Socialist Worker

Education: When only the grade matters

Issue No. 1711

MY SON Matthew is going into year 11 at school, when he faces his GCSEs. I feel I should encourage him to get 'good grades' because I would like him to have as many opportunities as it is possible to have in a capitalist society.

Maybe he could go to university, even if it does mean paying back loans for the rest of his life, and have a half interesting job with a half decent wage. However, as a socialist I can understand his frustration and disillusionment with the education system.

He believes in state education and has some very inspiring teachers. Yet to him most of the GCSEs he is doing seem incredibly tedious, with no time to explore any particular issue he becomes interested in.

This situation must be equally frustrating for many teachers. Our children seem set for a school life of endless testing and being labelled. Every year we hear of tragic cases of GCSE and A level students who commit suicide under the stress of their exams.

Small children have a limitless capacity to learn which is knocked out of them at school. I recently did a maths GCSE with other adults, many of whom believed they could not do maths-they never could at school. We all passed.

Now I'm studying with the Open University, where many people do extraordinary well despite often having to study with the distractions of a family or a job. Under capitalism most people's potential is never reached. But even with the many failings of the education system some do manage to begin to really learn. Just think what could happen in a socialist society!

JENNY HARRIS, Devon


Don't give in to racists over refugee hostel

It would appear that the owners of the empty former Quantock School at Over Stowey in Somerset have caved in to local racist pressure against asylum seekers.

They say the school is no longer for sale to be turned into a refugee hostel. There exists tremendous support for the project in both Nether Stowey and Over Stowey.

To give in to prejudice where there is media-fuelled ignorance and divided communities just makes racism acceptable. The school's facilities are ideal for a short stay refugee hostel before they can move on to long stay communities.

These facilities include an indoor swimming pool. What better than to throw open such facilities, formerly the preserve of public school pupils, to local villagers as well as refugees!

It is now up to anti- racists in the area to organise maximum pressure to get this situation reversed.

DAVE CHAPPLE, CWU rep and president Bridgwater TUC, Bridgwater


Prove it

ALEX LAIDLAW replies to my questioning of Socialist Worker's use of numbers on demonstrations (Letters, 29 July) saying that pro-hunting attracted larger numbers because the toffs who support it spread lies that a ban on it will ruin jobs.

Rural workers, afraid of losing their only means of support, join the demo, but not for any real desire to keep an outdated bloodsport. Has there been research to prove the pro-hunting lobby spreads these lies?

In other articles in your paper, like the one on Concorde, every statement is backed up by proof. This is what's needed.

MARK BORN, Netherlands


Inspired by US protests

I TOOK part in the magnificent demonstrations outside the Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles. More than 4,000 people demonstrated on 13 August to demand a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is on death row.

Over 10,000 people marched on 14 August to protest at the growing gap between rich and poor, the corporate domination of US politics, and other issues. The demonstration was backed by a broad coalition of groups including the California Nurses Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It culminated in a free concert by the radical rock band Rage Against the Machine.

After a handful of people threw plastic bottles at the police they declared the demonstration an 'unlawful assembly' and attacked it with teargas and rubber bullets. But thousands of people returned to the streets the next day, including big demonstrations by county workers and teachers fighting for new contracts.

Many of those at the protests are supporting Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. I left LA feeling inspired. These were the biggest demonstrations at the Democratic convention since Chicago 1968. A new movement for social justice is growing and millions of people are beginning to look for a left alternative.

PHIL GASPER, California


Not a two horse race

ANGELA CALDER seems to have missed the point about the US elections (Letters, 12 August). Both mainstream parties are diehard defenders of the capitalist order. The Republicans openly praise big corporations and cry out for deregulation. The Democratic Party threw its weight behind the Vietnam War to prove its anti-Communist credentials.

From what I have seen of Ralph Nader's platform, whether or not he calls himself a socialist, he embodies so many of our expectations of a more humane future. The greatest error is to focus entirely on the two party system as if everything hangs on pulling a lever to adjust the balance of forces on one day every four to five years.

JOHN JOHNSON, Essex


It's no lottery for Serco firms

Socialists across Britain need to investigate which companies the Labour government and local councils are signing private finance deals with. In Manchester the Metropolitan University announced it is closing its pool in Didsbury because it has put £1 million into the new pool for the Commonwealth Games.

This sparked a massive local campaign. Activists recently staged a protest during the filming of the National Lottery TV show to highlight how £23 million of lottery money has been put into a project which is leading to the closure of local facilities.

Serco, the company managing the Commonwealth Pool, also manages the university's sports centre, nearby Stockport's new pool, and operates the Metrolink tram system. Serco is also part of the consortium that recently won the contract to manage the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment, giving it 'technical custodianship of Britain's nuclear weapons stockpile'.

ED MYNOTT, Manchester


Just doing their job?

I WAS recently at the Faslane nuclear base protesting at the hugely expensive Trident nuclear submarines. Along with 70 other peaceful protesters I was dragged away by four police officers and arrested.

I was charged with breach of the peace and spent 12 hours in a police cell. Like Tony Blair's son Euan, I am 16 years old. I find it odd that although he was caught throwing up from underage drinking, then gave a false identity to the police, they did nothing but babysit him until he was picked up by his parents.

In our justice system are some more equal than others?

SIMON PICKER, Glasgow


Expose the scam

South Bedfordshire District Council's recent ballot to privatise its 6,000 council houses was resoundingly rejected-3,399 people voted against the proposals and only 1,298 for.

The council had spent £300,000 on glossy brochures, videos and even personal visits to homes. South Beds Against Council House Privatisation was formed after we began leafleting against the plans.

The UNISON union helpfully photocopied our leaflets so we could deliver our literature to all council tenants. As we managed to deliver more leaflets more tenants got in touch to help build the campaign.

Our energy and relatively high numbers meant we could cover several areas in one day. The public response was amazing. It was like pushing an open door. Privatisation is fast becoming a dirty word, and everyone could see it was a scam.

We now have a group ready to resist any future attacks from the council. Good luck to all other campaigns up and down the country.

STEVE COGHLAN, Luton


Postal point

I must put the record straight regarding the article 'What is Real Democracy?' (Socialist Worker, 5 August) Kevin Ovenden heaps praise on the Seattle anti-capitalist demo but ignores Reclaim the Streets. They are the biggest collective this country has ever seen.

The SWP will make a big mistake if it turns a blind eye to this force. Please give credit where it's due. See you all at S24.

JOHN CULLINGS, London


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Article information

Letters
Sat 26 Aug 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1711
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