Class and Education: Beyond Meritocracy

Rushcliffe Open CLP Political Education 15 November 2021

-By Ian Crompton, Political Education Officer

This timely and popular political educational event took place recently. Education was highlighted as a core element of the Labour Party’s strategy for electoral success at this year’s annual conference, along with an arguably restricted view of class around winning back ‘red wall’ seats. It was these interventions that underpinned the reason for the event.

Nick Stevenson and Sharon Clancy opened the discussion. Nick is a member of Rushcliffe Labour Party and a Reader in Cultural Sociology at the University of Nottingham.  Sharon is a member of the Mansfield Labour Party and Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership at the University of Nottingham and Chair of the Raymond Williams Foundation. What may sound a rather academic framing was anything but, with thought provoking and stimulating opening comments leading to a lively and enjoyable conversation.

The commitment to openness, inclusive and considered discussion permeated the 20 plus thoughtful comments from the floor, including an equal gender balance of those who contributed.

Areas of discussion included how we understand class and its inevitable re-emergence at the core of our politics for social justice.

The relationship between class and education, particularly the limited focus of current educational policy was addressed. Including what was considered by many to be an unhelpful pre-occupation with the illusion of meritocratic fairness and purpose whilst reducing education to narrow occupational outcomes and league tables. This, it was highlighted by a range of contributions, leads to the degradation of the educational experience for many pupils, students and teachers. 

The urgent need for the Labour Party to develop a new ethical vision of education and its human purpose was identified, including the joy of learning, as the overwhelming consensus of our discussions and the challenge on which the evening concluded.

If you would like to follow up on the areas discussed the links below might be of interest:

The Myth of Meritocracy Michael Sandel

Guardian Article by Jo Littler on Meritocracy

The Learning Age:  from a blog about adult education and learning by Paul Stanistreet

What Next for Political Education:

Please let me know of any subjects you would be interested in or can help with.

Future possible educational events currently under consideration include:

  • The War on Drugs – is Labour on a trip?
  • Generation Left
  • Feminising Municipalism
  • ‘Levelling up’ – A New Conservatism?
  • Sex Work – Is Labour in the Debate?
  • Is the Co-operators Movement (and it’s ideas) still relevant?

In addition to this I am also interested in whether there is any interest in an on line reading group exploring the History of the Labour Party?

2 thoughts on “Class and Education: Beyond Meritocracy

  1. Keith Hodgkinson 19th Jan 2022 — 10:15 am

    Wonderful at last a serious discussion on what for us is a central
    issue. (Mary and Keith Hodgkinson, both long-term members who helped get
    rid of Martin Redmain at West Bredgford in 1966!) But quite elderly
    (78,79) and no longer capable of doing the legwork.

    Keith – retired SL in Education (Primary and ecopndary) at Lufbra Uni

    Mary – Retired Sernior Academic Libraria at Lufbra Uni.

    We are particularly interested in the fate (right word) of most children
    – we have a bright grandson aged 14 whoes family are going through hell
    through locasl (Milton Keynes academies) exclusion policy and practice.
    Could say very much more. My particular interest is in the current
    trends a. unprofessional and irrelevant comparisons with foreign
    curricula (I taught some comparative ed) plus b. away from affective
    (apart from “RE”) and imaginative and towards instrumental (cf Victorian
    values) education. Aagain could say much more.

    Hoiwever we have to say that we both benefitted from the “Rise of the
    Meritocracy” before realising tha damage it could and di do to others –
    in my case to friends whose familaiiies could not supportb their bright
    children at Grammar School (I would propose rejecting the capitals
    there…)  Again much more to be said.

    But – Blair opened the Academy door to disguised selection of children
    both before and during seconday schooling. New slogan? “If you want your
    children to fail, you have two choices, one cheap and one expensive : 1.
    go to Kent and 2. Send them to Public School – ref any John le carre
    especially “The Pigeon Tunnel. ” why is that remarkably honest book
    rejected by the Tpry litary press, and never acknowledged by Labour? Le
    Carre should have been courted by the local LP (Cornwall? well, it’s
    quite long shot I suppose.)

    Also interested in the Black Lives Matter movement especiall Olusoga’s
    assault on white English history – (“Culture War”? It’s been going on
    since History was first written. get with it. )

    Many thanks for your communication – gave us both great heat and hope,
    though no time to party…

    Keith Hodgkinson Party number Rushcliffe A334956

    PS I have two great anecdotes about my (professional) meetings with Ken
    Clarke when he was at Education…but cannot be made public, we promised
    discretion, quite rightly I think. (“Discretion Saved Fascists”?)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keith Hodgkinson 19th Jan 2022 — 11:31 am

    PS I failed to include the one crucial word in the middle section of my
    first reply – that word is of course “autistic”.

    Secondly, you might find it interesting that I wrote my Masters’
    dissertation (Nottm Uni, Education Dept, 1973) on “The teaching of

    Keith Hodgkinson

    East Leake

    Liked by 1 person

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