Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Education for Action: a new network to resist the commodification of education

A report from a discussion in Leeds on what has been happening to adult and workers’ education

August 13, 2013
4 min read

An assemblage of critical researchers, community and trade union activists has been emerging over the past year to question current government policies that privatise and raise the cost of post-compulsory education, which will effectively exclude working class students from further and higher education. Current policies undermine critical and political education by instrumentalising knowledge and supporting only that which is valuable to ‘the market’.

Inspired by the debates in the ‘uncut’ and ‘occupy’ movements around the globe, this group held an Open Day in Leeds on 6 July to talk about what has been happening to adult and workers’ education. We are interested in resisting the privatisation and dismantling of higher, further, trade union and community education, all of which should be funded by the state and free for all.

At the Open Day we offered three workshops, headed Education, Communities, and Work, to invite discussions on how we can create spaces, networks and shared experiences to form the basis of a struggle against the commodification of education.

The Education strand discussed how to build on radical traditions so that learning is creative, innovative and critical. We asked: Who owns education and what is it for? How can we organise ourselves and alternative voices? How do we make ‘real’ education? Our discussion sat within understandings of the crisis in work, education and community, but we agreed that change can be an opportunity to build on our stocks of experience and knowledge, take risks and challenge our assumptions about education. Our strength lies in our capacity to network in continuous dialogue, our commitment to knowledge as power and to education as a ‘resource of hope’.

The Work strand held discussions around the key issues we face in the workplace today. This includes feelings of lack of control, fragmenting collegiality due to loss of positions and instability. Young people and public sector workers are increasingly vulnerable. We talked about the international trade union movement and the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work agenda and concluded that decent working conditions must be available to all workers, a struggle in times of global austerity. The desire to find pleasure and learning in the workplace continues, however. These commitments informed the drive to involve local trade unions in the campaign for placing education at the heart of work.

The Community Action strand explored the concept of community education for a social purpose – to improve the capacity of individuals and communities to relate to the world around them as active, critical engaged citizens. A wide range of ideas and issues emerged from this discussion, in particular urgency in establishing learning partnerships that could come about through support from the Skills Funding Agency, local authorities, local employers, trade unions, ULF, Lottery, and the ESF. There was acknowledgement of the potential barriers particularly around funding, recruitment and successful engagement with disenfranchised/socially excluded. Our Action Plan includes making better use of community facilities, stirring up the potential of people to improve their lives in small ways, identifying issues communities care about through agreement on workable strategies for dealing with these, and striking a balance between individual and collective needs.

The group has formed links with the Independent Working Class Education Project and People’s Political Economy. We have spoken about our project at the For a Public University workshop 15 June 2012 at Nottingham University, Critical Labour Studies at Ruskin College 2-3 March 2013, at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford 20 April 2013 and Networked Labour in Amsterdam 7–9 May 2013. We intend to continue to network with likeminded social forces with the specific intention to hold this government to account for its current attack on education, and to look for workable alternatives. Please join us by joining the Education4Action Google group and/or emailing Cilla Ross, c.ross at londonmet.ac.uk. Our next meeting is on 20 August at noon at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

Brian Chadwick, Jo Cutter, Kirsten Forkert, Miguel Martinez Lucio, Phoebe Moore, Alan Roe, Cilla Ross, John Stirling and Steve Walker contributed to this report

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite


51