Pedagogy

What is the government’s  concept of education, its pedagogy? It is revealed not by its pronouncements and slogans (remember Education, Education, Education ?) but by its actions. There has been much continuity in these since the New Labour government of 1997 to 2010. Principal components have been

  • Toleration of large class sizes in schools. This contrasts with practice in the private sector and is consistent with a model in which the teacher  teaches the class from the front of the classroom.
  • A lack of trust in teachers – they are told what to teach (national curriculum)and how to teach it (e.g. the mistaken stress on phonics to teach reading ). They are disciplined (by OFSTED), poorly paid and their trade unions are despised and ignored.
  • Tacit support for private education with soft inspection, tax breaks and privileged access to top universities.
  • State education stopping at 18. Our universities have effectively been privatised and transformed into businesses that sell degrees in an international market. Responsibility for national education has been abandoned and replaced with the profit motive.
  • Education has become entangled with finance, with students being required to borrow to fund their further education and these loans, initially from the government, being sold as financial investments for private investors.
  • The increased cost of post graduate education which has put it out of the reach of many who would benefit from it.   
  • The near total collapse of non-university tertiary education – under-funded further education colleges, the disappearance of art schools and the ending of low cost, self-study avenues including professional education in areas such as accountancy.

Most significant of all, however, has been the state’s abandonment of any attempt at lifelong learning. Everyone’s prospects for post-18 education turn on success or failure at GCSEs. Would the furore over the GCSE grading debacle in the summer has been quite so intense if so much were not riding on the results? When schools were shut to contain Covid-19, would the panic about kids’ ‘lost education’ have made sense if education were seen as a lifelong  process, not a scramble to acquire certificates by age 18?

There is an alternative approach to education. It rejects the concept of the student as an empty pot that has to be filled with knowledge by an expert. It is the approach developed by the SACP Communist University and adopted by the Communist University in South London (CUiSL). It sees education as a lifelong process in which we learn from each other. In the specifics of CUiSL it has involved:

  • Open access. Non-members of the Communist Party to be made welcome
  • Adult students with varying levels of understanding of Marxism are encouraged to attend classes on a monthly basis.
  • No fees. This was made possible by the sponsorship afforded by the Croydon Branch of the CP.
  • Everyone is equal and treated with respect. No experts, no professors, no guest speakers.
  • We are encouraged to think of ourselves collectively as a “university” in which we are  ‘students’. We are filling the gap vacated by the state.
  • Rotating chairs  with everyone taking a turn.
  • Topic for study chosen in advance by the class – often but not always a classic Marxist text or Marxist economics – the kind of economics they don’t teach in our universities. Topics can be basic or advanced.
  • The class agrees on someone to introduce the topic which is usually dealt with in a single class. Everyone is expected to do this at some point – but no pressurising them.
  • The Introducer is encouraged to prepare and circulate a short note in advance.
  • Discussion is full and free, reflecting the CUiSL slogan ‘Question Everything’
  • An absolutely unextendible finish time is set for every class. This requires firm chairing to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and no one abuses this opportunity.

CUiSL is currently stood down following completion of its study of Global Warming last year. We hope, however, to resume classes in Croydon after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.

SOCIALISM OR EXTINCTION

The leader in the Morning Star today criticising Extinction Rebellion’s objection to the YCL slogan Socialism or Extinction is a timely reminder that there is a significant element in the X-R movement that is deluded enough to think that capitalism can address global warming. It’s OK, apparently, to rally behind a slogan saying System Change, Not Climate Change, provided it remains unclear which at system is being referred to.    

The only solutions available under capitalism to address global warming are boosting energy efficiency and promoting alternative sources of energy. Implementing unstable technological fixes such as continuous release of aerosols into the upper atmosphere and ocean seeding are literally last gasp measures to ward off immediate catastrophe. As the discussion paper by the Communist University in South London (CUiSL, link below), concluded last year, the only way to address global warming is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Capitalism is incapable of doing this while fossil fuels remain the cheapest form of energy and huge profits are to be made from their extraction. It doesn’t matter how many windmills we build or how well we insulate our homes, if fossil fuels continue to be extracted, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to increase and the global temperature will inexorably increase until a tipping point is reached.

Extinction Rebellion have their argument back to front. They fear that by associating themselves with communism  they will frighten people away from their well-meaning efforts to opposing global warming. However, if they conceal from their supporters that capitalism is the block to addressing global warming, their efforts to oppose it will come to nought.

As CUiSL argued, the capitalist elite have a route out of global warming. They don’t need a global population of 7.8 billion people to survive. They can retreat to a secure secure environment, say on top of a mountain, and let most of the rest of humanity die. For the rest of us the only route that avoids extinction is socialism – it’s as simple and stark as that.

https://communistuniversity.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/global-warming-a-discussion-paper/