These are precarious times. We are still reeling from the financial crisis of 2008, facing rising inequality and social discord, and there is a lack of trust and faith in democracy and existing accountability structures to engage with these issues. We have climate change, peak oil and scarcity of resources in an increasingly competitive world to look forward to.
Education should be a focus of and force for change towards a more sustainable, socially democratic and meaningful society yet educational policy reflects a narrow view of what education is (rote learning of facts), who is best placed to provide it (the private sector), and what are the problems (public sector workers and a lack of aspiration). Education policy, like health and other areas of public policy, reflects a crisis of the public as more and more sectors and services are turned over to the private sector. We appear to be entering the final stages of the privatisation of the public sector and public education. Always ideological this process seems ever more wrongheaded given the theoretical, moral and practical bankruptcy of the neoliberal project, and irrelevant in light of the crises we face.
The question as ever is what to do? There has been endless critique of the neoliberal project to little noticeable effect, with recent examples having been labeled ‘bad academia’ by the Secretary of State for Education, teachers and academics write letters, and unions pass votes of no confidence yet the reforms roll on.
We propose an alternative course, to develop a Co-operative approach to education and following on from this to the rest of the public sector and society also.
The project takes as its starting point Michael Apple’s (2006) chapter ‘Interrupting the Right: On Doing Critical Educational Work in Conservative Times’ in which he argues that the right wasn’t always so powerful, that they strategically and effectively articulated the current orthodoxy and learning from this process it would be possible to articulate and develop a credible and powerful alternative. We want to explore the Co-operative movement as the vehicle for this change.
The first step to develop a Co-operative alternative is an event to be held in Manchester at MMU (Didsbury Campus) on the 4thJuly 2013.
The event will feature keynotes presentation from Prof. Michael Apple (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Mervyn Wilson (Co-operative College). The day will feature inform and inspire sessions from a range of different types of Co-operative organisations to demonstrate the potential, ways of working and practical challenges. In the afternoon the assembled academics and educators will discuss and plan how to realise the potential of the Co-operative School Movement in the UK.
Check the website for more information.