Living at the moment in England but my family’s originally Scottish and came down to England to work. I was born in Manchester in a poor working class area and so one of the issues for me that’s central to equity and social justice is about social class. Just to give one example from my own experience, finding school a strange place for two reasons. One, the classroom seemed a strange place and so within our college that we run with young people not in school; nine to sixteen year olds we don’t have classrooms and no one’s ever asked for a classroom and I can explain more tomorrow when I’m doing a session around our work about why we don’t have classrooms.
The other piece is around the curriculum and again why don’t we have a curriculum? My own view is that the curriculum certainly in our country is one that’s imposed from a ruling elite and supported by a middle class that can maintain privilege. To give one example within my own community; I was taught history and I was taught history about the civil war here in the United States and also there was a book about the part of the world that I come from Lancashire where the mills were making cotton.
Lancashire made 70% of the world’s cotton. If you bought a saree in India it was likely to be made in Lancashire. During the civil war obviously there was a blockade and the cotton could not come to Lancashire and there was an interesting headline about a book in one of our quite left wing papers saying how Lancashire supported the South in the civil war but what it was, was the mill owners. That was the kind of history that we learned was of course the history of people who were in the ruling elite and the mill owners were losing money because they couldn’t get any cotton from the South because of the blockade by the North.
The thing that wasn’t reported and I never learned in school was we had a monument to Abraham Lincoln in the center of the city and I never knew why that was there, or wasn’t told that. What I learned later was that the working people of Lancashire had a meeting and voted to support the North, said that the chattel slavery was an abomination and that this evil needed to be eradicated, that they were prepared to suffer for that.
Infant mortality in Manchester was actually worse than the infant mortality amongst the slaves in the South of the United States at that time because people were literally dying because there was no work and the mills were closed. That’s what the curriculum does. It feeds into privilege; it feeds into a lack of social justice because people learn the wrong kind of history. They don’t learn the history that is meaningful to them and their own class.
That’s one amongst many examples of why in our own work we don’t have a curriculum, young people create it themselves from their own needs and why we don’t have a classroom because it’s not just about social class. Maybe it’s been mentioned here but things that we find really important; young people who are autistic can’t cope in a classroom, people with learning difficulties, people who are more introverted, the idea of putting up your hand and showing you’re better than someone else is an abomination to me.
It is about people being treated as equals and therefore giving equal rights. I think the French got it right; it is Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. You need all three. All three need to go together. Thank you.
Hani: Hi, good morning. I’m Hani, I’m from Israel. I’m shaking, I’m not used to speaking to such a large audience and I didn’t prepare to speak this morning but I felt that I had to, after Ziad spoke. I felt that I had to take part here, excuse my English. My vocabulary isn’t rich enough. I don’t say that there is equity in Israel for minorities or in Israel comparing to other democracies in the world but I do think that the situation in Israel for 65 years now; since we had our liberation but many years before as well, was never easy.
We were never safe, we were never secure. Israelis hi, please help me and join in if you think I miss something. To get the whole picture, the right thing to do is to speak to different people, to see them in the eye, to really meet them, to ask them those questions that you’re asking, to be able to accept their answers. I’m not saying I’m always right. I never say that. I’m sure I’m not but I would like to invite each and every one of you to ask questions and to try and see oversight of this so complicated situation.
I think I didn’t ask for a stage here in IDEC or in the previous IDECs, it’s my fifth because I really believe in personal speaking not in mass speaking. I know others do take stages and it’s their privilege of course and I just did but please try to listen to all sides, I’m starting to repeat myself. Thank you.
Zac: Hello, my name is Zac and I have nothing to say but very rarely do I get to stand with such thoughtful and reflective and intelligent and hardworking people, so I have some questions. You don’t have to all answer them now but I have a bow tie on, you’ll find me. Equality and social justice first question; if someone’s against it why? And how do we better understand those people? Fighting against is good, understanding … was that agreement? Okay, I didn’t know if that was a new signal that I did not know.
People disagree and so I think we should find out why and not just people who are against equity and social justice but people, who are against our version, our individually pure versions of true democratic education. Why don’t you like how I like what I like? Next question; how do we prevent the drive for equity from meaning we are all equally unhappy? Sometimes that’s what it sounds like we’re trying to do. I’m really unhappy, you should be unhappy just like me. Maybe some of us have been in relationships like that.
Equally important, how do we remember adults are not fully formed? We love kids and we love children and why can’t we love adults? Are they not just as cute? Last question; I’m sorry, I have been standing, this is difficult. Hi, other part of the room, how do we remember to pause and appreciate the small movements and the small moments of success? Because I think we have such a vision of the end. This is what utopia will look like, here is what perfect is and we never stop and say in the marathon to our goals, “Wow, I just ran a mile.” “Oh wow ten, that’s awesome.” We’re always kind of saying, “Well I ran 10, now I have 16 more to go.” Those are just my questions, I would to talk to you or with you about them and listen to your answers but thank you for making me feel welcome.