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Deconstructing Rosa - The Ex-Communicator

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August 11th, 2011


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06:41 am - Deconstructing Rosa
nancylebov has pointed me at this lj post by rosamicula, which I disagree with quite profoundly. It's interesting because I believe it sets out the Tory standard line which will emerge on the riots. I will analyse it to show you what I think is wrong with it. My excerpts (in italics) are to orient you in the piece - if you think I have taken quotes out of context, read the whole thing. It is - by the way - a million times more subtle and well written than the normal Tory comments that one reads. But its message is poison in my opinion.

13 to 20% of kids ... walk away from school with no qualifications and very limited numeracy and literacy skills... This is not a recent development; those kids at the bottom have always been there.
The implication of this is false. A small proportion of the population are congenitally incapable of learning to read - so what - society must have a space for these people to live safely. And these do not make 1 in 5 human beings. The 13-20% may be people who have the capability to learn to read but have not learned, and they can be helped by intensive educational programs - but these programs must dovetail with larger systems of full employment and social participation, so that there is a point to them. The programs to help develop literacy have been deliberately closed down by the Coalition government. I know people who have literally lost their job teaching literacy in the past month, because of deliberate policy. This is serious and bad.
All governments of all hues since the seventies have failed to address this problem; the only difference between them is the narrative they have fed their respective voters about it.
Simply untrue. The Tories are currently deliberately dismantling Labour-established programs such as Connexions. This will not save money in the long term; it is being done for ideological reasons.
black single mothers who are part of that underclass hated no one more than 'the Polish'. When Southwark council flyered our flats with letters about racist abuse and attacks in the area, those same women assumed it was white on black racism. They can't countenance any other sort. The one concrete ideal they gained from school is that most of the problems in their lives can be blamed on racism.

Oh, privileged white people lap this up, don't they. 'Blacks are the real racists'. There is some racism among poor people, though in Britain multi-ethnic friendships are most common in the least privileged sections of society. When a poor black woman shouts a racist thing this is bad, but it is less bad than the polite, subtle, 'never say a bad word' racism of middle class people like those of us who read lj.
I have seen such idiocy spouted about this over the last few days... the simplistic reactionary notion that that this is all the Tories' fault, left-wingers spouting class hatred and bigotry
It may not be all the Tories fault, and yet they bear significant blame. And they should own their fault. In any case, such an argument is not 'reactionary'. If you disagree you have to say why. Criticising the rich, as I have done, is not 'hatred and bigotry'. It is saying our society can not afford to keep funneling money at them. It's just not sustainable. And slightly higher taxation will not hurt or destroy them. At the most it will be an irritation. They will still have much more than you or I will ever have. And welcome to it.
I turned down a lucrative corporate job in order to teach in the most badly paid, underfunded, politically insignificant and catastrophically mis-managed sector of the education system: the FE sector.
Bizarrely, so did I. I did exactly that. I did it under Thatcherism. The dismantling of FE under Thatcher and Major was a deliberate act of vandalism. We now see the results.
I've taught the 'unteachable', despite being punched, kicked and having chairs thrown at me.
Don't pat yourself on the back too hard about that. I have been everywhere you have been, yes including prison lessons, and I have never been treated with anything but respect everywhere I go. If that kind of violence was a common feature of your teaching experience, then I think you need to examine your practice.
one of the many reasons I became a Tory is that when I was part of the underclass, the right-wingers in positions of power around me offered me a hand-up, whereas the left-wingers merely offered me a handout.
Seriously? A University education is just a 'handout'? You did not achieve your life in isolation from the systems which enabled it, which you want to close. You don't even see how the social programs you want to shut down are the very ones which allowed you - and me - to climb out of there.
Right and left are meaningless in terms of what has happened over the last few nights. If you genuinely think that this wouldn't have happened if the coalition had been Labour/Lib Dem you need to get off the internet and get out more.
Right and left wing are not meaningless terms, and saying that if I disagree I should 'get out more' is no kind of argument. As a Labour-led coalition would not have initiated the deliberate sabotage carried out this year by the Tories, then the same things would not have happened, because the safeguards woudl still be in place. And - furthermore - things can still be made better, so we are not helpless. Even a Tory government can start to do better, but only if they accept there is a problem.
That 13 - 20% have no respect or concern for or interest in any government, and probably can't even distinguish between the range of worthies in suits who have ruled us during their lifetimes.
Possibly. That does not mean political decisions have no impact on them.
Politics does not concern the 13 to 20%; criminality is their norm, just as it was their parents' norm.
This is the echt Tory essentialism. 'The underclass are like Orcs'. They are criminal, and their parents were criminal. I do not need to tell you where this kind of thinking leads.
They are not part of the society the people reading this belong to.
Yes they are. If you are British yes they are.
it is about bad parenting, to the extent that when the 13 to 20% become parents they have no aspirations or responsibilities for their children to inherit. That won't change if you treat merely them as victims, and enhance their sense of entitlement to trainers and TVs
What I propose, what the left proposes, is not indiscriminate handouts of consumer goods, but a society where people with less money are respected and have a meaningful life. I left advertising research specifically because I hate the reduction of social worth to ownership of goods.
If you think you are an idealist, get off twitter, put down your placard, stop gazing at your navel to examine your privilege. Put your money and time where your mouth is. Go and volunteer
Fine. Whatever. If this stimulates a couple of Tories to go volunteer alongside the rest of us, great. But if you urge people to work for free just to protect rich people from having to put their hands in their pockets, then ultimately it is a futile exercise.
Social peace and integration do not come for free. They must be paid for, by more privileged people. The job you have in FE is paid for by taxes. By campaigning for cuts you are cutting the branch you sit on. Unless you have left already.

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Comments:


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From:nineveh_uk
Date:August 11th, 2011 08:59 am (UTC)

Only in Harry Potter are a large sub-group of children evil from birth

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I had read the same post and had similar feelings of unease, but not been able to pin them down much beyond "she's doing the rightist thing of saying she isn't being political when in fact the post is chock-full of political assumptions". So thanks for unpacking it so effectively.

(Hope it's OK if I friend - I've been enjoying your political posts.)

Edited at 2011-08-11 09:01 am (UTC)
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 09:03 am (UTC)

Re: Only in Harry Potter are a large sub-group of children evil from birth

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Thank you very much. I think that many right wing people genuinely believe they are not political, but as you say the politics is there.
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From:nineveh_uk
Date:August 11th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Only in Harry Potter are a large sub-group of children evil from birth

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I suppose it is related to that phenomenon whereby the status quo is regarded as inherently neutral.
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 09:05 am (UTC)

Re: Only in Harry Potter are a large sub-group of children evil from birth

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BTW on your comment title, I think it is a feature of fantasy novels (not all of them) to build in the type-essentialism, if you know what I mean, which is not found in real life.
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From:happytune
Date:August 11th, 2011 09:06 am (UTC)
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I'm so glad you've done this. I've removed myself from Facebook for a few weeks until the furore has died down - I couldn't cope with the reactions I had to expressing similar sorts of perspectives you've shared here, from both right, middle and left wing folks. Normally I'd be fine with the cut and thrust, but I'm not strong enough to do so at the moment.

My personal perspective is that we're currently paying the price of the Thatcher period obsession with materialism. Like you, I've taught the children who are currently looting and rampaging. Frankly I'm just surprised it hasn't happened sooner. If you teach children that there's nothing as important as material goods, and then ensure there is no hope, jobs, affordable education, playing fields, a-Macdonalds-is-cheaper-than-fresh-food-diet etc etc, then you can't be surprised if, at some stage, there isn't some sort of unpleasant action.

Despite loving teaching in Chelmsley, I always felt like the whole area was existing permanently on the edge of Some Tension, and expected it to explode at some stage or other. I think this probably goes back to the origins of the area (and to be honest I don't know WHICH misguided government did that), in which an entire community was displaced from the city centre (where admittedly they were living in unsafe/unhealthy squalor) not long after WW2, and plonked in a location that had almost no social amenities. Bar a shopping centre. And plenty of pubs. And to be fair the odd children's park. And more soulless highrises than you can shake a stick at, that have become progressively more soulless as the years have gone on.

Now, there have been some really successful attempts to provide something more hopeful for the young people growing up in the area. For example, one of the local Baptist churches opened an arts centre which offered a range of fun activities - my mother volunteered teaching African drumming there. But really the problem lies very deep. I remember the battle we had convincing parents and schools that the brightest children should be entered for the grammar school exams.

Not sure what I'm driving at here (ah yes, sleep deprivation is taking its toll now...) but I guess I wanted to express my support for your analysis here.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 11th, 2011 10:28 am (UTC)
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I am going on hols for a few days today, so I won't see you now until next week. I hope you are doing OK. I would love to talk more, but I think you are exhausted right now.

My family was taken from the slums of central Birmingham and plonked down in Shard End on the edges (right next . It is quite horrible now, but in those days it was - honestly - a marvellous place to grow up. It was clean, open, safe, and there were schools, a library, a school, and many parks and wild land. In the 1980s it degraded very rapidly.
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From:happytune
Date:August 11th, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)
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Shard End and Chelmsley have things in common in that respect, I think. So the question is - what has turned these areas into such sad places, given that the original vision for them must have been quite, quite different?
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 12:03 pm (UTC)
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Worst typing ever in the previous comment. What happened was the environment became degraded, the green spaces were built on, and people with a little money were encouraged to buy their houses, so those who were left were the most poor of all. Including my grandma. The only people given access to subsidised housing were the worst problem families.
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 10:29 am (UTC)
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sorry that was me, and I meant 'right next to Chelmsley Wood'
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From:owlfish
Date:August 11th, 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
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I am happier with the parts of your argument which are not based on questioning the authenticity of her personal experiences.

P.S. rosamicula is a friend of mine which is why I particularly noticed those points in your argument.

Edited at 2011-08-11 02:23 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 11th, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
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I do not question the authenticity of her experience - I am sure she is (or has been) an FE teacher, who left a corporate job to work with deprived learners. I did that too, so it is hardly unbelievable.

Nor do I question her claim that people were violent in her lessons. But I do question whether such violence is inevitable when teaching. I know it is possible to create a clasroom environment where violence is not permitted, because I have always done so.

If - though I did not read it as such - but if rosamicula is claiming that in classes she took in prison, prisoners were able to throw chairs and kick and punch her - then in my experience there is very high level of sanction against that kind of behaviour in prison. It would have resulted in a major intervention. However, her words do not explicitly say that prisoners punched her.

If she was punched by an FE pupil, then I believe it could happen, though I personally think it is poor classroom practice for things to get to that state.
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
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obviously that was me, trying to post from a different computer than usual
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From:owlfish
Date:August 11th, 2011 03:17 pm (UTC)
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My understanding is that she has had a number of experiences in breaking up fights which found their way into her FE classrooms.
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
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I did not in any way question the veracity of her original satatement, but if what you say is true I think she was perhaps very slightly misleading, as she implied that 'the unteachable' responded to her teaching with violence: but god knows my sentences are not unimpeachable by any means. I think the issue is that I have very similar experiences to hers, and my conclusions from those experiences are very very different. I believe people love to learn, love to find maturity and purpose, and apart from a few cases of severe impairment, everyone can benefit from that experience.
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From:owlfish
Date:August 11th, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
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Yes, well. She wrote the post for her f'list and it unexpectedly went viral. She's made a number of comments to the effect that she would have been much more careful in exactly what she said had she had any inkling it would do so.
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From:communicator
Date:August 11th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
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I completely know that feeling - not of going viral but of being hasty. Having said that, I disagree with her ideas from A to Z, but I wouldn't criticise her for her writing style which is obviously exceptionally accomplished.
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From:muuranker
Date:August 11th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
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I am always worried by statements which suggest 'what was, will be'.

Not from this post, but from others about literacy, etc. and school leavers which suggest the complete opposite: that every child should be leaving school with five GCSEs.

Being political and having a particular political viewpoint are, I think very different. Politics is (according to one cluster of definitions) the exercise of power.
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From:communicator
Date:August 14th, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
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I agree there needs to be a place for people who can not shine academically. One member of my family has a congenital issue which means he could never achieve GCSEs (though ironically he is actually at college at the moment, on a course for people with disabilities, and enjoying it). And not just the disabled - people whose inclinations and aptitudes just don't go that way. I think we need a place for everyone.

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