Socialist Worker

Full marks for standing up to Blair over education

Issue No. 1849

WHAT SORT of school curriculum do our children deserve? New Labour plans to label 14 year olds as sheep who will follow an 'academic pathway' - based on exams - or goats forced into second class 'vocational' education.

Children walked out onto the streets in protest against Bush and Blair's war. They showed they could make judgements, democratically decide on action and carry it out. Blair expects these same children to calmly accept being segregated in school. We need an education that serves working class children, that helps develop their skills as fully rounded people and encourages them to believe in themselves and their abilities.

The teachers' decision to mount a campaign to boycott the SATs tests was a breath of fresh air and an important step in defence of comprehensive education. The testing regime in our schools has demoralised children for the last ten years. The fun and excitement of learning has been destroyed for many children, who arrive at secondary school already turned off from learning.

They are the ones who will suffer under New Labour's 'sheep and goats' approach. Getting rid of SATs will challenge New Labour's agenda for a divisive and elitist education system.
Fran Postlethwaite, Barnsley

AS A parent of three young people who have all had to suffer the stress of the SATs tests I am absolutely delighted that finally the National Union of Teachers (NUT) leadership are to launch a fight against these tests.

Any teachers could tell you that the tests have only meant more stress for them and less time actually teaching individuals at their own level. The vote at the NUT conference is a vindication for parents and teachers who have for a long time been against the SATs.

Blair and New Labour have failed the test on education, education, education. They can spend billions on the destruction, slaughter and chaos in Iraq, whilst our children are being taught in overcrowded and understaffed schools. Good luck to the teachers. I'll be 100 percent behind their fight.
Beccy Palmer, TGWU union member, North London

Police and racism: the facts say guilty

IT'S TEN years since a gang of racists was allowed to get away with murdering Stephen Lawrence. The Macpherson report found the police investigation into his brutal killing was infected by 'institutional racism'.

On the anniversary of Stephen's murder the police are desperate to claim they have learnt the lessons. Commander Cressida Dick, head of the Met's diversity unit, claims, 'There has been a sea-change and we have changed dramatically. Inroads had been made in improving the way the force tried to eradicate racism.' But the facts expose that the police are still racist.

At the time of Stephen's murder black people were eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. Today black people are now 27 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than whites.

The number of racist attacks reported is on the increase. Powerful police lobby groups orchestrated a backlash against the Macpherson report. New Labour's right wing home secretary David Blunkett has tried to rubbish the idea that racism is widespread by claiming 'institutional racism was a slogan that missed the point'.

Stephen Lawrence is remembered because people, black and white, understand there is still no justice if you are black and want to see that change.
Theresa Bennett, South London

Part of struggle

THANKS FOR your article about Hizbollah (26 April). Many people in the anti-war/anti-capitalist movement recoil in horror from political Islam. But Islam has provided a focus for liberation movements throughout the Middle East, including the emerging movement for liberation from US occupation in Iraq.

People equate Islam with repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, but groups like Hizbollah deserve to be counted alongside the Zapatistas as one part of the global struggle against capitalism.

We should do more to reach out to Muslims who want to be part of the movement for change.
John Kennedy, Southbank Against the War

Mersey blues over Lib Dems

MANY PEOPLE, rightly disgusted by the behaviour of New Labour, may have considered voting Liberal Democrat. The Liberal Democrat opposition to war lasted only until the war started. When the bombing started they quickly lined up behind the warmongers.

And the terrible reality here in Liverpool should be a warning to anyone tempted by the Liberals. We have had to live and work for years in a council controlled by the Liberal Democrats. A large proportion of the council workforce are now employed in 'joint venture partnerships' with private companies.

One of these so-called partnerships last week sacked 80 workers who used to repair council homes.

Members of the public who ring to report suspected child cruelty and hope to speak to a qualified social worker will in the near future have to deal with a call centre worker who is also responsible for stray dogs and burst pipes.

The council's latest attack on trade unions is an attempt to destroy shop steward organisation by the introduction of non-union staff reps. Yes, don't trust New Labour. But don't be fooled by the Lib Dems.
Unison shop steward, Liverpool council

Where will the road map lead?

WHAT'S YOUR opinion on the new road map for Palestine? I know it would be naive to think that it could end the brutal occupation/ subsequent suicide murders that dominate the region, yet it appears to me to at least be some final acknowledgement of the problem by the US/UK governments. According to the Business Times, it calls for Israel to get out of the Occupied Territories that they have stolen from the Palestinians since 1967 and for a viable Palestinian state to be set up.

Although it may well be a dead end - and any 'separate' Palestinian state is still likely to be impoverished and have its economy dominated by Israel - surely it's an important step that Blair is finally putting some serious thought into how to solve the problem.
Tony Vicenza, by e-mail

Israel link to Syria threats

THE PLAN for a US war against Syria is being instigated by defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. These two represent the neo-conservative think-tank which is pro-Israel and pro-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon needs extensive regional instability to cover large scale evacuation of Palestinians from Palestine. The war in Iraq was over too quickly to allow Israel the opportunity to carry out such operations. But a war in Syria, which is an enemy of Israel and supporter of Hizbollah, may allow Sharon his twisted ambition.
Stuart McCabe, Glasgow

Images of the global struggle

ANY SOCIALIST Worker reader who has the chance should pop into a photographic exhibition in London over the coming weeks. We Are Restless is by photographers Paul Mattsson and Guy Smallman, and is images of 'Five years of anti-capitalist and anti-war protests in Britain, Europe and the US 1999-2003'.

Both of the photographers are part of the movement they record, and have been to many of the great demonstrations and protests over those years. Readers will have seen some of their pictures in Socialist Worker. The exhibition is at the Foundry (Basement Studios), Great Eastern Street, London (near Old Street tube) from Wednesday 30 April to Sunday 11 May.
A reader, by e-mail

Still need for 'Stop the War'

OVER 70 people turned up to a Nottingham Stop the War Coalition public meeting last week entitled 'Iraq: This Is Not Liberation'. Speakers from the floor, in a thoughtful debate, pointed out that the Stop the War Coalition was founded to stop the 'war on terrorism' of which the attack on Iraq has just been the latest episode.

Bush and Blair show no signs of stopping their drive, which they try to cloak with talk of 'fighting terrorism', for control of the planet and its resources.
John Shemeld, Nottingham

Don't look in the Mirror

CHARLIE Kimber's article about the Mirror (Socialist Worker, 26 April) almost makes us feel sorry for its editor Piers Morgan. Why? The job of all capitalist media is to maximise the audiences delivered to advertisers. This means going for the ideological lowest common denominator in terms of content. Truly awful as it is, Fox TV News is the most watched in the US.

Morgan took a gamble that in the cut-throat circulation battle amongst the UK tabloids the moral high ground might just increase sales. Morgan's gamble failed. Even a 1.5 percent drop, on top of the losses from the price-cutting war, spelt failure.

The socialist media have completely different criteria. They aim to educate, agitate and organise. But given that all the press is losing out to the electronic media as our main source of news, surely the interesting question is why we haven't yet got a decent workers' radio station? It would not be financially beyond the means of the TUC, or even individual unions.
Nick Grant, West London

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Article information

Sat 3 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1849
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