The Great Debate: the opening of the flood gates to oppression

I trained as a teacher in the 1960’s. I’m glad I’ve got that out – but I’ll be branded. I’m still involved in education as a school governor and a director of Vital Link Educational and see the results of what was called “The Great Debate” as Jim Callaghan launched an attack on “trendy education methods”. This was just the beginning. The oppressive political involvement on education has been turning the screw tighter and tighter until the whole system is shrieking with pain. Teachers – never mind the sixties brigade – have been ignored. No doubt they’ll blame us for their troubles. Time, one head teacher believes, for the “Second Great Debate”.
State schools are paid for by governments not without good reason. There are expectations that they will provide cohesion in society, That is they will contribute to the reproduction of the “culture”, “values”, “norms” (as Pierre Bourdieu expounds it) that establishment figures trot out. Part of “State Repressive Apparatus” according to Althusser.


So where now are the de-schoolers? Titles like “Death at an Early Age”:“School of Barbiana” and “Learning to Labour” are still there lurking in the background, as is “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. Somehow they have been relegated within the highly controlled environment, suppressed but ready to recharge the human spirit which can so effectively resist decades of oppression.
It’s as if the whole idea of education has been consciously driven away from the liberation of human need. Education means preparing for life in a class-structured society where people continue to have their “place” or “station”. While these terms may have fallen out of use they are still part of the ideology which ensures that on the one hand there are those who can have access to resources. On the other those who service their needs for ever smaller reward. This is supported by a grovelling media and is a requirement of education – in the state part that is. The other bit is left alone to similarly reproduce itself which it does quite effectively.

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