Posts Tagged ‘Sociology’

I’ve written on this kind of topic before; equally, I have hi-lighted some of the issues that governmental policy have on education and, subsequently, young people. I think it’s no secret that I probably stand with Ken Robinson when he suggests that we need to completely rethink how we do education and that we need to move away from standardisation.

I would like to weigh in and suggest that there is a need for re-thinking education in light of political participation; that is to say that we should be empowering our young people to think about how they will choose to participate within democratic society.

A few things to outline from the start is that I do not uphold ‘active citizenship’ necessarily; although I’m no great objector. I believe that young people, and people in general, should be encouraged to participate but I have fortunately withstood developing a linear mind-set on what participation should look like. Political participation does not have to include turnout at elections, although that would be nice. On the other hand, despite how I might be sounding, I’m fundamentally against the conservative perspective of citizenship which played out through the development of the ‘Big Society’. I don’t think that it is fair to encourage voluntary work in areas where there should be a salary; I don’t see the economic sense in that. Equally, Big Society suggests that political participation is intrinsically linked to work and employment.

In light of the above, I’m probably suggesting nothing new or original, but I am hi-lighting an idea that is rarely spoken about. Using education to empower rather than standardise. Let’s explain through the medium of a mini-story:

“Mark decides that, having completed his education, he would like to seek employment. He struggled at school academically, and never managed to find something on offer that suited him. He appreciates that in the modern economy the lack of a job can lead to more pressures which come from exams; benefits, forms, targets, etc. Mark decides to go down to the local McDonalds with a view to apply for a job; unfortunately, having spoken to the manager he finds that there are no jobs available. Disappointed, he decides to grab some food whilst there and notices that the person who serves him is someone that he perceives not to be British (it later transpires that this person is British!). Dejected, he goes home and switches on the television only to find that it is the news. He finds that boring but as he goes to switch the channel he sees a man standing in the pub talking about how immigrants are taking our jobs and how our links with things such as the European Union are breaking this country and putting people out of work. He then realises that this person leads a political party that is anti-immigration. Mark feels strangely connected to the man that is speaking like he would, in a pub, but talking politics – that’s a man that he can get behind as a leader! He signs up to campaign with them and feels like he is making a difference and feels like he has a part to play despite his social situation. He remains loyal to the political party that gave him his first voice on the first issue that he felt truly passionate about to this day. “

Okay, so it’s an easy story to write – but are we sure that this isn’t the case for some young people like Mark? I do not believe that there is a generation emerging that is more racist than the last. Racism does exist, in many forms, but I can’t accept that this example would make someone like Mark intentionally racist. I think that it is the outpouring of an individual that seeks to have a voice, having found none previously. Unfortunately, what has empowered him is a racist narrative that they have accidently bought into!

Everyone goes through education but few are empowered by it, and even fewer are those that are empowered and turn to politics to participate. What if we radically re-thought how we used education? Imagine using Politics and Religious Education as cross-curricular subjects which helped underpin the holistic individual. In Maths, why not learn the mathematic principles through the context of current economic issues? Or in English, studying a religious text for the use of poetry or metaphor? They’re both subjects that address some of the fundamental issues the UK currently faces socially; I believe that education in this way can help alleviate the issues.

I’m only at the beginning of this thought process, and it is a journey that will last a couple of years. I’m hoping to have a solid manifesto for political and religious education by the end of my PhD. However, in the mean time I plant this seed:

“Education isn’t enough, we could be doing more; we are blind if we think we’ve done enough. Change is not an enemy; complacency is”.

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So this blog, on request of my birth giver, is about Osborne’s latest idea that has come straight out of his ‘Crazy Idea Machine’.

It is conference season and the Conservative conference 2013 is in full swing, and if my humble opinion is anything to value, it’s in the shadow of a gleaming bright and hope giving Labour conference – but then what does an unemployed, postgrad student who has been demonised by the current government actually know?

George Osborne has announced the new scheme of “unpaid work for benefits” and, as expected, it received a resounding round of applause at the conference.

Firstly, let’s start by stating the obvious – “unpaid work for benefits” … why not just pay them!? I mean come on, I’m no economist and I’m certainly not as suave as Osborne but even he could have thought of that one. Why not show the advantages of paid work by giving people paid work? We’re going to put them in private sector jobs, working for free (because it’s not just litter picking they’d be expected to do) and increase private sector profits… WITHOUT PAY!? It’s disgusting.

Alas, with the death of the ‘Big Society’ they had to find other ways to get jobs done without paying for them whilst at the same time still having the ability to demonise an entire demographic on benefits, continuing to feed a moral panic with a lack of evidence, and still failing to target the crimes that cost this country the most money: White Collar Crime (something that many Conservative MP’s are guilty of might I add!).

Yet again, those on benefits are being targeted as free loaders and it is the same old discourse coming from the Conservatives, and their blind followers, that victimise millions of people who are on benefits for various reasons. All of this happening while hundreds of corperations do not pay tax appropriately, the majority of those in top earning positions are avoiding tax – BECAUSE IT IS STILL LEGAL – and those that cost this country very little in comparison are targeted. It’s a fallacy and nothing more than a moral panic.

However, let’s be fair. There are some good aspects to this proposal. Offering those that need an opportunity to change illiteracy and other issues. That’s a positive thing. Well… let’s look at that…

How can you trust a Government to provide training and education to those that need it when they have already marginalised education, attacked the sector, and successfully blocked those that could have gone into further and higher education? I don’t know about you, but those good aspects seem a little too good to be true. I’m sure they’ll be an unannounced loop hole in that entire policy, just like there’s already loop holes announced in the freezing of Fuel Duty (but that’s for another blogger to discuss).

The most sinister aspect of this entire policy, in my opinion, is the way in which those that breach the rules will lose four weeks of benefit, whilst a second offence will be three months. EVERYONE knows how easy it is for there to be errors and miscommunication which lead into someone “breaching the rules”. Are we seriously going to support a government that will take away a month, or three months, worth of benefits? Whilst at the same time use those in that situation to increase the profits of private companies without offering them pay?
The implications of that are catastrophic. That’s a month – potentially three – that someone is not going to be able to eat and will be worried sick about money and therefore negatively effecting mental health. This seems very right wing indeed, especially when those that avoid tax or even illegally dodge paying tax, get a slap on the wrist and a fine that is well within their means to pay.

So this idea that it is “fair for those who need it and fair for those who pay for it” is – dare I say it – bullshit.

Quite frankly, I’m bored of the same old Tory discourse. Bashing the poor, demonising single and unmarried parents, ostracizing those on benefits and looking down on anyone that is unemployed.

We are at a time when, more than ever, we need social cohesion and an integrating society. We have an increase of immigration (A GOOD THING!), varying cultures finding their place in UK Society, an increase (we’re not there yet) in equality and a flux of people out of work because there are not enough jobs to give.

We need a government that ceases to suggest policies such as this with an undertone of elitism and disdain. We need a government that targets corporations that avoid paying their way. We need a government that’s not in the back pocket of bankers and other individuals that have a lot of money. We need a government that is willing to listen to the majority of the people, and not the top 2% of those with wealth.

Let’s see this latest proposal for what it really is. A proposal that promises nothing tangible, will create more inequality, continue with a class divide and fan the flame of the stigma of those in that situation.

This proposal is nothing more than an attack. So make sure you attack back at the next General Election.