Posts Tagged ‘Primary Schools’

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s Confusion over Anti-Semitism Definition and Labour Anti-Semitism Smears

May 31, 2019

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is one of the very few columnists I make of point of reading in the I. She writes about racial issues, and I respect her because she’s even-handed. She not only attacks not only White, but also Black and Asian racism and prejudice. But I do have reservations and criticisms of her work. One of these is that she, like the rest of the British establishment media, completely accepts the smears and lies about the existence of massive anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

On Tuesday, 28th May 2019 Tony Greenstein put up a piece on his great blog, praising her for condemning the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism. This is the definition of anti-Semitism that, as its author, the Zionist Kenneth Stern, has testified, has been used by the Israel lobby and militant Zionists to try to silence critics of Israel and its crimes and atrocities against the Palestinians. Alibhai-Brown had said that she does not support it in a piece she wrote in her column in the I the previous week. This was actually about how she rejected the latest attempts to formulate an official definition of islamophobia. This condemns hatred of Muslims or expressions of ‘Muslimness’. She objected to it because, as a modern, liberal Muslim, she was afraid that her community’s reactionary bigots would use this definition to try to silence critics of their intolerance. She pointed in particular to the current mass demonstrations against the teaching of homosexuality to primary school children in a school in Birmingham. It is not just Muslims who are protesting against this – they’ve been joined by Christians and members of other faiths, and the teacher who tried to introduce it was forced out when he did the same at a Christian school a little while ago. Alibhai-Brown said in her article that she objected to the proposed official definition of islamophobia, just as she objected to the I.H.R.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism. Both could be used unfairly to silence criticism.

This is where I think that, at best, her thinking is confused. As someone, who professes genuinely to take an interest in combating racism and is unimpressed with the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism because of its chilling role in silencing legitimate criticism, she must, you would think, realise that so much of the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party are precisely that. Last year the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, not to mention the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, all made accusations screaming that the Labour party was institutionally anti-Semitic because it first did not accept the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, and then, when it did, didn’t accept the examples. They then carried on baying their smears until the party finally accepted it in full. As Tony Greenstein has pointed out again and again on his blog, along with Martin Odoni, David Rosenberg and so many other Jewish bloggers and activists, this has zero to do with actually trying to defend Jews from real anti-Semitism. As they, and other non-Jewish activists like Mike over at Vox Political have said, this is all about trying to silence critics of Israel, or those, like Mike, who’ve defended critics of Zionism like Ken Livingstone.

And if Alibhai-Brown really is serious about combating racism, she should know that, actually, there’s very little of it in the Labour party, as has been made very plain by Jewish organisations like Jewdas and Jewish Voice for Labour. Instead the accusations were motivated primarily to oust Jeremy Corbyn, not because he’s an anti-Semite – he never has nor will be – but because he’s genuinely anti-racism and pro-Palestinian. And he threatens to overturn the wretched neoliberal politics that have seen Brits from nearly all Britain’s diverse communities, including Jews, robbed of control over their lives and thrust into grinding poverty and misery. Because Corbyn is traditional Labour, the Thatcherites within and without the Labour party tried smearing him as a Trotskyite and a Communist. This didn’t stick, and so they took up the rants from the Jewish establishment that he was an anti-Semite because these did, with some help from a very biased media that was more than economical with the truth. Like the Sunday Times and its correspondent, Gabriel Pogrund, who libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier simply because he’s a Corbyn supporter, who pointed out that Livingstone was quite right when he said that the Hitler initially supported Zionism. Which he did, and is recorded fact, as noted on the website of the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem in Israel, in its piece on the Ha’avara agreement between the two.

But the British lamestream media as a whole, including Private Eye, supports and promotes the myth that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour Party. Indeed, anyone, who dares say that it isn’t is accused of being an anti-Semite in turn, just as the critics of the witch hunt at Salem are accused of being witches themselves in Arthur Miller’s classic play, The Crucible. As I’ve said ad nauseam, it’s long past time that the witch hunt was ended and shown up for the travesty it is, and proper restitution given to the victims of the smears and libels. Victims like Tony, Martin, Mike, and also Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and Cyril Chilson.

I am glad that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown does condemn the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism, but deeply disappointed that she still promotes the myth of rabid anti-Semitism in the Labour party. But I’m not surprised. Given the way the Israel lobby freely used smear and libel, I guess it’s more than her reputation and career are worth. 

 

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Conservatives Want Primary Schoolchildren to Be Taught To Work Not Live on Benefits

December 5, 2015

This is how desperate the Tories are to try to stop people claiming unemployment benefit. According to a couple of pieces in today’s I, the Tories want children in primary schools to be taught about work and careers in order to stop them claiming benefits. It says in the article on page two, Primary Children ‘to Attend Career Talks’ that

Ministers are considering proposals that would oblige children to attend careers talks before they finish primary school to help discourage them from claiming benefits in the future. The initiative will be particularly relevant in communities with high adult unemployment, but teaching unions feel careers talks at 11 could be “too much too soon”.

This was all outlined in a speech given by Sam Gyimah, the education and childcare minister, to the Westminster Employment Forum. The article, Children in Primary School ‘Should Learn about Work’, by Oliver Wright, gives further information, and begins

Primary school children are to be taught by the time they leave junior school at age 11 that “in the future they will work”, under new proposals being considered by ministers.

Information and talk about future careers will be included in the curriculum while at the same time teachers will be expected to act early make clear connections between reading, writing and arithmetic and decent jobs in the future. Ministers believe the new initiative will be particularly relevant in communities with high adult unemp0loyment as part of a wider effort to end the cycle of benefit dependency.

However, teaching unions have expressed some concern at the plan, qu4estioning whether careers talks at 11 are a case of “too much too soon”.

The newspaper also gives the criticisms of the proposal by Christine Blower, the general secretary of the NUT. The I states that she

said while she agreed that it was good for children to learn about work, she had concerns. “There is a danger of ‘too much too soon’ in what is proposed,” she said. “School should be a preparation for life, and there is no better means to achieve this than through a creative space in the curriculum for teachers to discuss issues about the outside world, including work.”

As if schoolchildren aren’t under enough pressure already to get good grades.

I also wonder where the Tories get their ideas from. Young children have always had some idea that they were going to work after leaving school, as well as generally idealistic dreams about the kind of jobs they want to do, like train drivers, scientists, police, firemen, hairdressers, pop stars, and, when the space programme was still glamorous, astronauts. I think some schools already do arrange for outsiders to come in to tell primary school children about the jobs they do. I do voluntary work at one of the local schools helping children with their reading. When I was going there the week before last, a number of children in the playground asked me if I was ‘the doctor’. I thought at first that they meant, The Doctor, and felt like saying that I might be ancient, but I’m not over a thousand years old, don’t come from a different planet, and, sadly, don’t have a TARDIS. It turns out that they meant an ordinary medical doctor. One was coming in that afternoon, along with other professionals, to tell them about the kind of work they did.

This isn’t just about preparing children for the world of work, though. It’s about getting them to internalise the Tory belief system that if you’re unemployed, then it’s all your fault. You should have studied harder at school. It also seems to be part of the belief that people are voluntarily unemployed, because they want to be scroungers. No matter how often that belief is attacked, how often it is refuted, it still doesn’t get through their thick, brutal heads. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they still believe that the majority of people on the dole are there because they want to be there, because they’re lazy, or feckless.

Now it strikes me that the most powerful disincentive to trying anything at school is simply the lack of available jobs when you leave. To some children it may well seem that there is no point in working as hard as possible, if it will do them absolutely no good in the end. And the incessant testing schoolchildren are made to go through could also act as a disincentive. If you’re told you’re no good at reading, or mathematics, at a young age, it might stop some children trying to improve if they somehow get the impression that this will never happen. The school at which my mother taught also used to test children regularly, but this was intended to be diagnostic only, to show where the children needed more work in order to improve.

This latest proposal by Gyimah and other, unnamed ‘ministers’, is all about getting children to internalise Tory ideology. That the state will not provide jobs or welfare benefits, and unemployment is due purely to personal failure, not their disastrous handling of the economy based on an economic theory that deliberately sets an unemployment rate at 6 per cent. It should be thrown out, along with them.

Gove and 19th Century British Education Provision

March 29, 2014

The Conservative Party Annual Conference

Michael Gove contemplating the government’s destruction of British state education

Unreasoning nostalgia is a British disease,

– Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space

Earlier this week the NUT staged a one-day strike against the government’s reforms of British schools. As with the rest of Conservative policy, this essentially consists in preparing the system for further privatisation and lowering wages and conditions. They also have their sights set on lowering standards as well. Taking their cue from the assumption of ignorant bar-room bores everywhere, the Tories have the attitude that just about anyone, or almost anyone, can teach without actually needing to be taught how. They are therefore trying to pass legislation to allow graduates to teach in schools without needing to have a teaching qualification first.

I did my first degree at a teacher-training college that also took ordinary degree students. The trainee teachers I knew were conscientious and worked extremely hard, both academically on their specialist subjects, and in the class-room during teaching practice. Often they were put in front of classes that could be difficult, stopping fights between pupils and sometimes with the threat of violence from parents. While there’s a lot of debate just how much of the theory of teaching and child development is relevant – the theories of Piaget have been extensively critiqued and rejected – it is nevertheless not an easy profession by any means. Teachers certainly need good training in how to teach, as well as what. All this will be undermined by Gove’s reforms.

Modern Conservatism is based on the view that laissez-faire, private industry is always best, and so looks back with nostalgia on the 19th century, when Britain dominated the world, we had an empire and industry was expanding. It was also an age of poverty, hunger, disease and overcrowding. And rather than being great, Britain in this respect had one of the worst education systems in western Europe.

France

In France, plans had been drawn up for a national system of primary, secondary and university education as long ago as 1806 under Napoleon. In practice, the regime got only as far as founding the lycees, the boarding schools for the elite. Under the education act of !833 drawn up by the French minister, Guizot, an impressive system of primary education was established. All communes were required to set up schools, which would provide education for local boys free of charge. The communes that could not afford to do so were to be given funding from their department, or, failing, that an annual grant from the Ministry of Public Instruction. As a result, in the thirteen years from 1834 to 1847 the number of primary schools in La Patrie increased from 33,695 to 43,514. By 1849 there were 3 1/2 million children attending primary school. Girl’s schools received much less funding, but nevertheless a law 1836 extended the 1933 Act to provide for schools for girls.

The French educational system was further reformed in 1863 under Napoleon’s minister for public instruction, Victor Duruy. Duruy was the Republican son of a worker in the Gobelins tapestry factory. He proposed to Napoleon III a system for the effective abolition of illiteracy, funding increases for secondary education, and increases in teachers’ salaries. Primary education was made compulsory, and a broader curriculum introduced for secondary schools. In 1866 nearly 66,000 pupils attended secondary school. The state also spent large sums on teachers’ salaries and in establishing good school libraries. In Matthew Arnold’s words, the French education system after Guizot had

given to the lower classes, to the body of the common people, a self-respect, an enlargement of spirit, a consciousness of counting for something in their country’s action, which has raised them in the scale of humanity.

Germany

Prussia had a ministry of public instruction and a system of local school boards from 1817 onwards. By the mid-19th century throughout all the German states primary education was compulsory. In Saxony, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Baden and Prussia after 1857 parents had to send their children to the local state school. The age when children started school varied from state to state from five to eight years. In some parts of Germany school attendance was compulsory for a further eight years, so that the school leaving age was the same a century later. Unfortunately, education suffered through the use of child labour and widespread poverty, which took children out of the class room.

By 1837 Prussia already had a system of 50 gymnasia, set up to teach the children of the elite from 16 to 19. The curriculum was broader than that in France, and included philosophy, history, geography, arithmetic and geometry, as well as drawing and playing a musical instrument.

Austria

Under the liberal prime minister Auersperg in 1869 education became compulsory for all children from six to fourteen years of age. It has been seen by Harry Hearder, in his Europe in the 19th Century, 1830-1880, as more advanced than the British educational system introduced a year later. (p. 386). The parts of Italy under Austrian rule also benefited from this increase in education. In 1856 Lombardy possessed 4, 427 primary schools.

Switzerland and the Netherlands

The best schools in Europe were those in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Primary education had been made compulsory in most Swiss cantons in the 1830s, and Matthew Arnold considered Swiss schools superior to the French, with the schools in Aargau the very best in Europe.

In the Netherlands a system of state supervision of education had been established in 1806. Dutch schools were hygienic, with well-trained teachers, industrious and happy children, complete religious toleration and no corporal punishment.

Britain

There were a number of schools giving some form of education. These included the Dame Schools, in which an old woman kept a class of children quiet while their parents worked and the charity and Sunday schools. These were essentially religious in nature, and although there were 1 1/2 million pupils in Sunday schools in the 1830s, their pupils were not taught to write or do sums. There result was that there were high rates of illiteracy. By 1851 the literacy rate for men was about 69.3 per cent, and for women 51 per cent.

Under Dr James Kay-Shuttleworth in 1840 schools receiving state grants were obliged to adhere to certain standards, and in 1856 the Department of Education was set up. Nevertheless, a national system of education did not exist until the education act of 1870.

The children of the upper classes attended the grammar and public schools. There was, however, no national system of universal secondary education until 1880, or really, before the 20th century.

University Attendance in England, France, Germany and German Austria

The English universities were intended to produce a small, educated elite, unlike those in France, Italy, German Austria and Germany, which aimed at producing a larger cultured or professional class. As a result, in the 19th century far fewer people in England had the benefit of a university education. In France 1 in 1,900 citizens attended uni. In Italy, this was 1 in 2,200. In Germany and German-speaking Austria, it was 1 in 2,600. In Britain less than half as many had a university education one in 5,800 men.

British Education Dominated by Conservative Aristocratic Bias

Hearder therefore says of the British education system that it suffered from a narrowly aristocratic attitude. If the English upper class was as well educated as that of any other in Europe, the rest of the population remained wretchedly ignorant and neglected. (p. 388).

This attitude still persists in contemporary Tory attitude to education. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are Toffs, who seem intent on pricing higher education out of the grasp of the lower middle and working classes with their raising of tuition fees. The educational reforms seem designed to wreck state education, leaving it purely run for the profit of private companies and unable to compete with the private schools. This seems partly intended to allow the wealthy to continue to the enjoy their educational and social privileges without having to worry about competition from the poorer children of the state sector.

And supporting this assault on state education is the popular belief, at least amongst some of the electorate, that this must raise standards because private is automatically better, as demonstrated by British imperial and industrial greatness during the 19th century. Britain, however, does not compare well in the sphere of mass education during the 19th century. The state systems of many nations, especially France, appear far better. If we genuinely care about giving a good education to our children, we should be looking to them, not back to a mythical age of imperial glory that promotes an attitude of indifference or active hostility to genuine, popular, state education.

Britain Becomes South Africa: Primary Teachers Bring Food for Starving Pupils

March 6, 2014

Monica Caro Foodbank

Monica Caro, Campaigner against the government’s benefit cuts, outside the Royal Free Hospital in Camden

A few years ago I used to work with an academic, who was very involved in civil rights work to improve conditions for the Black community. He later moved with his family to the new, post-Apartheid South Africa. Talking to him later, I found that he was appalled at the poverty in his local area, and was trying to find donors, who would provide much-needed equipment for the local school. Apart from the poverty that still afflicts the vast majority of Black South Africans, there area suffered from unemployment. As a result, many of the schoolchildren were coming to school hungry. To combat this, the government had launched the ‘Nelson Mandela Feeding Programme’. This gave schoolchildren a meal when the came to school. My friend told me that it was only a peanut butter sandwich. It’s hardly enough, but it was something. It was often the only meal they would have all day.

South Africa was, of course, notorious for having an immensely wealthy White ruling class, which excluded from power and dignity the Black and ‘Coloured’, or mixed race, population. The townships into which the Black population had been segregated was notorious for poverty and the violence this engenders. It was hoped and expected that with the fall of Apartheid and the ascent of Mandela to the presidency, this would end and Black and White South Africans could finally march together in peace and create a land of prosperity and justice for all.

This has, however, not come about. The ANC has become massively corrupt, so that its members now have enriched themselves and joined the ruling White elite, while conditions for the vast majority of the Black population are as poor than they were previously. They are not, however, alone in their poverty. Since the 1990s there has appeared a class of White poor, similarly trapped in grinding poverty. This was recently shown on British television by a Black British DJ on his programme about South Africa. Ten Years ago this class of poor Whites was the subject of a photographic exhibition, Outlands, put on by a White South African photographer, intended to show an aspect of South Africa, that was unknown in Europe.

Starving Schoolchildren in Britain

Unfortunately, Britain seems to be joining South Africa in the emergence of a corrupt, obscenely wealthy elite, while the mass of its population are depressed into poverty and destitution, a poverty that includes children coming to school hungry.

Yesterday I posted a piece about Monday’s Panorama documentary on the massive expansion of food banks across the UK. One of the commenters to this blog, AmnesiaClinic, remarked that there had been reports in Britain of schoolteachers bringing in food to pupils from homes that had been hit by benefit sanctions. AM-FM has kindly provided the link to one report of this.

It’s an article from the newspaper, Ham&High, published on September 29 2013. Entitled ‘Camden primary teachers bring food into classes to feed hungry pupils hit by benefit cuts’, it reported the finding by Monica Caro, the vice-chair of the Camden Association of Street Properties, that schoolteacher in Camden were bring their own food from home into school to feed primary school pupils aged five to seven, whose parents had been hit by cuts to their benefit. Ms Caro, a volunteer and carer, was working with Petra Dando, a prominent campaigner in the borough against the government’s cuts. She was also shocked that the Royal Free Hospital had also opened a food bank. The hospital had opened a stall asking for residents to donate food.

Ms Caro said: “I thought, ‘Oh my god, if the Royal Free is now making a Comic Relief-style appeal for food then surely the government can hear that things are really desperate.’ I voted for the Conservatives and I wish I never had.

“It’s like living in Robin Hood times, they are taking from the poor to give to the rich.”

The article notes the effect of the government’s benefit cap, which means that no family can earn more than £500 in benefits, as well as the notorious bedroom tax. It stated that hit by the tax could lose between 14 and 25 per cent of their benefits.

The article quoted the comments of local lawyer, Rebekah Carrier, who was working on a number of challenges to the benefit changes in the High Court, who was particularly critical of the benefit cap. She said

“The people most badly affected by the benefit cap are families with three or more children. Often all of their benefits go on paying their rent and they have nothing with which to feed their children.”

Sally Gimson, a local councillor in Highgate, said she had been told by residents that they are skipping meals in order to make ends meet due to the bedroom tax.

It also reported that the Highgate Newtown Community Centre was going to open lunch clubs from the 4th October that year, where people in need could get a cooked meal for £1. The Centre’s director, Andrew Sanalitro, was pessimistic about the effect of the coming winters. He stated “There will be a spike in problems when winter comes because of heating bills. It’s just becoming a lot harder for people to cope.”

The article can be found at: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/camden_primary_teachers_bring_food_into_classes_to_feed_hungry_pupils_hit_by_benefit_cuts_1_2691248.

This is disgusting and shameful. Britain, unlike South Africa, is an immensely wealthy country. I believe it is the seventh biggest economy in the world, but many of its people are facing the return of the grinding poverty our great-grandparents faced in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Malnutrition is also returning, along with diseases like rickets, that were common in the desperation and squalor of Victorian slums. It had been hoped such poverty had been banished through the welfare state, the expanding economy and the increased prosperity of the post-War years. ‘You’ve never had it so good!’, boasted the Conservative Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan. Well, the country as a whole is still immensely wealthy, even if Gideon, sorry, George Osborne has managed to stall the economy with his daft Neo-Liberal policies. Yet poverty is increasing. A quarter of all households have seen a decline in their income and standard of living through inflation and the Coalition’s imposition of wage restraint. And conditions for the very poorest are becoming increasingly desperate. So desperate, that they resemble South Africa, a country struggling to shake off the legacy of Apartheid and afflicted with massive corruption and the emergence of a non-racist, but still brutally exploitative ruling class. Which pretty much describes Britain under the Coalition, although racism still seems prevalent in the Tory party, despite Cameron’s attempts to root it out and protestations to the contrary. Witness the vans the Coalition circulated in Black and Asian areas to encourage illegal immigrants to go home.

Such poverty should have no place in 21st century Britain. It can only get worse, much worse, under the Coalition. If Scotland leaves the UK, taking its North Sea oil with it, then I believe we will see true conditions comparable to the Third World in what’s left of the UK.

The Coalition has to go, and Neo-Liberalism rejected and thrown into the dustbin of daft and exploitative economic policies.