Doug Nicholls on reviving trade union and popular education

We have pleasure in posting Doug’s thoughts on trade union education as a guest blog, accompanied by an advert for an enticing job opportunity with the General Federation of Trade Unions [GFTU] as an Education Officer and the Education for Action programme.

gftu

eors-job-advert-education-officer-pdf – the advertisement

jd-education-officer – the job description

gftu-education-in-action-bklt-8-32629 – the programme

Doug Nicholls

TRADE UNION EDUCATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE – join the discussion
Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Union, believes that trade union education urgently needs a revitalised content and a new method of delivery.
In an article in the Morning Star Dr John Fisher reminded us of the effect of years of state funding for trade union education. He who pays the piper calls the tune. A generation of trade union learners have had the political content stripped from their learning. I argue also that the form of training delivery has mirrored the neutralised content and helped to teach ignorance and obedience.
The Establishment teach their children to rule from an early age, prep school to public school to Oxbridge. At heart they learn the arrogant and confident mannerisms of rulers, an ability to talk about anything as if they know something about it.
They learn some concepts and history; this is why they focus on politics, philosophy and economics (PPE).
Once upon a time the best unions would engage workers in these subjects too. Courses would commence with discussions about the world we wanted to live in and the laws that underpin capitalist economics and a socialist alternative. This was done to develop understandings and convictions that would build our organisations and provide the motivation for learning the skills necessary to win for our members and transform the political scene.
This tradition was then turned on its head. Trade union training got locked into considerations of a very narrow range of technical and vocational areas, tutors became purveyors of information and facts, classes looked more like school rooms than workers discussion circles, qualification replaced empowerment, learners were told what to learn instead of encouraged to learn from their experience, rigid curricula stifled debate. As state-funded adult education disappeared, so elements of trade union training became a poor substitute, signposting learners to dwindling vocational opportunities while the market let rip.

 

 

It was all very interesting knowing the detail of redundancy and health and safety legislation, but all very irrelevant if the workplace was closing down as if because of forces of nature or fate. Education proved a thin shield as the post-war social democratic consensus and manufacturing based economy were being transformed into today’s neoliberal nightmare.
While most people feel that austerity is wrong, very few can articulate why it has come about and the political and economic alternative to it. In reality the popular consensus has bought into the whacky idea that the debt and deficit are the cause of our problems.
When bankers say they create wealth, few union reps seem able these days to counter this joke with an assertion of the labour theory of value and remind them that everything in their marble vaults comes from us. The effect of falling rate of profit has been forgotten and our problems attributed superficially to ‘greedy bankers.’
Worse still workers are being decapitated from the body of knowledge of our history of struggle as a Movement. We have to re-construct a living appreciation of our past to accelerate a better future.
There is clearly a desperate need to revive political, philosophical, historical and economic inquiry as the basis for trade union education.
Equally there is a need to modernise the methods of learning delivery to make it inspirational and life changing. A very peculiar thing has happened in Britain in this regard. The progressive debate on how workers learn best and what techniques really inspire them has almost completely bypassed trade union education circles and has been advanced instead in youth and community work, adult education and some school based traditions or radical pedagogy.
This is not the case in many other Labour Movements. They have embraced radical learning theories and methods that enhance the development of progressive politics and solid organisation. At the GFTU we have been looking at some of their work in Latin America, but look too at a book called Education for Changing Unions about the Canadian experience. Consider the work of Paulo Freire or Antonio Gramsci.
The way learning is delivered is as important as what is delivered, sometimes more so. Progressive learning techniques are linked to democratic practice and social change and have a long tradition in Britain going back to the Medieval ‘conventicles’ which argued that the Bible should be translated in English so that ‘the merest ploughboy could read the word of God’. Ultimately their work led to the collapse of the authority of the dominant Latin speaking Catholic Church and the aristocracy it propped up.
It continued through the dissenting churches whose ideas very much aided the birth of the unions, many Sunday schools were in fact very socialist. It flourished in Britain when many women trade unionists developed theories of youth engagement and community work to involve workers outside the workplace in the struggle for reforms. The richness of this tradition around the world can be explored on the fantastic website http://www.infed.org.uk.
The new priesthood of neoliberal pundits and politicians and the crowds of dilettante ‘economists’ who seek ultimately to persuade us that we are too stupid to run society in the interests of the majority, should be replaced by a new generation of deeply educated union activists able to see through the myths and compel us in another direction.
At the GFTU we have opened a forum on our website for all those interested in a progressive future for trade union education to swap notes, share details of good resources and examples and sharpen our minds. Please join the debate there http://www.gftu.org.uk. We are also looking for new partners and tutors to join our work delivering the highest quality independent working class education. Let’s change the content and form of trade union education and base it on participative, collective learning to demonstrate another world is possible with a new kind of PPE student in control of our country.

 

POSTSCRIPT

Ironically on the day we post Doug’s piece, there’s a long Guardian read, PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain

 

Building Bridges Not Walls – Events from London via Teeside to Chania

At a time when we need dialogue and solidarity across borders, the following events/conferences hold out hope.

NCIA logo

One year on – ‘witness seminar’
Friday 10th March 1-5pm, London Welsh Centre,
157-163 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8UE

NCIA has closed! But long live the spirit of NCIA present! As promised we are having a ‘one year on’ witness seminar to see where the issues we have been fighting so hard for have now got to. It’s on Friday 10th March 2017, 1.00 – 5pm at the London Welsh Centre in London. The event is free at the point of delivery! As usual we will have a bit of social time afterwards.

If you, colleagues or collaborators would like to come to the event, put the date in your diary now and drop an email here ausgesucht@yahoo.co.uk – saying ‘yes I am coming’ with your name, organisation/group’. We’ll send you a full programme in the middle of February.

Also if you would like to contribute (a) short slot (5 minutes) on your perspective on independent voluntary action’ in March 2017 – also drop a line to the above email address. If you want a longer slot and you haven’t already been in contact, let me know a title and three sentences. We’ll have an opportunity to swap ideas like this on the day.

 

swan
‘DEFENDING WELFARE, WELCOMING REFUGEES: ANOTHER SOCIAL WORK IS POSSIBLE’

The SWAN conference is the largest annual radical and critical Social Work conference in Europe with over a decade of bringing together educators, service users, practitioners and all those concerned with social work and social justice. The conference will be held at the School of Health and Social Care at Teesside University, Middlesborough, April 8/9, 2017.

We welcome presentations (20 mins) or more interactive workshops (60 mins) from ALL, including practitioners, service user and social justice organisations, students, educators and trade unionists. Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to swanconference2017@gmail.com. All proposals will be responded to by 12 March 2017 or sooner. See you in Teeside!

Full details at SWAN 2017 Conference

 

harbour-mosque-thomson

Interdisciplinary Conference
Building Bridges in a Complex World

CHANIA, CRETE, GREECE | 6-8 July 2017

A Radically Different Kind of Conference

We are a network of academics and practitioners motivated by our work experiences inside and outside of Europe. With this being the first conference, we are hoping to turn this into an annual gathering to build bridges on three different levels: between theorists and practitioners, between people from different disciplines and between people from different parts of the world.

Our personal experiences in education and the general job market are that job insecurity, isolation and competitiveness –through constant evaluations, satisfaction surveys, pressure to secure funding and ultimately generate income– create a culture that encourages cut-throat encounters. On a political and professional level, it leads to a lack of collaboration and solidarity between groups and professions. On a personal level, it makes us feel alienated, which obviously affects our life satisfaction and mental health.

This is an interdisciplinary, inquiry-driven gathering with the main focus on bringing people together to share ideas in a convivial environment. We hope to explore what kind of alternative questions, concepts, methods and practices are necessary to address these complex challenges of our time.

It is in this spirit that we invite contributions from practitioners and researchers to share your insights, practices and experiences relating to programmes, policies and studies that address issues of social (in)justice and (in)equality locally and internationally.

For more information, see Building Bridges

 

 

First International Journal of Open Youth Work online. What about contributing to the Second?

A few weeks ago in Lithuania, a group of us had the pleasure [and pain]  of running a session on the impact of neoliberalism on English youth work. Our argument did strike a chord with a mixed European audience. The occasion was the first conference of the European Research Network of Open Youth Work, entitled ‘Theory and Practice: Understanding Youth Work’, at which the International Journal of Open Youth Work was launched.

 

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Tony Taylor looks perplexed, whilst Malcolm Ball and Pauline Grace try to pretend they’ve not met him before!

 

The Journal, whose Chief Editor is our own Pauline Grace [Newman University] “aims to privilege the narrative of youth work practice, methodology and reality. It is a peer-reviewed journal providing research and practice-based investigation, provocative discussion and analysis on issues affecting youth work globally. The Journal will present youth work issues and research in a way that is accessible and reader-friendly, but which retains scholarly integrity.”

In a call to both academics and practitioners the Journal’s editorial group’s “commitment to the co-writing process means that they are taking seriously the notion of practice informed by theory and theory based on practice. The community of practice that is open youth work does not operate in isolation: alliances are formed with other professionals and agencies, often through cross-sectorial work, to ensure that the rights of young people are protected and advanced.”

They conclude:

“In the European context, it is easy to become consumed by our domestic crises: shifting political allegiances; an increase in militarism; ongoing financial restructuring; large-scale youth unemployment; reorganization of public sector services; and a seeming impasse over migration policy. All of these issues impact on the lives of young people and demand skilful youth work interventions. Open youth work is a worldwide endeavour and we hope you will be inspired to tell everyone your stories. We hope you agree that the result is a unique resource presenting thoughtful, multifaceted approaches to youth work, which it is hoped can be better understood and recognised.”

The first edition can be found at International Journal of Open Youth Work

It contains the following chapters, which get the initiative off to an impressive and accessible start.

1. Youth work and mental health: A case study of how digital storytelling can be used to support advocacy – Mariell Berg Huse and Anna Opland Stenersen.

2. Managing hybrid agendas for youth work – Mike Seal and Åsa Andersson.

3. The preventive role of open youth work in radicalisation and extremism – Werner Prinzjakowitsch.

4. The high-tech society, youth work and popular education – Professor Ivar Frønes, University of Oslo.

5. Can youth work be described as a therapeutic process? – Luke Blackham and Pauline Grace.

6. Open youth work in a closed environment – The case of the youth club Liquid – Lars Lagergren and Emma Gustava Nilsson.

7. Group work as a method in open youth work in Icelandic youth centres – Árni Guðmundsson.

8. What can youth workers learn from the ethnographic approaches used by Paul Willis and Howard S. Becker? – Willy Aagre.

Information and guidelines here on How to Contribute in detail.

Contributions to the journal could come from, academic researchers/scholars, youth workers and stakeholders whom is active and/or have a professional or political interest in youth work. The journal encourages joint ventures among them with academic researcher/scholars as one part. The journal consequently opens up for various forms of co-writing where scholars write together with practitioners.

Certainly we would encourage  IDYW readers/supporters to consider seriously telling their stories via this stimulating international project.

Contact Tony at tonymtaylor@gmail.com if you want to check anything out.

 

Organising IDYW Activity in 2017

Minutes of meetings are hardly anybody’s idea of a riveting read. However, we’d be grateful if you could give the following notes of our last Steering Group meeting a quick glance. And to say that anyone interested in giving some time to our endeavours is encouraged to get in touch. We are in no sense a closed group – the more voices, the better.

newlogo

Present: Malcolm Ball, Bernard Davies, John Grace, Pauline Grace, Naomi Thompson, Tony Taylor and, via SKYPE with differing levels of success, Colin Brent, Paula Connaughton and Tania de St Croix.

Apologies: ;Susan Atkins, Paul Hogan, Kevin Jones, Diane Law

The primary purpose of the meeting was to explore and agree on a fresh way of organising the work of IDYW. taking into account the publicised shift to being first and foremost a forum catalysing critical discussion and the need to move beyond there being a single, leading IDYW Coordinator. In seeking to do so and in the light of recent discussions about blurring the boundaries of what constitutes youth work the Steering Group confirmed its commitment to defending the distinctiveness of youth work as expressed in the IDYW cornerstones of practice.

After much discussion the following was agreed:

TASKS and Lead Person[s]

Maintaining website/blog, Facebook and Twitter plus encouraging participation etc. – Tony Taylor
Developing European links and relationships – Malcolm Ball, Colin Brent, Pauline Grace
Coordinating Story-Telling Workshops – Bernard Davies
Maintaining Story-Telling website and resource – Colin Brent
Admin support for seminars/conferences/events – Rachel via Youth Association South Yorkshire [YASY]
IDYW Accounts – Heather via YASY
Monitoring possible Research opportunities – Naomi Thompson
Annual Conference arrangements – Malcolm Ball
Encouraging regional and local IDYW networks/meetings – Colin Brent
Encouraging national and regional IDYW seminars – Tania de St Croix
Monitoring possible contributions to external conferences/events/publications – Tony Taylor
Linking/relating to National Youth Agency/Education,Training Standards Committee – Sue Atkins
Linking/relating to Institute of Youth Work – Pauline Grace
Linking/relating to ChooseYouth – Malcolm Ball
Linking/relating to Centre for Youth Impact – Tania de St Croix
Linking/relating to Training Agencies Group and Youth & Policy – Paula Connaughton
Acting as secretary to SG meetings – to be rotated

 

Further bits and pieces of interest:

 

Pauline informed us of a conference in Lithuania to launch the Academic Journal of Open Youth Work. In the event a workshop on neoliberalism’s impact on English youth work was run by Tony Taylor, Pauline Grace and Malcolm Ball. A further post will offer further details, including a link to the on-line journal.
On the Story-Telling front we ran a workshop in Carlow on December 9 with work underway to organise possible events in Cardiff, Huddersfield and Manchester. Look out for the workshop flyer.
As you can see above, we agreed to change the logo to freshen up our image eight years on from our birth. Many thanks to Peter Griffiths at http://www.peter-griffiths.com/ for the design.
In terms of the 2018 national conference we agreed to check if Y&P is holding its History conference next year and if so, to hold our conference in tandem. In past years the event in Leeds has attracted a positive mix of students and workers with a sprinkling of academics. More immediately the 2017 national conference is to be held on Friday, March 17, almost certainly in Birmingham. More info in the next few days.

 

Date of next meeting: February 10

 

Youth Work, Social Justice and Political Activism – The Missing Relationship?

On Saturday I was returning from a stimulating Open Youth Work conference in freezing Lithuania. Underpinning the debate there about the relationship between youth work theory and practice, between academics and workers, was the assumption that youth work cares deeply about social justice. During a wait at Frankfurt a conversation with a fellow-travelling youth worker, Luke, confirmed my sense that an essential dimension was missing from the conference agenda, namely that to talk of social justice is to talk of struggle, is to talk of collective action. In this sense both the theory and practice of youth work needs to be rooted in the living struggles against injustice, against oppression and exploitation.

On Saturday, as I returned, over two million women [and men] marched against a revitalised Right populist and authoritarian politics, symbolised by Trumpism. The politics of this protest is inevitably diverse, even confused. How could it be otherwise – the radical visions of the past largely trodden underfoot over the past four decades. Yet at the heart of the upsurge is the fluttering beat of resistance, of struggle –  see below the transcript of the speech delivered by Angela Davis. All of which leaves me wondering, how many youth workers, how many young people, indeed how many youth workers, together with young people, were to be found in the throng of humanity out on the streets of the globe this past weekend – Building Bridges not Walls?

 

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Ta to Irish news.com

 

 

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Snuff Mill bridge, Glasgow

 

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Long-standing political activist and academic,  Angela Davis spoke at the Women’s March on Washington. The author of the classic 1983 text,  ‘Women, Race, and Class’, she made an impassioned call for resistance, urging the audience to become more militant in their demands for social justice over the next four years of Trump’s presidency.

 

angela-davis

Ta to jconline.com

 

“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, transpeople, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, heteropatriarchy from rising again.

We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.

No human being is illegal.

The struggle to save the planet, to stop climate change, to guarantee the accessibility of water from the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, to Flint, Michigan, to the West Bank and Gaza. The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air—this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.

This is a women’s march and this women’s march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. And inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.

Yes, we salute the fight for 15. We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance. Resistance to the billionaire mortgage profiteers and gentrifiers. Resistance to the health care privateers. Resistance to the attacks on Muslims and on immigrants. Resistance to attacks on disabled people. Resistance to state violence perpetrated by the police and through the prison industrial complex. Resistance to institutional and intimate gender violence, especially against trans women of color.

Women’s rights are human rights all over the planet and that is why we say freedom and justice for Palestine. We celebrate the impending release of Chelsea Manning. And Oscar López Rivera. But we also say free Leonard Peltier. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Free Assata Shakur.

Over the next months and years, we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out.

The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.

This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’ Thank you.”


 

 

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Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire

 

Mayor needs to help restore London’s lost youth services

An interesting intervention from Sian Berry, the Green 2016 candidate for London Mayor on her blog – Lost Youth Services

She has produced a report , ‘London’s lost youth services’,  based on a freedom of information request to borough councils. It reveals that youth services, which are non-statutory and not protected from austerity cuts, have been cut back dramatically in the past five years.

Between 2011/12 and 2016/17:

  • Across London more than £22 million was cut from youth services budgets.
  • The average council in London has cut its youth service budget by nearly £1 million – an average of 36 per cent.
  • More than 30 youth centres have been closed.
  • At least 12,700 places for young people have been lost.
  • Council youth service employment has been reduced on average by 39 per cent – from 738 full-time equivalent staff across 20 councils to 452 in 2016/17.
  • Funding to voluntary sector youth work has also gone down – by an average of 35 per cent in councils that were able to provide data

 

lost-youth_services_400

 

Half of the ten councils that provided information about future budgets were planning to make further cuts in 2017/18. On average 25 per cent of budgets would be cut from April, with the loss of at least three more youth centres and 24 more staff.

 

Read the full report here: London’s lost youth services

Writing the History of Youth in the Modern World, 1800 to the present

It would be great to see contributions on the history of youth work/youth organisations. A few names come to mind.

Writing the History of Youth in the Modern World, 1800 to the present

Friday 26th May 2017, University of Sheffield

history-of-youth

Call For Papers

The lives and experiences of young people have long been a topic of historical interest. This conference seeks to explore how historians understand and represent youth in the modern world, and encourages reflection on the different ways of writing the history of young people. With a growing amount of work in the field, this conference will provide a space for scholars to reflect on current approaches, reinterpret and re-evaluate older approaches and structures, present work that moves beyond the urban experiences of youth, or that adopts transnational approaches, and to question how the lives of young people relate to wider histories.

Topics could include, but are not limited to:

The spaces and places inhabited by youth
Regional or local histories of young people
Youth organisations
The experiences and histories of marginalised or underrepresented youth
Reflections on methodologies or sources
Identities of young people
Sex and relationships
The young person as a consumer

 
Proposals for individual papers of 20 minutes are invited for any topic related to the history of young people in the modern period, loosely defined from 1800- present.

Relevant proposals from outside of the discipline of history are also welcome. Abstracts of 300-350 words should be sent to Sarah Kenny (skenny1@sheffield.ac.uk) by Friday 24th February 2017.