I like the way your magazine supports Corbyn`s policies, albeit a little implicitly. What better way of condoning higher taxes for the rich could there be than to recommend sensible, intelligent readers spend £89.99 om mini-wellies (Fashion: The edit,19/09/15) and £345 on ladies` trousers (What I wore this week,19/09/15)? Such reminders that some people have more money than they could possibly need are welcome!
Friday, 25 September 2015
Doom, and yet more doom, and all because Labour supporters voted against having as their leader a centrist politician, speaking in soundbites and platitudes, with Tory-lite policies which would change our society of gross unfairness not a jot! Article after article warning of the party being, in John Gray`s words, "on a course of collapse akin to the Liberal party" nearly a century ago, without a word of praise for policies which would actually reduce inequality (The politics of catastrophe,18 September,2015). Even the piece by Owen Jones failed to redress the imbalance.
Neither could your Leader balk the trend, with criticism of the shadow cabinet`s gender balance, and the appointment of John McDonnell "from the ultra left of the party"(The duties of an opposition leader cannot be wished away,18 September). Corbyn has shown he is willing to work with those on the right, so why no mention of the fact that of those so-called "most distinguished MPs", who flounced off in a huff, at least five of them were women, who could have expected to be in Cobyn`s broadly-based shadow cabinet, the two leadership candidates plus Caroline Flint, Rachel Reeves and Mary Creagh. In such circumstances, sixteen posts for women sound pretty good. Anyway, does anyone in the 21st century, apart from writers in the "Westminster bubble", really think "the great offices of state" do not include health and education?
As for the appointment of John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, was Corbyn expected to repeat the mistake made by Ed Miliband, and appoint someone who could easily be described as being in cahoots with the City? The lack of a single consistent message, because of disagreements between Miliband and Balls, caused considerable electoral damage back in May, and contributed to the electorate`s gullibility over both the causes of the economic crash, and Labour`s economic credibility.
The end of the Labour party is not nigh, and many of Corbyn`s policies deserve wholehearted support. Just because some Labour MPs appear to have lost touch with their constituencies should not mean the New Statesman should follow suit!
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
In his summary of recent military history, to substantiate his argument that "dropping bombs is politically cosmetic", Simon Jenkins surprisingly faile to mention Hitler`s attempts to "blitz" Britain into submission (The dangerous delusion of drone bombs,18/09/15). The Luftwaffe failed, and all the subsequent attempts to bomb the enemy "into the stone age" in Vietnam and the Middle East have met a similar fate. Indiscriminate bombing does not decrease resistance, nor the determination of the victims to carry on. The fact that the enemy is prepared to drop a weapon, from hundreds of feet in the air, which has the potential, not only to blow to pieces women and children, but to miss any intended "targets" and hit hospitals and schools, only ever increases hatred, and the desire for revenge. Jenkins is right to be sceptical about the accuracy of British bombs which have "killed 330 Isis fighters" but "no civilians". What does Fallon take us for?
Another argument against bombing of any kind, but also against the "boots on the ground" idea, which Jenkins favours, is that the usual justification given for violent jihadism is the foreign policy of the west, with its repeated invasions, interference and killing. Paddy Asdown recently asked how can we expect to destroy Isis "by killing more Muslim Arabs with Western bombs", but the same can be asked about western intervention of any kind.(Cameron`s refugee plan is pathetic - as is his military one,08/09/15). Whatever happened to diplomacy? Is Syria really, as Jenkins says, "none of Britain`s business", when such a mess was made of the area in the post-war settlement of 1919?
The solution has to be found diplomatically, not militarily. Does anyone really think that killing every jihadist will solve the problem of Isis or Al-Qaeda?
Sunday, 20 September 2015
For years, the Observer has been railing against governments for their lack of compassion, and their failure to prevent both inequality and tax avoidance rising, whilst also acknowledging that decline in trade union power has enabled employers to pay well below the living wage, and impose zero-hours contracts, and stressing the need for a more ethical foreign policy. So when Labour elects a leader, who promises not to tinker with the system, but to transform it, what happens? The Observer reacts as if the country is on the brink of violent revolution!
Andrew Rawnsley has been putting the case for a Tory-lite leader for weeks, ridiculing the Islington MP for his left-wing policies, and now has the audacity to stress how Corbyn can expect a “massive onslaught” from the “Tory press” in the coming weeks (Jeremy Corbyn should beware his enemies- and even more his friends,13/09/15). Even the editorial, rather than emphasising what a wonderful opportunity Labour now has, to create a society based on fairness rather than greed, on responsibility not exploitation, chooses to continue with the Blairite mantra about “little that is new about his ideas” (Unless Corbyn moves beyond protest politics, he has no hope of gaining power,13/09/15).Taking on the bankers, the tax avoiders and the Rachman-like landlords, all sound “new” to me!
Predicting electoral disaster five years hence, attributing Corbyn`s victory to the “lacklustre campaigns of the other candidates”, and stressing the need for Umunna, Hunt and co to “work out what the moderate alternative is to Corbynism”, are all ideas which undoubtedly will have appeared in the right-wing press, anxious for the return of feeble opposition to the state-shrinking policies of the Tories. Could it be that the Parliamentary Labour Party isn`t the only left-wing institution losing touch with its constituency?
Friday, 18 September 2015
It was extremely generous of the New Statesman to let George Osborne off so lightly (Ascent of the Submarine,11/09/15). Jason Cowley`s article offered little challenge to the Chancellor`s statements and policies, with, for example, only mild-mannered mention of the railway problems in the Northern Powerhouse project, and no probing about whether the whole idea was "anything more than election rhetoric", as Richard Leese says. A post-May coalition would surely have prevented it remaining on the government`s agenda. One question begging to be asked was how would devolving power to northern mayors help local economies, when Osborne`s government department is slashing local government budgets!
The policies of a Chancellor, who confesses he only relatively recently realised that "not everything in the country happens inside the Circle Line", and thinks there are "Albert Docks in Liverpool", deserves much closer scrutiny.
Fawning from the obsequious Danny Alexander is to be expected, but his comment about his former boss being "deeply learned" about British history went unchallenged by Cowley, despite Osborne`s praise for the early 19th century Tories and their dubious responsibility for the Factory Acts. Didn`t Disraeli pass the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act which extended trade union rights, begging a question about current anti-union legislation? Even worse was the failure to question his policy towards tax avoidance, something he regards as "morally repugnant", but which he seems to think will be reduced by cutting staff at HMRC! Nothing, either, about the current Tory nonsense claiming to be the party of the workers, with the so-called "national living wage" being well below the actual "living wage", especially when tax credits are withdrawn, or about the government`s new definition of child poverty.
Osborne`s remarks on Labour`s leadership contest, with his preference for the Tory-lite Liz Kendall, were obvious, but unnecessary. A question, on the other hand, about whether he fears, in reality, a more left-wing party under Corbyn, which would provide real opposition to the Tories` state-shrinking, in comparison with the timidity of Labour in recent years, was needed. But why would the author probe in this way when his Blairite opinions lead him to write about Labour stumbling "ever further to the left" in his conclusion?
Thursday, 17 September 2015
Excellent articles by two teacher union general secretaries, criticised the Tories` education policies and emphasised how "cutting funding for schools and colleges" is, quite simply, the "wrong approach" (Morning Star,14/09/15). What is absolutely clear, also, is that there is now a very serious "teacher recruitment crisis".
With the problem of teacher shortage exacerbating, does not the government`s reluctance to act simply suggest that it doesn`t care, especially as the emphasis on extending its "academies programme" not only increases the likelihood of more unqualified staff being appointed, but also of more schools being forced to academise because of below-average examination results?
Considering a newly-qualified teacher faces the prospect of a maximum, though not guaranteed, 1% annual pay rise on the £22,244 salary, which works out after tax, national insurance and student loan repayment, at around £340 a week, it is not difficult to understand why postgraduates are not being attracted by a teaching career. Add into the mix the fact that the government is also unwilling to prevent private rents rising to whatever level greedy landlords desire, or to reduce the teachers` workload, now standing for many at 60 hours a week, and it becomes even easier to comprehend. Government initiatives, syllabus reforms and new targets all continue unabated, making the current situation even worse.
It`s clearly not just that teachers deserve credit for the great job that most do, but that unadulterated praise is needed, and their opinions valued. The government should stop, immediately, taking advice from privately and Oxbridge educated "thinktankees" about what`s best for state schools.
The current situation, with huge recruitment and retention problems, can only get worse, unless there are immediate announcements about financial incentives, workload reductions and increased status for teachers. Sadly, what is far more likely is industrial action by teachers, and who can blame them?
Tuesday, 15 September 2015
The greed of our business sector clearly knows no bounds. Not content with having a corporation tax level 20 percentage points lower than that of the United States, and set to get even lower, and being allowed to impose zero-hour contracts on its employees, without government regulation, and being able to reimburse its top companies` CEOs 183 times the average pay of their workers, it costs the country billions with its tax avoidance schemes. But that is not the end of the greed saga!
Now we learn that Britain`s "largest hospitality company - owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn", is set to push up prices for the customer, because of the "rebranded minimum wage"(Morning Star,09/09/15). Whitbread, sadly, is not alone, and inevitably there will be more claims of unaffordability from firms whose sole raison d`etre appears to be the maximisation of profit, whatever the cost to the consumer.
Apparently, the cost increase for Whitbread will amount to between £15 and £20m, which works out at 0.95% of the company`s operating costs. Let`s hope the customers get the message: last year Costa made a return on capital of 46%, and should be paying the living wage at least to all of its employees.
Monday, 14 September 2015
At last, a politician of stature, who is not afraid of standing up to the prime minister, has the bottle to attack Cameron`s recent announcements with both barrels (Cameron`s refugee plan is pathetic - as is his military one,08/09/15). Of course, the "plan to take in 20,000 refugees" is a derisory gesture, another con-trick designed to give more misleading impressions about this so-called "compassionate" Conservative administration. Paddy Ashdown is right to challenge the Tory nonsense about "not helping those in flimsy boats" reducing the "temptation to take this lethal jouney". Has a British Prime Minister ever misread an urgent situation so dramatically?
Ashdown is correct about the bombing too; how will we destroy Isis "by killing more Muslim Arabs with Western bombs"? It is obvious diplomacy has to be the first resort, especially as the usual justification given for violent jihadism is the foreign policy of the west, with its repeated invasions, interference and killing. The UK and its government should not only learn from its recent actions in the Middle East, rather than repeat the mistakes, but also remember how peace finally came to Northern Ireland.
Hopefully, Labour`s new leader will use Ashdown`s arguments next week to defeat a government intent on increasing its role in a military action which clearly isn`t working. What an excellent opportunity, also, to develop new avenues of diplomacy with Russia!
Sunday, 13 September 2015
According to Andrew Rawnsley, Corbyn`s popularity can be explained by the simple fact that he was the only one of the candidates to place “on his campaign website a link to the £3 sign-up” (Labour`s moderates start their long dark night of the soul,06/09/15). Nothing to do, apparently, with the realisation by millions in this country, including respected economists, that the urgent need for austerity measures does not foster economic growth, but works wonders for shrinking the state on ideological grounds?
Why can`t Rawnsley, and indeed many other political commentators, accept that Corbyn`s policies are popular because they are so different from those of the conservative government, and, of course, from the Tory-lite ones proposed by the other three candidates, especially at the start of the leadership contest? Apparently, we are expected to believe that they were all so “distracted by the shock of the general election defeat”, they did not realise that their blaming the defeat on Labour being insufficiently “pro-business” might ruin their appeal with the selectorate. Wanting the party to be more supportive of companies which avoid both paying their fair share of taxation, and paying a living wage to employees, whilst their CEOs are renumerated 183 times more than their employees` average pay, was never going to be popular. Similarly, complaints about inequality sound insincere, when Corbyn`s proposals to raise income tax for the rich are described as the “politics of envy”, when his re-nationalisation pledges are regarded as retrograde, even though the current “corporate welfare” bill stands at £93bn, and when there is no support for his promise to impose a Financial Transaction tax, like most of the EU members will be doing next January.
And still the cheap shots keep coming; not “Lenin hats” this time, but a comment like “the hard left seizing the commanding heights of Labour” is both inexcusable and unjustifiable. What next from Mr Rawnsley? Articles about “compassionate” Conservatism, or support for the “resistance” movement led by Umunna and Hunt? Such disregard and ridicule for a democratic decision does not become the newspaper of our choice!
Saturday, 12 September 2015
Obviously the Panorama programme on the Blairite Broadcasting Corporation`s main channel was aired too late to feature in the Tuesday edition of the Morning Star, as a damning review of it would surely have been published. It was a diabololical production in so many ways that criticism of it is bound to take many strands, including bias, content, message and production.
It was biased against Corbyn the man, his career, and his policies. It seemed to suggest that, because he doesn`t wear the politicians` usual attire of dark suit and tie, he must not be taken seriously; riding a bicycle through the streets of London is clearly for eccentrics only.
His policies, mainly his strange tendency to prefer peace to war, and diplomacy to military action, were seen only from the perspective of being "friends with terrorists", rather than from that of a politician intent on exploring every avenue available, before taking the last resort.
The message was clear; Corbyn is not only unelectable in 2020, he must not be voted for in the remaining few days available. His election would end the right-wing Blairite dominance of the party, and that would be a bad thing! His support for industrial action against the anti-union legislation would be somehow undemocratic, and having support from unions, and millions of trade unionists, is clearly something to be viewed with distaste, especially by those so-called Labour supporters suppering in the restaurants of Notting Hill.
As for production, it simply set out to portray Corbyn as a a politician who will be the ruination of the economy, the country, and people`s lives in general. There was no mention of how he aims to help small businesses, set up a National Bank, stop the selling of state-owned banks, and generally make lives better for the vast majority of people, by decreasing inequality, and increasing social mobility. The NHS, which Corbyn supports wholeheartedly, of course, was a no-go area for the programme. The idea that billions could be raised from attacking the "industry" that is tax avoidance was lampooned, by none other than that huge supporter of the Blairite policy of " relaxing intensely" about the filthy rich, David Blunkett. The programme focussed, too, on Corbyn`s relationship with Len McCluskey, another anti-establishment figure, but rather than interviewing the union leader about policies, it showed, twice, a section from a speech where he called Osborne a "Tory bastard". It even ended with Corbyn on a platform with supporters singing the Red Flag, desperately trying to indoctrinate viewers by connecting him with revolution.
Basically, the programme was disgraceful, one-sided, with only the very prejudiced view of the Blairites given. Had it been the product of Fox news it could not have portrayed Corbyn in a worse light, nor patronised the viewers in a more shameful way. How dare the BBC insult television licence payers like this? How dare Blairites claim to be the upholders of social democracy when they do their utmost to undermine the democratic process in this way?
Thursday, 10 September 2015
Well, she would say that, wouldn`t she (Morning Star, 05/09/15)? Yvette Cooper, like her Tory-lite comrades in the Labour leadership race, is, in desperation, still trying to suggest that the Labour party will somehow become a weaker opposition to the Tories under Corbyn`s leadership. The idea that Labour will not be a “credible threat” and allow the Tory government to become “more right-wing” is frankly, quite ludicrous.
The reason Labour has been weak in opposition to Cameron`s coalition, and now Tory, government is because so many of its policies have been too similar to those of the Conservatives to allow downright condemnation of what they have been doing. How can criticism of government cuts be effective when Labour has, in principle at least, been in tacit agreement with the policy? How can Labour have attacked the glaring inequality in this country, which has the government`s support, when it has no positive proposals to reduce it? Does anyone really believe things would not change dramatically with Corbyn at the helm?
Cameron has had a relatively easy ride, especially at PMQs, because he has been able to counter any attacks Miliband and Harman made, by cashing in on Labour`s indecisiveness and ever-changing stances. With Corbyn, however, Cameron will be unable to achieve any level of ascendancy because the opposition will have an ideological base which would underpin all policies, and provide the consistency which has been lacking in recent years. Corbyn`s ability to answer all questions in a language, both straightforward and intelligible, has to be bad news for Cameron, whose obfuscation and waffle will be highlighted even more.
If his leadership does drive the Tories to the right, as Cooper suggests, this can only benefit Labour; every extremely right-wing or biased action by Osborne or the prime minister, such as the recent rewarding of party donors by the awarding of peerages, and adding to the upper house`s lack of relevance and credibility, or selling off RBS shares at ridiculously low prices to friends in the City, can only be electorally beneficial to a united Labour party.
It`s increasingly clear that the Tories do not agree with Cooper either, as they have already begun to oil the wheels of their propaganda machine, and attack Corbyn, five years before facing him at the 2020 election. Describing him as a "peacenik", and promising to spend £500m on the Trident naval base at Faslane, have revealed their fears of how influential Corbyn has become, and, more importantly, how popular his poliices already are.
Tories have clearly seen that the threat posed to them by a Corbyn-led Labour party is far more serious than from an opposition led by one of the other three candidates. The only snag is that many in the Labour party itself cannot see it!
Sunday, 6 September 2015
Of course, as your editorial concluded, the government "urgently needs to do more to address the growing shortage of qualified teachers", but there is one possibility ignored in all of the various articles on the subject (Teacher shortage risks our children`s futures, 30/08/15). With the problem of teacher shortage exacerbating, does not the government`s reluctance to act simply suggest that it doesn`t care, especially as the emphasis on extending its "academies programme" not only increases the likelihood of more unqualified staff being appointed, but also of more schools being forced to academise because of below-average examination results?
Considering a newly-qualified teacher faces the prospect of a maximum, though not guaranteed, 1% annual pay rise on the £22,244 salary, which works out after tax, national insurance and student loan repayment, at around £340 a week, it is not difficult to understand why postgraduates are not being attracted by a teaching career. Add into the mix the fact that the government is also unwilling to prevent private rents rising to whatever level greedy landlords desire, or to reduce the teachers` workload, now standing for many at 60 hours a week, and it becomes even easier to comprehend. Government initiatives, syllabus reforms and new targets all continue unabated, so your comment that now is the time for "teachers to revisit lesson plans" requires an amendment to "re-write"!
It`s clearly not just that "teachers deserve credit for the great job" that most do, but that unadulterated praise is needed, and their opinions valued. The government should stop, immediately, taking advice from privately and Oxbridge educated "thinktankees" about what`s best for state schools; at least then, ridiculous suggestions from Policy Exchange about fining schools for pupils who fail to achieve C grades at English and Maths, could be ignored. It was a think tank, presumably, which also suggested that any school failing to achieve 60% 5 A*-C grades should be deemed "coasting" and therefore, academised. Anyone with knowledge of, and experience in, state education knows that there are many excellent schools, with good leadership and brilliant, hard-working staff, with results nowhere near 60%.
The current situation, with huge recruitment and retention problems, can only get worse, unless there are immediate announcements about financial incentives, workload reductions and increased status for teachers. Sadly, what is far more likely is industrial action by teachers, and who can blame them?
Saturday, 5 September 2015
According to Rafael Behr, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs who are "appalled by the turn events have taken", must "lay their flowers quietly on New Labour`s grave", and "develop a new set of arguments for a 21st century party" (Corbyn may prevail, but he has no monopoly on virtue,03/09/15). The latter must include, presumably, none of Corbyn`s ideas for the economy, such as raising taxes for rich individuals and profitable companies, re-employing tax inspectors to tackle tax avoidance, more quantitative easing, and joining many in the EU who start their Financial Transaction tax next January, as they must care "about the deficit". This is simply a cheap shot against Corbyn, whose emphasis on "stable finances" has been a major feature of his campaign. He has, however, stressed that the Tories` rush to reduce the deficit is simply an excuse to shrink the state, as is proved by Osborne`s willingness to sacrifice over £1bn in the recent sale of RBS shares, and to spend an extra £500m on the Trident base.
Similarly, Behr cannot resist criticising Corbyn`s foreign policy proposals, with his comment that "sometimes action beats inaction" when dealing with "dictators and terrorists", but noticeably without backing this up with any evidence. It`s bad enough when Osborne`s Faslane visit is seen as the "first step in a Tory operation to define Corbyn as a peacenik security risk" (Faslane move is first in Tory plot to frame "peacenik" Corbyn,31/08/15), but when the Guardian`s political commentators join in, it beggars belief!
Behr goes so far as to state that Labour will abandon "rational politics" with Corbyn at the helm, but what is "rational" about the Labour party lurching to the right, and becoming more pro-business, when business itself does its utmost to avoid as much tax as possible, pay wages as low as possible and many of its bosses 183 times the average earnings of their employees? Irrational, too, it seems, to hold talks with your enemies in the hope of avoiding war, rather than after the war has taken place, and to develop policies which actually will reduce inequality, rather than just complain about its existence.
Steve Richards is right to stress the huge difference Jeremy Corbyn`s candidacy has made to the Labour leadership contest (Whatever happens, Corbyn`s candidacy is not a calamity,01/09/15). In fact, he probably did not go far enough when stating that without the Corbyn "volcano", one of the other candidates "would have won to waves of indifference", as a far more likely outcome would have been outright despondency! Imagine how the candidates would still be arguing over who was the most "pro-business", despite its tax avoidance, preference for zero-hours contracts and insistence on paying FTSE100 CEOs 183 times as much as is paid to their average employees. Indeed, they might even be critical of Tory plans to take government spending back to levels last seen in the 1930s, but willing to accept early 1950s` levels as a compromise! As Richards says, Corbyn has ensured Labour ditches "complacent banalities".
But Richards still refuses to refrain from his implication that a Corbyn victory would be "disastrous" and short-lived. Instead of comparing the 2020 election with the one in 1983, is it not time to consider how similar it could be to the victory in 1997? With a new leader taking the party in a different direction, offering hope to the majority, in the knowledge the electorate were desperate for new policies after far too long being governed by an austerity-obsessed Tory party, devoid of compassion, Labour has the opportunity to repeat Blair`s triumph.
Corbyn has indeed "widened the political debate"; nationalisation and privatisation are viewed differently from the way they were in the 1990s, and there is an increasing realisation that uncollected taxes "can deliver better services". He doesn`t simply deserve praise for increasing the amount of "discussion about the purpose of government", but also the chance to show how a Corbyn-led government can transform our grossly unfair society.
Matthew d`Ancona is still failing to understand the Corbyn phenomenon, as is revealed by his concern that the likes of Kendall, Cooper and Umunna "have already signalled that they would not serve on his front-bench" (A Tory warning for Corbyn - winning is the easy part,24/08/15). Why would Corbyn even consider a shadow cabinet made up of New Labour politicians, especially when Umunna and Tristram Hunt have formed a new group, Labour for the Common Good, or the "resistance" as it has become known. At least the editorial acknowledged that "Corbynism is fuelled" by the perception of New Labour as "lacking inspiring alternatives" (The answer to Corbynmania is politics, not the law,24/08/15).
Corbyn`s supporters are clearly not impressed by politicians who are "intensely relaxed" about obscene wealth, and the regular news about CEOs collecting, as in the case of Persimmon, "nearly £20m in shares", and partners receiving "average payouts of £822,000", as with Deloitte, increases his popularity (Persimmon lines up £20m shares payout to former chief, Deloitte partners share £590m payout as consultancy surges but auditing struggles,24/08/15). d`Ancona`s fears that MPs like Mike Gapes will show Corbyn no loyalty, but this is simply scaremongering about Labour under Corbyn`s leadership. His proposals do offer "inspiring alternatives", and if some MPs cannot support them, there is always the option to "cross the floor". Hunt`s insistence that "character and resilience" are attributes only of the privately educated was deeply insulting, whilst Umunna`s preference for a party that is pro-business, despite its tax avoidance, failure to pay the living wage, and zero-hours contracts, should ensure, at least, that their "resistance" will be short-lived.
Thursday, 3 September 2015
What a pleasant change to read about the "migrant solidarity convoy", and its delivery of "£7500 worth of food,clothes and sanitary goods" to the Calais refugees (Morning Star,17/08/15). Such generosity of spirit restores faith in humanity after hearing of "swarms" and "marauding millions", when referring to desperate people escaping their war-ravaged homes, and their countries where torture and executions are in abundance; it makes one wonder what they teach at private schools, especially as tolerance could be increased with an improved history syllabus in all schools.
This year`s war commemorations thankfully did not provide us with the expected World War theme park, opened by a khaki bestrewn Boris, but it did increase awareness of the roles played in 20th century wars by different races. That`s a start but there`s clearly much more to be done.
The initiative for changing the history taught in our schools has to come from the opposition parties, because the Tories, as we know from Gove`s time as Education Secretary, prefer their history nationalistic, glorifying the role of Britain in the world`s efforts to "civilise" itself. What is imperative is that the history taught has to be balanced, not focusing on the action taken by so-called British "heroes" over the centuries, but acknowledging that all countries have heroic figures, and all, including Britain, have people whose disgraceful behaviour brings shame to the respective nation.
How can we ever hope to have a tolerant nation, appreciative of the benefits all races have brought to the world, if our children are force-fed an historical diet of British-only glories? On the other hand, tolerance can be increased by ensuring the history syllabus includes:
stories and facts about bravery, courage and inventiveness displayed by people of all races, not just Britons, and both sexes.
still more emphasis of the roles played in securing victory in world wars of other nations
acknowledgement that atrocities were not just committed by enemy forces, or by Russian forces in Berlin at the end of the Second World War, but by British and American troops too
the virtual destruction of the native American race
some of the history of the Middle East, both to ensure the area`s role in "civilisation" is known, as well as the west`s role in re-drawing boundaries after World War One, and its disastrous effects
the excellent work done by trade unions in Britain, and around the world
recent history, including the disgraceful and unnecessary wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
A recent Radio 4 Science programme highlighted the story of a brilliant black student, a man destined for a knighthood for his contribution to society, who was told in a university interview to "go back to where he came from, and grow bananas". The person giving this instruction was Keith Joseph, soon to be Thatcher`s Education Secretary!
Hopefully, the new Labour leader will see the importance of teaching "balanced" history, and set about the re-writing of the syllabus. Tristram could prove useful after all, though I`m not holding my breath!
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
As was well explained by Pete Stevenson, progress in state education has been seriously hindered by the government`s reluctance "to invest in elevating significant numbers of poor pupils to challenge the privileged", who from their private schools, move on to Oxbridge and top jobs (Morning Star,28/08/15). Sadly, this Oxbridge connection is more invidious than its simple prevention of more working people becoming members of parliament, something that Corbyn alone seems to have noticed.. The fact that it dominates an entire political class, including "thinktankees", was demonstrated perfectly by the recommendation from the Policy Exchange thinktank, which Gove set up, that schools should be fined when their pupils fail to achieve grade Cs in either GCSE Maths or English. Such a suggestion, based on ignorance of both state schools and education in general, can only have come from people with no idea whatsoever of life in an average comprehensive school. Should members of an education advisory unit really need to be told that some pupils, despite possessing other skills and abilities, simply cannot grasp what is required for these grades,and would benefit from studying either functional Maths and English, or different subjects altogether.
Like Labour`s Tristram Hunt, thinktank members, with their cossetted education and limited experience of anything approaching real life, only see teacher failings as reasons for lack of C grades. This, too, explains the recent government announcement that schools with less than 60% pupils gaining 5 A*-C grades, are "coasting" and must "academise". Anyone with knowledge of, and experience in, state education knows that there are many excellent schools, with good leadership and brilliant, hard-working staff, with results nowhere near 60%. Sadly, such understanding seems beyond the comprehension of our so-called "political elite".