Schools and racism
There is no doubt that institutionalised racism exists within British schools.
I think the cards are stacked against black children right from the point of school planning. Brixton in south London is a case in point. In an area where the school population is predominately black, there is not even a secondary school in the area.
Every year, 600 children finish year six in Brixton. Many have to travel to other boroughs to get a secondary school place. Yet some years ago the local education authority sold off Dick Shepherd School to be made into luxury flats. It’s clear where the priorities of our council lie and it’s not with trying to provide high quality education to our community.
Kirsten Ritchie, South London
The problems facing black children in education are extremely serious as highlighted in Socialist Worker (How schools fail black children, 15 October). The problem does not lie with individual teachers and their prejudices but with the current education system in Britain today.
Teachers, both black and white, worked incredibly hard throughout the 1970s to deal with the problem of racism in education — and a lot of real gains were made. But the way the education system works means that we still see a disproportionate number of black children, especially black boys, being failed by the system.
It really comes down to class and money. Children from the poorest families end up in schools with the least money and therefore the least resources —and the problems facing black children are made worse.
David Gillborn rightly says in his article that one of the big problems facing black boys is the negative stereotypes that surround them. But in a lot of ways they are the same negative stereotypes that surround all working class boys—they are designated as failures from the start.
Poor children are fighting a system where the odds are stacked against them.
There are three tiers to education in Britain. There are the public schools for those who can afford them. There are the good schools in good areas — these don’t charge fees, apart from the house you have to buy to be in the catchment area. They receive large donations from wealthy benefactors.
Then you have the schools that the majority of working class children attend. These have less facilities, less money, and less time for the children.
If we want to deal with the problems facing black children in education we need to deal with the inequalities facing all our children — and change the whole system.
John Laurencin, East London
I read with interest the article, “How schools fail black children”. It is a shame you did not mention that Bernard Coard, the author of the study you so rightly praise, has been a political prisoner for the last 21 years.
As deputy prime minister of Grenada before the US invasion in 1983, he was convicted, along with 16 others, by a kangaroo court of the murder of the Maurice Bishop, the prime minister. Amnesty International has condemned the trial and the torture of the defendants.
The continued imprisonment of the Grenada 17 clearly has more to do with justifying the US invasion than any concern for justice.
My union Natfhe has joined the growing international demand for their release.
Steve Cushion, Natfhe national executive council
Iraq and liberation
I recall listening to George Bush’s speech at the United Nations (UN) general assembly in November 2002, when he sold his war on Iraq. He cited the rights of the Kurds, Turkmens and women.
I could not stop myself from shouting abuse at the radio. This came from the head of the nation that has subjected Iraq to continuous bombardment since 1991 and placed Iraq under a harsh economic siege.
Sanctions caused the Iraqi economy to grind to a halt. The largest group of people who were directly affected by the sanctions were women and children.
So it seems part of the neo-conservatives’ doctrine is to launch warfare on a country, destroy all its institutions, dump thousands of tonnes of depleted uranium that will poison the environment for the foreseeable future and allow the looting of its assets, all in order to liberate its women!
How come none of the women in the new national assembly have adopted the cause of women imprisoned by the US in lieu of their fathers, husbands and brothers. How about adopting the cause of Iraqi women refugees, internally displaced due to US raids and bombardment?
Forgive me if I get exasperated with Western feminists who seem to totally ignore the plight and wishes of the majority of Iraqi women.
Women’s rights face grave threats from the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation and giving oil companies long term leases and exclusive rights for oil exploration.
The constitution, voted on last weekend, paves the way for such an agenda. It weakens the role of the central government and proposes that “it has control over existing oil fields”. Some 80 percent of Iraq’s oil is unexplored.
It is wrong to present the conflict in Iraq as secular against Islamists, rather than occupiers and their stooges against the anti-occupation camp.
The final draft of the constitution was put forward by Zalmay Khalilzad. It omitted an earlier clause put forward prohibiting the presence of foreign military bases in Iraq.
Tahrir Swift, Orpington, Kent
Consumers are aiding modern day slavery
Would you buy products made in factories that force pregnant female workers to have abortions to keep their jobs or put children to work who have had to quit school to keep families from starving?
You do. We have out-sourced slavery from our society.
Today, three billion people, 240 million of them children, work in sweatshop factories in the poor nations of the world for $2 a day in slave conditions.
The well-informed middle class consumer continues to buy products made under these conditions, keeping him or herself “ignorant” of what he or she is really well-aware.
Corporate greed can only exist as long as there is a personal greed on the part of the middle class consumer for the products they offer.
Most of these products are bought with discretionary money that would be better used on earth-sustaining projects. Without the middle class consumer, the large retailers would have no incentive to contract factories to produce goods.
The Russian Marxist Lenin wrote that the impoverishment of people strengthens capitalism.
The middle class is a willing partner in an economic system that is doing just that.
So next time you look in the mirror and say to yourself “Lookin’ good”, check the labels on your clothing and ask yourself, are you really lookin’ good?
Paul Bamberger, Greenland, US
Don’t shut down debate on power
We need a debate on nuclear energy. I was surprised that the editorial of Socialist Worker (Say no thanks to nuclear power, 8 October), rules it out.
The editorial sets the party line on this issue. Who is going to disagree?
The editorial calls implicitly for the demand of renewables over nuclear at the 3 December national demonstration over climate change.
Nuclear science is pure science. We, as Marxists, should not rely on popular statements such as “Homer Simpson works at Sellafield”, even though it might be true.
If we campaign against any new nuclear power build, and rely on such statements, it might interest the local community and those in the anti-nuclear lobby. This is not the way to debate the wider population on nuclear energy.
The purpose of a debate within the party is to get the facts out and educate those who are less well informed with reasoned arguments.
Socialists are at a disadvantage against the capitalists, as they have all the resources and knowledge. We have to rely on incomplete information. By closing the debate down in this way, Socialist Worker is doing the party a disservice.
Simon Dowdeswell, by e-mail
Sajid family are safe
The Sajid family who were recently deported from Teesside to Pakistan (Where are the Sajid family?, 15 October) have not been harmed in the terrible earthquake which has struck their homeland.
Mohammed Sajid phoned family friend Christine Stubbs last week.
Unfortunately, the government had its way and the family were manhandled out of the country.
However, they are now staying with family. Mohammed said they were safe and that he was missing his friends in England.
Peter Brennan, by e-mail
Back appeal for vital paper
I work as a hod carrier. It is physically demanding and I work very long hours. Because of this I rely on Socialist Worker as the only newspaper I read.
I want to congratulate all those who worked on the brilliant 20 page issue for the 24 September anti-war demonstration.
The articles exposing the attack on the Basra police station to the post civil war Reconstruction in the US meant I was given the contemporary and historical analysis I needed.
I would urge all Socialist Worker supporters to donate to the appeal.
John Curtis, Margate
A pause for Pinter award
It was great to see the playwright Harold Pinter win the Nobel Prize for Literature last week.
It is thoroughly deserved for his almost 50 years of challenging and emotionally revealing work. Pinter has spent the last few years lashing Bush and Blair with his prose and poetry for their imperialist wars.
Pinter is the perfect example of a politically committed artist who has spent his life campaigning and writing against injustice.
Katherine Branney, East London
Taxes should hit wealthy
Property tax is the best way to raise local tax but it is unfair at present.
A single person earning £100,000 gets a discount on council tax. Holiday/second home owners are given council tax discounts even though they are obviously wealthy.
Even more tax benefits start in 2006. It is disgraceful that pensioners do not receive a discount on council tax.
The answer is to means test the single person’s discount and create a new tax, a holiday/second home tax — say £500 a year.
The money raised would give a healthy discount for pensioners. It taxes the wealthy for the benefit of the needy.
N Gilbourne, Hull
Families unite for justice
The Azelle Rodney Campaign for Justice attended the de Menezes justice campaign launch last week.
As Azelle’s mother I wanted to meet the family and tell them that I had already previously gone through this in April when my son was shot in the head by the police in the street.
I wanted the de Menezes family to know that they are not alone. Through the grief they may not have seen us, but we have been there.
We have to keep pressing for an end to the shoot to kill policy and the treating of people and their families in this inhumane way. We must get the truth.
Azelle Rodney Campaign for Justice, West London
Learn your animals
I would like to correct your issue of 15 October. In Who Says you described the brilliant rugby league player, and socialist, Kevin Sinfield as being from Leeds Broncos.
As any fan could tell you, Sinfield plays for Leeds Rhinos. Leeds lost in the Super League final to Bradford Bulls last weekend.
William Bennett, Leeds