March 2013. A political cup of tea: Cambridge Radical Education Group.

Meeting March 2013.  A political cup of tea: Cambridge Radical Education Group

Political cup of tea:  Cambridge Radical Education Group

Meeting on Tuesday 5 March.

Present:  Ruth Kershner, Jane McGregor, Christine Doddington, Hilary Cremin, Fride Vedde, Holly Linklater, Isobel Urquhart

There were three items on our ‘agenda’.

1                     Discussion of the Radical Education Workbook

2                     Meeting with Michael Fielding

3                     Future meetings

Discussion of the Radical Education Workbook.

We had agreed to discuss aspects of the Workbook that interested us, and the focus of our discussion was on Circle Time, brought by Holly.  Some of the issues raised by this interesting practice and how it was presented by the Radical Education Forum included:

–          The history and origins of ‘circle time’.   The discussion ranged widely with contributions relating it to ancient ritual practices and to performance and theatre, to circle dances, to native American peace rituals, as well as to a range of different influences, including Rogerian humanist pedagogy; therapeutic practices (also Rogerian) but also group psychotherapy; religious practices ,specifically Quakerism, and political and philosophical arguments about learning democracy.

–          Who writes about circle time?  How do we capture all the variety of experience of the participants in the circle?

–          The varieties of purpose and aims of circle time.   A distinction between  using Circle Time for explicitly educational/PSE purposes – social skills, democratic debate,  language development, emotional regulation… – or for the experience of being a circle of people together.   Potential for serious emotional harm.  Abuses of individuals in the group – misunderstanding the idea of non-judgement to allow bullying and exclusion; lack of containment for difficult experiences and feelings.  Misunderstanding the idea of non-judgement – evaluating contributions, and the choice to not participate.  Perhaps we lost something of the positive experiences of circle time here?

–          The relationship of circle time to power and empowerment – positives and concerns about imposing existing power-relations.

–          Assessing circle time?  How would it be done, by whom, using what criteria and evidence, for what purposes.  Linked to teacher quality performance measures?

–          Circle time as radicalising education – does it?  Could it? In what ways?  I’d like to think more about circle time not in Rogerian terms but Freirian terms!

–          Pessimism of the will? – deschooling – the dominant cultures of schooling overpower any potential of circle time to radicalise education.

Meeting with Michael Fielding

We agreed to invite Michael Fielding to our meeting on 7 May or June 4.  The theme of that meeting – and of our next few meetings of our group – will be RE-IMAGINING EDUCATION : 2050.

ACTION                                We agreed that we might send Michael some of our individual thoughts about this idea, and to ask him to send us some provocations to discuss in advance of the meeting.  I suggest that someone in the group volunteers to coordinate this and in the spirit of democratic participation hope that it doesn’t have to be me!  Could someone email me to say they will do this?

Future meetings.

We have agreed that we will meet on the first Tuesday of the month.  7 May, 4 June.

The theme is going to be RE-IMAGINING EDUCATION: 2050.  Our first meeting next term might be with Michael or it might not.

One topic that has been suggested was:

ACTION                                The vision of the University School – invite the Headteacher.   Once we know when Michael can come, could someone take on organising this other meeting – i.e. invite the Headteacher, invite the Faculty members, Education Society (Wilberforce Society organises it I think),  Homerton…

ACTION                                Other suggestions were made but I can’t remember them. I would like to keep to the forefront a political dimension to our interests in radical education so hope others’ suggestions will bear that in mind, although I think the group can bring this to any discussion too.  So this is a call-out for ideas for future meetings – that is, the academic year 2013-2014.  Send to me and I’ll keep a schedule.


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