Reimagining the UK post Brexit – Education

imgresI have waited a while to write this post. It follows on in the series I started on this topic. It seems clear that the Brexit vote was about three key elements: taking control (whatever that means) of our own money, our own laws and our own immigration. I hope to write another blog on those three things another time, but in this time of transition, we must ask ourselves some questions about the kind of future we want to co-create.

 

imgresI have to say that when I look at our education system, I am both heartened and dismayed. I am heartened by the amazing quality of teachers across the UK, but I am dismayed by how they are treated as a profession by our mainstream press. I am heartened by the quality of our children and young people and the hopeful possibilities they carry, but I am dismayed by the increased burden of mental health problems many of them suffer. I am heartened that there is so much great thought around education and a shared learning between nations about how to release the potential in each child, but I am dismayed by the lack of application of this learning within the UK. I am heartened that there is an increasing realisation that Ofsted reports can offer only a small snapshot of what goes on in any school and are not a fair representation of all that goes on in any one institution, but I am dismayed by our growing measurement problem. By this I mean that the constant scoring and grading of our children and young people and the comparisons made between our various schools is so detrimental to their development and achievement that we ought to seriously consider the weight it is allowed to carry in our education systems. When our children and young people are some of the least happy in Europe and live in a country where the gap between the richest and poorest, both in terms of economics and educational ‘outcomes’ is one of the worst in Europe, we have to ask ourselves some searching questions.

 

So, in reimagining education, let’s reaffirm that every child is unique, beautiful,images worthy of love and full of potential. Let’s also recognise that our education system now is one of the few things that has not evolved since the time of the Industrial Revolution and is itself in need of serious renewal and transformation. In Germany, they have managed to elevate practical skills and knowledge to that of intellect. This has given them the ability as a nation to have a much more diverse economy, especially investing in green technologies and manufacturing in a way that cares for the future. In Finland, they have a reverence for the teaching profession that we would do well to adopt here. We need to think of teaching as a sacred gift and it needs to be taken this seriously by those who pursue it as a career. A Head Teacher I know recently told me that she no longer needs teachers who see themselves as having a job, but those who understand that teaching is a vocation and a calling. It is about being willing to parent a generation, not just fill them with knowledge.

 

Our educational environments must be places where we teach our children how to think, not just what to think, how to converse, not just what to say and how to listen attentively not only hear. We must help them learn about their own personalities and gift mixes. We must help them to think about the values from which they live, speak and act, helping them therefore to shape their behaviours in line with this (Steve Peters). We must allow them to question some of the damaging ways we live (war, pollution, work-patterns) and dream of and learn to create futures of peace, sustainability and wellness.  We need a vision large enough to ensure that each generation creates a seedbed of opportunity for the next.

 

The danger of becoming more ‘in control’ (as per our Brexit wishes) is that we become more controlling. The purpose of education is not to control but to release, not to maintain the status quo but to attain a brighter future, not to perpetuate hate and violence but to breathe love and peace, not to tear down but to build up and encourage,imgres not to divide but to build community, not to prepare human beings to be fodder for the economic machine but to ensure the economy serves them to be live a life of hope-filled potential. As with healthcare, we need to de-politicise the education system, hold dear in our hearts those given to teach, caring for their wellbeing and minding how we speak of them. We must partner with them and entrust them with our precious caterpillars as they hold them through the great metamorphosis that is learning before they spread their wings and make their flight to shine like stars in a future sky that the rest of us will never see.

My Manifesto for the UK post-Brexit (Part 1 – Immigration)

I was having a conversation with someone recently and they challenged me to write a manifesto for the UK, to help put a bit of substance to my various thoughts. What follows is by no means a finished article, nor am I likely to do much with it, but I have found it helpful as an exercise and it serves as a starter on a few issues to spark discussion and also to help me shape my own thoughts further.

I am also a white, privately-educated, “middle-class”, married with 3-kids, “christian” male and so I recognise an inability to communicate, except from the perspective of power and privilege – I can’t change this, but I just want to say that I know it means I can’t see very well.

I hope what I have written is founded on the values of self-giving, others empowering love, the desire to build with positive peace and with hope for a fairer society for everyone. I will start with the area that caused so much debate over the last few weeks and has opened up some deep wounds – let’s see where this goes!

Immigration

I recognise this is a very real and important issue and it is not one that we should be afraid to face up to. My approach would be five-fold:

  1. Our education system will look at the damaging effects of empire and colonisation. We will look at the issue of white and male supremacy and work together to break down these deep set corporate worldviews that we find hard to name let alone own up to. We will help our children and communities face up to the bias and prejudice we all live with and learn from organisations, like the NHS that have done much to tackle them. We will encourage an understanding of the ‘other’ and the benefits of inter-culturalism. We will also work with charities like “together4peace” in Leeds to encourage intercultural dialogue and relationships.
  2. We will introduce a basic rate of pay, guaranteeing a fair and living wage for all of £10 per hour (see economy section for how this is affordable – austerity is NOT the only option available to us!). This will encourage people into work and we will ensure good support of small businesses to make this attainable i.e. the government will give means tested grants to businesses to support them in this. In this way it pays to work, but we will not have a society in which we punish or vilify those who are unable to do so, for whatever reason (see later policy on welfare). It will be illegal for any individual or business to employ workers from overseas or the UK for less than this. This must be legislated and so breaches of this will ensure a heavy fine and/or community service. A second offence would lead to a prison sentence. We cannot endure a culture of westernized slavery that leaves areas impoverished.
  3. We will create local jobs, especially in the places in the UK which have felt forgotten. This will come through a restructuring of the banking sector to encourage local investment in local businesses, as seen in Germany and Denmark. Our banking system is far too centralised and remote. Job creation will come through the creation of locally and/or publicly owned energy, utility and transport services. These might be structured in several different ways and therefore will not take us ‘back to the 1970s’ but create alternative and better ways ahead for local communities.
  4. We will allow the free movement of people but not the free movement of capital. It is not possible to have both. Money created in the UK will stay in the UK ie companies who do their business in the UK will pay their fair share of tax, rather than ship their profits overseas. This will include open but monitored borders, so we are clear who is in the UK, from a security perspective. But overall, we would seek to be a country that welcomes those who want to come here (it’s really not as many as we have been lead to believe!), especially those who need our help at times of crisis in their own nations.
  5. We will encourage every person who lives in the UK to be a net contributor to society where this is possible. We openly recognise and celebrate how many of our public services have depended on the great diversity brought by migrants and refugees from all over the world. We recognise that migrants make a net contribution to our society and give far more in terms of money, skills and rich diversity of culture into the UK than they take. We will ensure welfare for all those who need it, but our international development work will ensure we are able to work with countries to help people where they are to build a future of peace and prosperity (see later post on this). 

 

Obviously all of this needs a great deal of fleshing out, but these would be my overarching principles as points for discussion at this stage – I’m sure it is terribly lacking, so go easy on me – I’m looking for a conversation not a battle!

Changing the Healthcare Conversation

Here is a slightly impassioned stream of incomplete and imperfect thoughts about the future of healthcare……I hope it stirs some conversations……

Why I’m Voting Green

Unknown-1My kids love to know who my wife and I are voting for and we want to be a family that talks about this kind of stuff around our dinner table. So we told them “this year, we’re firmly nailing our green colours to the mast”. They didn’t know what that meant, so we told them – “we’re voting GREEN”!

I’ve read a surprising amount of the manifestos of each of the parties this year. Before doing so, I was highly inclined not to vote at all as I feel the political class/system is so out of touch with real life and there seems to be little radical voice in the arena. However, I have become hopeful that the Green party really are standing for some hugely important issues and offering a real alternative.

Here is my summary of why I am voting green:

Unknown-2A New Politics – Caroline Lucas has not been afraid to challenge the status quo. I believe we must find an inclusive, love based politics if we are going to find a new and reimagined future together. I believe the Green party are truest to this hope. I also love the gentle, gracious, intelligent and firm leadership of Natalie Bennett – for me, she was outstanding in the leaders’ debate and held her nerve in the face of the ‘old boys club’. As a feminist, I am passionate about seeing women fully instated in leadership, not just ‘talked-up’. The leadership we are seeing from Natalie and Caroline is of a different order from the brash, bullying, testosterone-fuelled alternatives. Unknown-1

Healthcare – It might surprise some, as a GP that I say this, but for me the Greens have a serious and well thought through health policy. Their health policy is more holistic and more just (for those who need health care the most) than any of the other parties. I have to say, both Labour and the Lib Dems are also saying some great stuff, but overall, the Greens are willing to shift the conversation to where we need it to go – from an illness model towards promoting health and wellbeing.

Education – Our children have become commodities of the economic state. I love that the Greens are talking far more holistically and compassionately about the future of our children. Unknown

Environment – It needs hardly be said, but this issue is actually going to kill us and we need some people in government who are going to help us make some massive changes to our energy supplies and the ways we are choosing to live. Their view is comprehensive and holistic. The raping of the earth’s resources and high CO2 levels are far more dangerous than the threat of terrorism. We must face this hard truth and act now.

Defence and International Development – Here we have a dual policy that makes sense. Stop our own hypocritical nuclear arsenal and make for positive peace by tackling poverty in the developing world.

UnknownEconomy – Huge fresh creation of new jobs in making the world more beautiful through green technologies, massive investment back into the public sector and encouraging those of us more able to be less self-protective and share the greater burden of taxation, rather than crushing the poor whilst the rich get ever richer. I also like that they will hold banks and big business to better account.

Immigration – There are too many awful lies being peddled about asylum seekers and refugees. I believe in open borders and intercultural rich diversity. I believe in interdependence and love, not fear, independence and hate.

Justice – A fresh look at the criminal justice system, with a move towards restorative justice is from my perspective the only way to go.

Voting – I refuse to be told that my vote will be a wasted vote. I am fed up of the arrogance of the system that tells me there are only two alternatives. The old politics is over. We are entering the day of coalitions and finding our way to a wholly different kind of political system. I am voting Green, not to be tactical, not to be pig-headed, not out of fear, but because I believe they genuinely hold the brightest torch for the things that matter the most not for me, but for everyone. We cannot vote out of selfish self-protectionism. We must position ourselves for the future generations and the future of this planet. That is why I am voting GREEN!images

Revolution

Ok, I can’t sleep. I’ve been needing to write this for ages. I know my voice is small and I live somewhere in the north of rural lancashire in the UK, but I want to add my voice to the growing song that is rising in the hearts of the multitude. We need a revolution and we are in the midst of one, but we don’t fully know it yet. It is stirring in our hearts, the yearning for something truly and radically different. Russell Brand gave voice to it, in his interview with Jeremy Paxman. You can see it on youtube.

I watched question time the other week, and I nearly threw my shoe at the television. I was filled with such indignation at the lack of real debate.The ‘right’ and the ‘centre-left’ may as well be saying the same thing, the odd difference in policy, but a maintaining of the status-quo. We cannot and must not allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes. We cannot and must not allow ourselves to be hypnotised or enslaved in our thinking and believe that things cannot and will not change. Part of my job description at the moment is to try and help save/cut 70 million pounds from the health budget for the Morecambe bay area. Save 70 million pounds! I ask you! When there are billions of pounds in off shore tax havens?!

You see we do not dream of a future in which we allow competition and greed to drive us. We do not dream of a future in which our african children starve to death or our afghan brothers are killed by our european ones. We do not dream of a future in which our children are commodities, eaten up by an economic system that pitches them one against another. We do not dream of a future in which we value our children by their grades and devalue education to the degree that we measure success by literacy rates at the age of 16. We do not dream of a world where healthcare is about profit and the ones who need it most cannot access it. We do not dream of a world where we continually rape the earth of her resources and leave an unsustainable planet. We do not dream of a global economy in which the rich are protected and given more and more privilege whilst the ‘feckless poor’ are punished and scapegoated. We do not dream of a world in which girls are slaves within a sex industry. We do not dream of a world in which there is such disparity between rich and poor. We do not dream of a world in which we spend trillions of dollars on war because we have such a skewed idolatry of nation states. We do not really believe that war will eventually bring real peace. We do not dream of a world in which billions of dollars are siphoned into tax-free havens so the rich can build their super yachts and we have to cut back our public services to the extent that the only other alternative on the table becomes to privatise everything and increase yet more competition whilst sacrificing our very souls. NO!

We dream of something different. We imagine a very alternative future to the dominant reality of our time. We hope for something far more beautiful. We are in a change of eras and we must not be scared. We must not be silenced and we must not give up. Something is stirring in our hearts and we must let it stir us more into love and action.

Can you imagine a world in which we didn’t send young men and women off to war, but instead trained them to rebuild cities that have been devastated, like Damascus, or taught them to irrigate deserts so that streams would flow there and there would be no need for starvation? Can you imagine a world with multiple economic systems based on gift in which the primary drive was giving and receiving instead of buying and selling? Can you imagine people living where they want to, not only where they can afford to? Can you imagine excellent healthcare available to all people everywhere, not just in the rich, developed lands, but given freely to all who need it? Can you imagine a radical overhaul in how we create energy? Can you imagine a government which doesn’t dominate or control and isn’t in the pocket of multinational corporations, but rather serves the real needs of the peoples and partners with other governments to ensure everybody has enough, through a sharing of resource and ideas? Can you imagine businesses which are not driven by greed, but by the needs of the communities around them? Can you imagine laws that really free us to live and breathe and have our being, but protect the most vulnerable rather than exploiting them? Can you imagine education that celebrates difference, creates a genuine love of learning and inspires the next generation to go even further in love and creativity? It’s not beyond our imaginings! It is the longing of our hearts. It is what God gave life to us for……to love, to create, to heal, to steward, to tenderly care for, to enjoy.

There are many solutions to explore. There is much co-creating to be done. We must end the commodification of human beings and the earth and treat one another and the land as friends. We must resist the temptation towards violence and hate. We can dismantle the old oppressive systems whilst building together a wholly different future. Do not be put off by a seeming lack of answers. If we ask the questions, more questions will come! And from more questions, we will together discover some answers we hadn’t thought of before. The earth is calling for it, our hearts are longing for it, the spirit groans for it. It is time. It is time for a deep and long-lasting revolution of love.