Saturday 28 June 2014

Anti-fascism and our local community

Following an attack by a Polish neo-Nazi group on a local community music event in a nearby park, I've been on a couple of protests so far: A hastily thrown together vigil at the town hall earlier in the week  and today a re-claim the park festival. All quite low key but so far so good, and I have nothing to say against anyone involved. 

Whether it's the UAF types or the  more 'direct' Anti-Fascists (and I have friends in both camps) -  all have done their bit and no doubt will continue to do so. 

But I also couldn't help noticing however that despite our self-congratulatory speeches about how genuinely diverse and happily multi-cultural Tottenham is (all quite true by the way) - a group of black lads who had been having a kick-about in the park quickly scuttled off as soon as we arrived. 

Of course it might have just been a coincidence, but it did make me think after a day  when I'd also been to the local gym, visited the local shops, and saw the crowd getting ready to watch the football in our local latin american cafe - we protesters were about the least diverse group of the lot.

It was necessary we turned out to send a message to the fascists  - and I am pleased I was there.  But there's no grounds for complacency if we want to genuinely say we speak for our community ...

Sunday 15 June 2014

William and Angelina

If we must have celebrities then I suppose I would rather have well-intentioned liberals than vacuous self-obsessed arseholes. In other words bit more Angelina Jolie and a bit less Kim Kardashian.

But I am a little wary of the amount media attention that the newly-created Dame Angelina's campaign against rape in war is getting

Last week an entire edition of that not-usually-known-for-its-crusading-stance-publication, The Evening Standard was given over to publicising the campaign.

Let's get the caveat out of the way first: rape in war is a horrific issue that needs more exposure. But I can't help asking when I see Angelina working away with William Hague, why is it being taken up by Western governments - and why now?

Because rape in war, whilst being something we can all feel  a universal horror and outage about,  is also an issue where we cannot actually point the finger at any specific government. The whole point of rape in war in recent times is that it is the product of those conflicts where government has broken down and society fractured along ethnic or communal lines. Consequently it is pretty easy for governments to ride a moral tide of public outrage and enjoy the satisfying sense of being the 'good guys'.

Contrast this with the silence about some of the other horrific aspects of modern conflicts that are actually happening right now and that governments are  in a position to do something about: Like the use of drones that cause collateral damage to civilian targets, the use of chemical weapons, the trade in (and use of) weapons of torture, or landmines that cause indiscriminate carnage across generations. 

The vested interests of governments and the military industrial complex make it rather harder for them to pose as the good guys when in comes to these immediately fixable problems.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Gove wouldn't approve

I've got to that point in my first year of teaching where I am about to finish 'induction' - effectively my probationary period. 

For those outside of teaching it is an odd thing to explain - I am a qualified teacher but if I don't pass induction I won't be able to continue teaching in a local authority maintained school. If I don't pass - and you only get one chance to do it - then I am stuck in a kind of a limbo, a qualified teacher who can't actually work. Although thanks to Michael  Gove's bizarre policy acrobatics that permits him to reconcile raising professional standards with de-regulation and privatisation, this won't matter because you don't need to be a qualified teacher to work in an academy or a free school.

I am not unduly stressed -  at this point the hardest thing is a time-consuming evidence gathering exercise to fill up a folder to prove that I have satisfied the tick- boxes of the current 'teaching standards'. Although these standards are an exercise in truly tortuous semantics I do have to concede that they do at least relate (more or less) to good teaching practise.

Far more controversial is the sinister 'part two' of the standards which relates to personal an professional conduct of teachers - both  in and out of school. Some of this is common sense child protection stuff but some of it is downright sinister - such as

a) Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by:

not undermining fundamental British values, including

democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty & mutual respect, tolerance of those with different faiths & beliefs

ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law

I am not sure that I even meet these standards in the classroom when I teach kids about the peasants' revolt, the Levelers, the Chartists, the Suffragettes or the Civil Rights movement - certainly not when it comes to the 'rule of law'. And I am almost certain that outside of the classroom - my own and Gove's understanding of 'British values' are poles apart.

I spent a chunk of yesterday with NUT colleagues at a local festival - getting people to sign petitions and giving away 'stand up for education' balloons. Several of these people were my students and their parents. Not exactly revolutionary stuff,  but it did feel fantastic to be able to make some connection with what we were doing and what I have taught them about struggle and protest in history. 

And of course there was the knowledge that it is exactly the sort of thing that would piss off the likes of Michael Gove ...