Big Flame

1970-1984

EPISODES IN BIG FLAME HISTORY: No 13. Education

Posted by archivearchie on July 13, 2009

Crisis-p1Teachers in Big Flame came together at various times in the 1970s as part of an Education (or Teachers) Commission or a more general Public Sector Commission.

As with other Commissions experiences and strategic perspective were brought together in a pamphlet. Published in 1977 it was called The Crisis in Education. A draft version had been circulated the previous year, and the final version took on board comments from a broad collection of people involved in education.

Looking back from 2009 in the light of thirty years of Labour and Conservative Government policy on education can influence our perspective. Schools and further education in the 1970s can easily appear in a better light than the way socialists saw them at the time. However, in the mid 1970s schools experienced rounds of severe cuts as part of a general process of the state reducing public expenditure. Right wing traditionalists had launched attacks on progressive methods of education. Steps were underway towards a core curriculum and to increase the links between schools and industry.

The pamphlet saw the cuts as not simply about reducing expenditure, but as a process to restructure education to make it more controllable by the state and big business. The task for socialists, it argued, as not just to defend the status quo but to raise questions about the kind of education and learning we wanted. The pamphlet starts to raise these questions. Whilst those involved in producing the pamphlet would later acknowledge that it lacked practical direction and that its feminist content was inadequate, it stands up fairly well to the test of time. Click here to view the pamphlet – split into two parts:

The Crisis in Education: front-p12

The Crisis in Education: p13-back

An article in the Discussion Bulletin May 1980 took up the issue of how socialist teachers might apply their ideas in a classroom. The author writes: “what I have developed is practical and largely an extension of liberal/radical education ideas with a dash of socialism added.” Click here to view Notes on Being a Red Teacher. This article was later reprinted in a pamphlet Children and Socialism.

Archive Archie

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