July 5th, 2016
[This article is an exploration of the forces shaping current educational policy and practise in England in 2015. It is focused on primary schooling (3-11 years old). There is little reference to the UK as a whole because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all remain more committed to the concept of community-based comprehensive schooling, i.e. a less ‘marketised’ model.]
“The economy transforms the world but transforms it only into a world of economy.”
Guy Debord ‘Society of the Spectacle’ 1967
“The most significant outcome in the drive for so-called higher standards in schools is that children are too busy to think.”
John Holt ‘How Children Fail’ 1964
“The educational establishment simply refuses to believe that the pursuit of egalitarianism is over.”
Kenneth Baker, Secretary of State for Education and Science 1986 – 1989 (at the Conservative Party Conference) 1987
In 1944 the ‘Butler Act’ introduced free secondary education for all. This was later than in most other industrialised countries. It was to be a national system, locally administered. With the Nazis and the USSR as models of central control it is unsurprising that British administrators did not favour a centralised system. Today, seventy years on, we have a highly centralised system. This is because England is at the vanguard of the ‘marketisation’ of education in Europe; it is a process that involves an intensified standardisation for teachers and students and a replacement of local, democratically accountable administration with chains of private educational providers overseen by a much more strongly centralised state education department. For example, throughout the 1940s, 50s and into the 60s the Ministry of Education would never have dreamed of interfering in the specific curriculum of individual schools. In fact, in 1960 the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said: “In this country the teacher has the inalienable right to decide what to teach and how to teach it”. This has changed completely.
We can make sense of this drift away from education for social change and inclusion (Kenneth Baker’s “pursuit of egalitarianism”) by recognising it as one aspect of neo-liberalism. This “…aims to defeat the movements associated with state-focused, welfare oriented reform and to install a new systemic logic by which society (from government to the individual) responds to free market imperatives.” 1 In 1974 the IMF loan to the UK required an end to public sector expansion, an end to decentralised operational management and the introduction of detailed central regulation. So just as the idea of a common educational experience for all was beginning to take root the welfare rationale of ‘nation states’ began to disappear, ushering in ‘market states’ or ‘post-welfare states’. [Read more →]
July 3rd, 2016
‘These shelves are starting to look worryingly empty’, said Steve Stavrinides of Refugee Community Kitchen with a concerned frown. ‘We urgently need supplies’.
It was one thing having a deluge of volunteers and donations over the Christmas period where the festive spirit runs deep and the misfortune of others sharpens into focus. But with January upon us, the weather worsening and potential volunteers back at work, the future looked increasingly treacherous.
I glanced over at the Snack Shack, a 1984 kebab van that was donated to a sister charity in Calais. Just yesterday, Rufus, one of the tireless Refugee Community Kitchen chefs who works with Steve, had commented on the state of the engine and the telltale smell of burning oil emanating from the chassis. With a critical role delivering 800 hot meals a day to the Grand-Synthe camp, it began to feel that the infrastructure of the relief mission was starting to buckle.
As smoke billowed out from the van, myself and Bastien, a fellow volunteer with Artists in Action began to do some very uncomfortable maths. With funds increasingly scarce, buying a replacement vehicle could cripple the food supply. [Read more →]
June 27th, 2016
Neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground and the State
In datacide twelve, we detailed the scandal surrounding the killing spree of the Neo-Nazi terrorist organisation Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (National Socialist Underground, NSU) and the involvement of the domestic state security agency Verfassungsschutz (VS). This was followed by an update in datacide thirteen. In the meantime, the court case against Beate Zschäpe (the surviving member of the NSU ‘terror trio’) et. al. has continued. Simultaneously, the various parliamentary fact-finding commissions have been at work supposedly to shed light on the backgrounds of the crimes as well as the role the security services may have played in them.
The court case seemingly took a fundamental turn when Zschäpe decided to make a statement after all. Unsurprisingly, her 53-page statement was designed to exculpate herself from the accusations of complicity in the murders and claimed that she hadn’t been a member of the NSU, which conveniently – since they are both dead – only consisted of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.
This was after she had already had her conditions of detention softened because the NSU supposedly no longer existed. Even though her claims were widely seen as lies, the possibility of a much larger membership of the terrorist organisation is barely being investigated.
In the meantime, parliamentarians in the fact-finding commissions experienced that state attorneys and police were generally not very forthcoming with information, blocking effective investigations of the connections and overlap of the domestic security services and the Neo-Nazi scene. The state agencies remain very economical with the truth. This situation is not helped by the fact that five witnesses have died under suspicious circumstances, the first in 2009, the fifth as recently as February 2016. [Read more →]
June 24th, 2016
Surveillance, Control and Repression
GPS enabled smartphone apps are being used by private companies to track and surveil employees during business hours and also during off times. A sales executive employee at the international wire-transfer service Intermex has sued because she was being tracked via the Xora StreetSmart app on the company issued phone which she was not allowed to turn off even while not at work. After complaining about the privacy intrusions and spying by the company, she was fired.
Bank of America is one company using ‘smart badges’ to biosurveil the voice and behavior patterns of call-center workers. Monitoring includes how employees talk to customers, who talks to whom within the office, when employees send emails and respond, make phone calls, go on breaks, leave their desk to go somewhere else in the office, etc. The technology and data analysis is done by Humanyze, a spin off from the MIT Media Lab, which works with over 20 companies in banking, technology, pharmaceutical and health care industries monitoring thousands of employees. The analyzed data shows how each monitored employee performs compared to others, which amongst other things can be correlated to sales data and analyzed to assess individual and collective job performance.
In the UK, a Cambridge neuroscientist and former Golden Sachs trader, John Coates, is working with companies to use biosurveillance to create ‘human optimization’ in business performance. This researcher focuses on using technology that measures hormones that increase confidence and other ‘positive’ emotions and those that produce negative, stressful behavior that would impact a trader’s performance. The idea is to monitor employees and alert supervisors with an ‘early warning system’ if traders are getting close to a ‘hormonal danger zone’ where they won’t produce the desired trading results. Such biosurveillance is used on employees at hedge funds, banks, call centers, consultant firms, and many others.
[Read more →]
June 22nd, 2016
Infiltration and Agent Provocateurs
A heavily redacted FBI document revealed that the FBI in 2011 used agent provocateurs against Occupy Houston to gather information and photographs, spy on supporters and activists, and then planned to ‘kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles’. A federal judge ruled that the FBI could refuse to release the documents un-redacted to conceal the identities of the infiltrators who joined OH, which the FBI labeled as an ‘organized violent group’.
In January 2015, Eric McDavid, who had been convicted to 19 years for ‘domestic terrorism’ in his role in an Earth Liberation Front plot in California in 2005, was released from prison after serving 9 years when federal prosecutors agreed to a settlement when it was exposed that thousands of pages of evidence were withheld from the defense during the 2007 trial. The concealed evidence included a plethora of information about the FBI agent provocateur known as ‘Anna’, who had a ‘romantic relationship’ with McDavid, and entrapped the small ELF cell into conspiring to bomb the Nimbus Dam, cellphone towers, science labs and other targets. ‘Anna’ was central to entrapping other protesters as well. [Read more →]