The following is taken from the Introduction to Radical Education Workbook, produced by the Radical Education Forum, a London based group that met – until the premises was firebombed last week – at Freedom Press, Angel Alley.
Please ‘follow’ this blog and let us know what you think of some of the challenging statements in this call for a radical education. (You could also go to the Freedom Press website if you wanted to support them in repairing the damage to their bookshop).
“The Need for Radical Education Today
The production of this workbook began at the onset of the movement against the austerity programme that had been laid out by the Coalition Government in Britain in 2010. In this moment, and in the years and months since, students, teachers, nurses, doctors, migrant people, firefighters and many others have begun to invent and re-engage with practices of organisation: questioning measures of austerity, and more fundamentally, the process of neo-liberalisation that preceded them.
This UK dimension of a global movement, including occupations, street protests, strikes, people’s rebellions and anti-capitalist co-operatisation has consistently struggled with the need to move beyond spontaneous actions. It has attempted to move away from big speeches and A to B marches, towards broader consciousness-raising initiatives, community and grassroots organising practices, consideration for the politics of speaking and listening, and attention to the dynamics of teaching and learning within our movements.
As a collective of students and educators working in a diversity of settings, from primary schools to universities, social centres to swimming pools, and straddling this work with our involvement in struggles on the Education front, we found ourselves poorly educated in the histories of radical education that have circulated in the UK and elsewhere. This, we understand, is not by any particular mistake or ignorance but because of the systematic erasure of questions of radical pedagogy from curriculum and, to a certain extent, from social movements themselves.
In the making of this workbook we have recounted our own experiences of teacher training – increasingly focused on behaviour management and test score achievement. Where radical education has been introduced, it is often marginalised to the theory section of our courses, divorced from our experiences, removed from the practical aspect of the teaching that constitutes the majority of our time as educators. The staff room, the only place for teacher congregation – where it has not been removed following current managerial trends, provides neither the physical space nor the time to allow for discussion of critical approaches to curriculum. This leaves teachers and teachers of teachers attempting to make even minor changes within the current system stigmatized if they propose critical or radical strategies.
This absence of critical approaches to curriculum also exists within social movements themselves.Where many radical bookshops have extensive sections of political analysis they rarely have sections on community organising, popular education, radical research or their histories.Many movement organisers are not aware of these practices, used in revolutionary and everyday struggles for social justice around the world and focus more on readings of key theoretica texts. For others, these histories of radical education are implicit in practice, but are rarely valourised as bodies of knowledge to be understood alongside key analytic debates. For a new generation of activists entering into struggles for a non-coercive,anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist education, there is often a feeling that one is beginning from scratch.
Initiated in 2010, the Radical Education Workbook has been an attempt to rectify these different absences. It was created through collective readings and workshops exploring practiced concepts. These spaces have provided moments of solidarity between students and educators across many practices, and support for those bearing the physical and emotional stress of the Education system as it currently stands.
In creating these spaces, we have been careful not to re-assert a new professionalized ‘radical education’ sector or subjectivity, but proceeded with the idea that Education (and radical education in particular) is not only the domain of teachers and students – it is fundamental to the production of life…”