When Michael Gove spoke out against what he saw as unpatriotic myths about the First World War, his main targets were drawn from popular culture: the film Oh, What a Lovely War! and the television series The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder. In this way, he acknowledged the crucial role of the popular media in how we come to think about war and violence. This is not to suggest that the media somehow causes violence. As Stuart Hall pointed out, there is no “smooth line of continuity … between shoot-outs at the OK Corral, and delinquents knocking over old ladies in the street in Scunthorpe” but what we do get from the media are “messages about violence” and these deserve our critical attention. In this post, Heather discusses some of these messages about violence in the coverage of war and exploring the place of nonviolence in these.
Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gove’
This week, the Telegraph newspaper – often referred to as ‘Torygraph’ – published a highly provocative article, entitled “Working class children must learn to be middle class to get on in life, government advisor says” which reported on recent comments made by Peter Brant, head of policy at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. Leaving aside for a moment that this is not exactly what Brant said, this piece is oozing with symbolic violence and provides another example of the narrow and problematic notions of aspiration, class and social mobility held by our politicians, policymakers and the right-wing media. In this guest blog post, Jessie Abrahams – a ‘working class’ student who attended an elite university and has researched social class and belonging – offers an alternative perspective.
We are now coming to the end of the reality TV series Tough Young Teachers. This show, screened by UK publicly-funded youth channel BBC Three, focuses on the lives of six beginning teachers in ‘challenging’ London schools. We see these new teachers taking their first lessons. We hear their frustrations and their triumphs. We follow their progress through the ups and downs of the year. This makes good television, as the number of excited tweets each week using #ToughYoungTeachers indicates. However, among the enthusiasm is a strand of critique and concern coordinated by TeacherROAR, for the show focuses not on any first year teachers but on those who enter teaching through a relatively small but rapidly expanding route into teaching: Teach First. Politically popular with both the Labour party and the Conservatives, Teach First brings many fantastic – mostly young – people into teaching. So why the resistance? While Michael Gove may see this as yet more evidence that many teachers are leftie ‘enemies of promise’ more interested in ideology than in supporting young people, in this post Heather shows why we really should be concerned about Teach First and its celebrity teachers.
Over the life of this project, the CelebYouth team have challenged government rhetoric of low aspirations, arguing that this not only lacks any evidence base, it also neglects the broader structural context within which young people’s ideas about their future are formed and realised. In this post, guest blogger Tristram Hooley argues that the provision of career support can be pivotal in helping young people to realise their aspirations. He argues that many young people have high aspirations, but are unable to fully realise them because of lack of support. Tristram has recently published a research report which describes how resources, staffing and political support for career education and guidance have declined since the election of the Coalition Government. As he explains, this decline has resulted in a dramatic loss of support for most young people and deleterious consequences.
The demand from our universities, our funders and our government that our research impact on society by changing policy and practice, has brought researchers into ever-greater contact with an increasing-variety of ‘non-academic users’. This raises tensions. In another post, Heather discussed how our research got lost in translation between us, as researchers, and a journalist. In this post, she looks at how we’ve found that we have a different conception of evidence than that which predominates among policymakers.
At the gym last week, I listened to the latest episode in one of my favourite podcasts, ‘The Slate Culture Gabfest’, a funny, critical and intelligent review of cultural ‘happenings’ from film to literature. In the show, the presenters interviewed fashion commentator Simon Doonan about his new book ‘Asylum’, a collection of essays on the fashion industry’s ‘glamorous madness and stylish insanity’. Leaving aside my issues with this kind of highly selective appropriation and celebration of ‘madness’ and ‘inclusivity’ within the art and fashion world, I was intrigued by Doonan’s account of his literal and social journey from his working-class parents’ home in ‘the boonies’ (the suburbs of Reading) to become part of New York’s fashion elite. In this post, I share some of my reflections on the significance of Doonan’s story and how it led me back to Michael Gove’s class project.
On 9th May, The Education Secretary Michael Gove delivered a keynote speech at a conference hosted by Brighton College (The Sunday Times ‘Best Independent School’ no less). The title – What does it mean to be an educated person? – is provocative enough, but the full speech is really something else. There has already been a lot of excellent analysis of Gove’s sneering and patronising speech on twitter, in cartoon form, on several blogs (a great example being this by The Plashing Vole), among professional associations, and in the news. We don’t want to repeat too much of this, but rather to draw attention to three key issues about education reform and aspirations discourse under this government – crystalised within Gove’s speech – which continue to raise concern for us.
When Jade Goody manoeuvred her body through an elastic band in her 2002 UK Big Brother audition video, little can she have imagined that a mere 11 years later she would be cited alongside Italian neo-marxist Antonio Gramsci as the twin inspirations for government education policy. She was inscribed thus, within UK Minister Michael Gove’s speech this week to The Social Market Foundation. Gove’s speech is in this and other ways remarkable as he presents himself as standing up for equality and social mobility against the forces of educational progressivism. In this post I argue that he does this through a doublespeak in which he simultaneously reasserts elitism.
Last week, David Laws, Minister for Education, attacked teachers and careers educators for creating a culture of ‘depressingly low expectations’ and holding back disadvantaged children by discouraging them from ‘aiming for the stars’. Laws argued that the flatlining of ‘social mobility’ (highlighted by Alan Milburn’s recent report) was not simply the result of poverty but a lack of ambition among teachers which led young people to only consider local employers and ‘lower status’ careers:
Even in my own constituency, Yeovil, which would not be regarded as one of the deprivation blackspots of the country, most young people would regard going into investment banking as almost leaving the country, because it’s a different world… They will often be encouraged to think it is beyond them…. there are too many young people who think that the two or three big employers in their local town are the limit of their aspiration.
Laws is not a lone voice here. Only a few weeks ago, Michael Gove spoke at the Conservative Party Conference about a ‘soft bigotry’ of low expectations among teachers which was failing to address the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils.
Scholarship in the sociology of education has critically engaged with the ways in which discourses of ‘aspiration’ circulate across government policy and how these constitute particular kinds of pupil – and parent – subjects. This research, including my own work with Heather and elsewhere with Sumi Hollingworth – has problematised asocial discourses of ‘low aspirations’. As I have previously argued on this blog, such individualising discourses negate the wider economic structures within which aspirations can be realised.
This summer young people aged 16 across England and Wales had confidence in their examination results undermined by being given different grades than would have been awarded in January for the same work. Now UK Education Minister Michael Gove can position himself as the restorer of faith in our academic system by announcing an end to modular assessments and multiple exam boards and their replacement from 2017 with new single end of course examinations and just one government-endorsed exam board.