But this debate, I think, has been settled a very long time ago. And I do remember that there was a positive attitude towards feminism amongst some of the staff at the Church school. I was in our house master’s office one day – I honestly can’t remember why, but I don’t think it was as a punishment for anything – when one of the women teachers came in. She had some materials on the Suffragettes she wanted to show him. ‘Ah, excellent!’ said the housemaster, ‘a bit of feminism!’

By  contrast, I’ve also come across teachers of both sexes, who in my opinion couldn’t teach boys. One of them was a male teacher, who gave sneers and put downs to the boys if they couldn’t answer questions or gave the wrong one, but was extremely encouraging to the girls. He clearly thought that girls needed gentle encouragement, while boys needed to be kept in line by shaming and humiliation. But it gave the impression he didn’t like teaching them. I’ve also come across some horror stories about the way girls have been treated in schools as well. Another story I heard back in the ’80s was about the headmaster of a London school, who immediately decided to divide the pupils into two classes, an ‘A’ and ‘B’. And all the boys ended up in ‘A’, and the girls in ‘B’. The headmaster, apparently, was Turkish, and this looks like the product of a traditionally Islamic cultural attitude to education. It was mostly definitely not common throughout the British state system and there were very loud complaints.

Blairite Feminism and Class Snobbery

My guess is that these skewed ideas about the sexism of state education are shared not just by Tories, but by Blairite liberals. The hacks writing in newspapers like the Groaniad and the I, although that’s technically non-aligned politically, seem to come from the same wealthy, privately educated class. And I think they share the same attitudes towards social class as the Tories, but argue for it from a liberal, feminist perspective. A few years ago the I carried a piece about a female Labour MP or activist, who was very definitely a Blairite. She commented on how male-dominated the old, trade union dominated Labour movement had been. And so we see the same attitude directed towards state education, by people, who have never once set foot in a state school except perhaps on an official visit.

Conclusion

Boris Johnson famously declared that every school should be like Eton. Well, every school could if it had the money spent on it Eton has. As for the academies, ditto. Once you account for the masses of money they have had spent on them, far in excess of the state sector, and the way they skew their results by excluding difficult and underperforming pupils, they are very definitely not better than state schools. See the book The great Academy Fraud for a very detailed discussion of their failings.

But ‘failing state schools’ is a nice mantra to justify the privatisation of the education system, even though one academy chain has gone down the toilet after the other. The Tories hate state education, and, in my opinion, will do anything to sabotage it. As will the Blairites.

And that includes deliberately marking down state school pupils, while awarding high marks and grades to the privately educated children of the elite.

 

The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 2: Sexism, Misogyny and Misandry

February 4, 2020

In the first part of this post, I discussed some of the problems that may arise from all-Black and Asian election shortlists, as suggested by one of the candidates at the recent Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol. In this part I wish to examine some of the problems of the same candidate’s declaration that they were determined to fight misogyny. I am certainly not denying that sexism exists in society, and that women are very far from being equal. I realise that many women have struggled and continue to struggle to make themselves accepted in male-dominated professions and workplaces. I realise that there are many jobs not considered suitable for women. And I also realise that despite some women managing to break the ‘glass ceiling’ and reach the very heights of management, there are still very few female managing directors or chairs of companies. However, the situation is changing in some areas, and this is not reflected in the debate about sexism, sexual harassment or gender and violence, at least not at the level of the popular press.

One of the issues is education. Since the 1990s boys have been falling behind girls at school and I gather that the majority of university students are also women. I know very well that women have had to struggle to get to this point. When I was growing up in the 1980s I remember reading a number of articles about brain sex stating that women would never be equal with men in certain subjects, like maths and science. But this has been shown to be false too. There are a number of factors affecting boys’ performance. One is the importance of sport, sex and violence over ‘book-larnin”, so that one academic commenting on the issue in the 1990s said that boys weren’t interested in the ‘3 Rs’ as the ‘3 Fs’ – football, fighting and, well, you can guess. Another factor may be that teaching is now very much a female-dominated profession, to the point where some schools have been described as ‘man deserts’ because of the lack or total absence of male teachers.

Other factors are class and those jobs traditionally viewed as masculine. Traditional working class male jobs, like mining, emphasised strength rather than academic performance. It may well be the case that, among some working class boys, academic performance is discouraged as effeminate and ‘poofy’. But class has also been a factor. A friend of mine grew up in rural Suffolk and went to the local comprehensive school. As he tells it, it had been a grammar school and still retained a very snobbish class ethos. The school ran classes in its sixth form to prepare pupils for going to university. My friend is highly intelligent, and he told me that despite achieving very good grades, the school never put him in this class. He came from a very working class background, and the school did not consider working class children to be suitable for university. And I’m afraid that there are some teachers that are very sexist in their attitudes to the children in their charge. I’ve heard horror stories decades ago of headmasters, who set up two classes for the bright and less bright. All the boys were in the first, and all the girls in the second. At the same time, I’ve come across two teachers in my time in school, who in my experience did not like boys and treated them worse than the girls. One was female, one was male.

These are issues that need to be examined if boys’ academic performance is to be improved. But there is a problem whether a political and social culture, that has and is making great effort to improve girls’ and women’s academic performance, is also able to to devote the same kind of effort and energy to boys. If boys also need special treatment to help them achieve their potential, then some feminists may resent that as an attack on the schemes that have helped women to make such great strides in achieving theirs.

I’m sure that when the candidate spoke about misogyny, she meant instances of clear hostility and aggression to women. Like discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse or violence specifically towards women. Domestic violence, and the stuff that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of. However, what makes this problematic is the way some feminists have extended it to include even trivial gestures, which many people of both sexes wouldn’t consider aggressive or demeaning. For example, one feminist academic has claimed that women’s self-confidence is knocked through ‘micro-aggressions’ such as calling them ‘love’. This was heavily criticised in the press, with some male writers pondering whether they were being treated with aggression and contempt when women called them ‘love’. Last week an expert from the Chartered Institute of Management appeared on Sky, I believe, and declared that management should stop men talking about sport in the workplace, as this excluded women and led to other laddish behaviours, like boasting of sexual conquests. This was also attacked by anti-feminist bloggers and vloggers like Sargon. Benjamin stated that he’d worked in offices, that were overwhelmingly female and where the topics of office conversation were typically female: makeup and men. Which obviously left him isolated. I’ve also worked in offices where the staff were overwhelmingly female, some of whom were extremely crude. In my first job, one of the girls one day told the rest of the office about how she had been to see a male stripper the night before. I’ve no doubt that if the situation was reversed, feminists, if not ordinary women, would find that unacceptable. But is there now a double-standard in that talk of such excursions is acceptable, if the strippers are men?

Ditto with sexual harassment. This is always discussed as something that men do to women, never the other way round. A few years ago there was a scandal about MPs groping parliamentary staff. This focused very much on women, who were leading the protest. But the Beeb report, as far as I can remember, also mentioned that half the victims were men. Nothing then was said about how they were affected or what steps were being taken to safeguard them. Did that mean that men’s safety in this regard was not as important as women’s? Again, the other year there was a report about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment at universities. One report in the I said that 75 per cent of women students had experienced it. It also said that 25 per cent of men had also. The article then described how universities were trying to tackle it by laying on courses educating students about the issue. But the rest of the article only discussed it as a problem that affected women. The men were mentioned and forgotten.

Domestic violence is also an issue that is framed almost exclusively as something that men inflict on women. I’m very much aware that throughout history, this has been very much the case. However, a friend of mine, who is a former nurse, told me that when he was being trained, they were told that both sexes were sent to the hospital in equal numbers by the partners. Men were, however, much more likely to kill their wives. I certainly do not mean here, to suggest anything to prevent vulnerable women from being given the help and protection they need against violent and dangerous men. The Tories have left such women increasingly vulnerable through cuts to women’s refuges and centres. While it is recognised that men also suffer from domestic abuse from women, you don’t hear that women hospitalise as many men as the other way around. Nor have I come across many articles talking primarily about men as victims of female violence. In fact, I can’t think of one. But I’ve also come across some extremely foul-tempered, violent women. I’ve no doubt discussion of the issue is constrained by some men feeling emasculated by talking about it. No man really wants others to think him ‘pussy-whipped’. And there is the attitude that men should just be a man about it all, and take it. At the same time, I think some women and feminists may also have qualms about discussing gendered violence towards men with the same kind of concern that’s given to women in case in detracted from the campaigns to end violence against women. But clearly such violence exists, and so needs to be tackled.

A campaign to tackle genuine misogyny is entirely praiseworthy. But it overlooks the way men can be similarly affected, and a narrow focus solely on women threatens to create new forms of sexism, rather than combat it.