Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Living in interesting times England seems to be shifting from being a rather right-wing country to a frighteningly right-wing country. JRF research published the other day shows not just that ‘the public has become increasingly likely to say that individual characteristics rather than societal issues cause poverty;’ but also that this is largely accounted for by a shift in attitudes among voters on the left. In 1986 the proportion of Labour voters who cited social injustice as the main cause of poverty was 41 per cent: in 2011 it was just 27 per cent. Never mind, let’s see what’s in the news to cheer us up. How about this? A brand new UK Independence Party councillor, Eric Kitson, has made racist ‘jokes’ and shared ‘a cartoon of Muslim people being burnt at the stake with copies of the Koran fuelling the flames’, on his Facebook page. The following sentence seems to be his explanation for why Ukip have not suspended him: ‘I'm not a politician - I'm a bit of a fool really.’ Meanwhile, Colin Brewer, the previously mentioned independent councillor in Cornwall who said that disabled children should be put down, apparently was re-elected in the same round of elections: according to the Indy, ‘with 335 votes – a winning margin of four votes.’ Brewer compared disabled children with deformed lambs that are dealt with at birth by ‘smashing them against a wall.’ His presence on the candidate list would certainly get me out to the polling station. In both cases, I’m perversely curious about whether some voters put their cross against these names without at least some understanding of what they stood for. The logic of democracy means that you have to believe that a majority of those who voted for these people knew what they were doing. Something is very rotten in the state of England.
Creating citizenship communities Civic involvement is an enduring ‘worthy-but-dull’ theme of social policy discourse. The school curriculum is currently a bit of a policy hot potato. What do you get if you bring the two together? Some schools struggle to deliver anything much beyond the core curriculum, while the fact that there are so many old Etonians in positions of power and influence is explained by an ‘ethos of public service.’ Here’s a report of research into Creating citizenship communities, published last week, which investigated the thinking and actions of young people and professionals in schools about ‘forms of citizenship that relate to strong communities’: ‘There appears to be a disconnect between school discourse around the importance of community and civic engagement, and what is taught in schools. Citizenship education is not always viewed as a subject that is taken seriously by schools. Young people in this study did not feel that teaching about community and citizenship fully prepared them to take an active part in their school or local communities. ‘Young people have strong opinions on what schools can do to recognise the contributions they already make to their communities, as well as to support young people in engaging in civic action. These include building positive links with other schools in their community; actively encouraging interaction between different groups of pupils within and outside of school; making sure that opportunities to get involved with in- and out-of-school projects are equally available to all students; and taking an interest in pupils’ lives beyond the school gates.’

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