Political education and understanding prejudice in the modern world

Holocaust Memorial Day and Political Education

My name is Joe Booth. I’m a 16-year-old left-wing Labour Party activist from the London Borough of Hackney. I’m currently in my final year at secondary school at an academy in Hackney Downs part of the Mossbourne Federation.
My school is a pressurizing experience: Students are given at least 2 pieces of long homework a day, Christmas was only for 13 days, the examination structure is 100% just exams, students get long detentions for simply standing up without permission, school starts at 8.17am every day and so it continues. But in this article I want to address another issue in studying, which is how school students should be entitled to political education, and specifically that issue is – as it’s an issue for this month (January) – is Holocaust Memorial Day and the need for political education over it.
Holocaust Memorial Day
At an assembly at my school, a teacher gave a lecture on Holocaust Memorial Day, and why it is important to never repeat those horrors of the Nazis: the Nazi ideal to kill millions of people just for their characteristic shall never be repeated!, we need to be wary and have open eyes on hatred and prejudice occurring today, it still occurs today with the situation of Donald Trump and his racism, sexism and homophobia. That’s all correct.
But don’t forget the more structural ways hatred and prejudice occurs in the modern world: black people are still murdered by the American police for the institutionally racist idea that they’re dangerous, migrants in the UK are still scapegoated and attacked by neo-fascists and our Tory government, our British government still sells weapons to Saudi Arabia which allows them to behead gays and women who don’t abide by patriarchy, a lot of Britons are indifferent to the catastrophes and casualties in the Syrian Civil War, and so it continues. So is prejudice and hatred still occurring?! Yes!!
It is, but we need to remember how structural it can be. What was the result of the 1993 racist murder of black student, Stephen Lawrence? The Metropolitan Police covered it up, and institutionally excused the killers, dismissing the voices of Stephen’s parents and their lawyer. Nevertheless, Stephen’s parents never stopped fighting and since then, led a campaign which bread the 1999 MacPherson Report that led to the sackings of the corrupt police who covered it up, and in 2013 Stephen’s mother, Doreen became a Labour Party Member of the House of Lords. You see, that gives us a much better understanding of how structural prejudice can be and how it still continues today, even in the most subtle means.
So, while the authorities rightly tell us to not be racist or otherwise discriminatory, but in our society, as we have just found, the authorities themselves advocate racism and discrimination. So, we need to learn to question and debate the authorities, which means that not only should we have political education at school but that it should be education in how to think critically rather than education as being told what to think.
So, on Holocaust Memorial Day, I will agree with the message we’re told by teachers that the Holocaust should not repeat but I am also going to think about why it happens and how to stop it from happening again, and not just on Holocaust Memorial Day but throughout the year.
Political Education and Stress in Studying
Now, I and some others have launched a campaign in September 2017 called Take The Stress Out Of Studying (TSOS) demanding to reduce distress, improve mental health and improve education. Here’s a link to the website: tsos.blog. Starting from Christmas, I set up a chat group of students at my school involved heavily in TSOS.
One of the group’s and other TSOS supporters’ demands was for political education and debating to be held in schools, without students having to submit to arbitrary school authoritarianism. What we need is political education and debating rather than just regularly-organised and rigid lectures from teachers about the issue where nobody gets to argue back or have a simple debate. In this case, we need more democratically-structured political education over the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust and why neither of the two should be repeated, and just as importantly, how we can recognise racism and discrimination today – and how structural the two can be.
Likewise, on December 9, 2017, I went to a Hackney Young Labour launch and we discussed ways to support the youth in Hackney within the education system: some of us argued for politics to be a compulsory school subject, and some others argued for more campaigns to be launched amongst the youth, like TSOS, and for more democratically-structured debating clubs to be held. Funny enough, I’m already in the process amongst Hackney Young Labours to establish a Young Labour group in Hackney, and if that works, a debating club will tentatively be opened – which I’ve already discussed with comrades – and there’ll be a bigger integration into politics.
So, while it is important that we learn properly about how to fight the existing prejudices in society, but under our school system, as we have just found, students are not learning to critique racism in such ways that we can think independently. So, we need to learn more political education within schools more regularly, which means that it should be education in how to think critically rather than education as being told what to think.
So, when we begin demanding for more political debating in the school system and specifically, to understand racism and discrimination in the modern world, we will demand, amongst the TSOS campaign, for more democratically-structured debating sessions and the chances to think more critically.

In solidarity, Joe Booth

Too much homework and not enough rest?!!!

13 Days of Christmas, 4 long homeworks, and rigid preparation for exams. Take The Stress Out Of Studying

My name’s Joe Booth. I’m a Yr11 student at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, and I wanna start an expanded discussion on one collective pressure amongst students around me.

Now we have a tradition that in every holiday, esp Xmas, we need a break, and a rest. Well, I’ll say: At MCA, we never got one! We only had 13 days of Xmas, prior to longer summer holiday, and had at least 3 long homeworks to complete. So we never got a break. Already, at school, I see so many tired faces amongst students and staff (but mainly students) because only 2 days after partying until 6am, they’re back at school, overworked and got detentions for not completing or doing homeworks.

This simply cannot go on! How are you learning if your head hurts?! Already, I’ve spoken to at least 50/1000 students at school (I only know at least 80) and all of them are pissed off! We all want an education system where we’re not overworked, not exploited, not detained, and we get a proper rest!

But the movement at school is in jeopardy: managers confiscated the petition whilst I was petitioning in the playground, and all that’s left is for me and others is to put pressure on the school with 2000 against 100, for a more evident deputation to be held.

Please please share and join in this discussion. This is a real step-forward to taking the stress out of studying and specifically for longer breaks at school. If you’re one of these students or anyone (of any kind) in a similar situation please leave comments down below and we’ll have a large discussion and democratic conclusion.

In solidarity, Joe Booth

Motion to NEU conference (30 March to 3 April 2018)

Good news:

Our campaign – Take The Stress Out Of Studying (TSOS) – has been added to the agenda of the National Education Union (NEU) conference as a motion from March 30 to April 3 2018.

If you go to this link, and find Motion 70 on the list of motions, it is there. https://www.teachers.org.uk/news-events/events/annual-conference

For those who are attending, it is useful and necessary to think about additional notions, e.g. supporting the students’ struggle in the campaign. Already, I’ve set up a team of students in my school who are heavily involved, for information.

Please share, attend and spread the word!

Linking the Picturehouse strike for a Living Wage with the TSOS campaign for stressless education

Workers and Students United! No to Stress in Studying! No to Low Pay!

My name is Joe Booth. I’m a 15-year-old socialist from the London Borough of Hackney. I’m currently in my final year at secondary school at an academy in Hackney Downs called the Mossbourne Federation. My school is a pressurizing experience: Students are giving at least 2 pieces of long homework a day, the examination structure is 100% just exams, students get long detentions for simply standing up without permission, students have to wear spotless black socks, school opens at 8.17am, and so it continues. It’s even pressurizing to teachers and other members of staff: Some work from 7.40am to 6.30pm, teachers spend their entire weekends with marking, classes often have over 15 students in total, a lot get overwhelmed responding to over 20 emails and organising their duties simultaneously, and so it continues.

This simply cannot continue! The stress and overload gets in the way of our learning and teaching, and has led to loss of self-esteem, demoralisation to get into higher education and high suicide rates.

You can read more about our solution to the mental health crisis here: www.workersliberty.org/node/30996. And about the surprising suicide rates here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36378573.

Hence, I and others launched a campaign in September this year called Take The Stress Out Of Studying, calling for the unity and solidarity of students, workers, parents, trade unions and the rest of the labour movement to draw up and mobilise for demands that will reverse education cuts, improve mental health, improve education, abolish school authoritarianism – i.e. exam pressure, bullying, large class sizes, curriculum rigidity, uniforms, UCAS – and give students and workers the individual attention they require. Websites are: tsos.blog | https://www.facebook.com/tsos.socialism

Coincidentally, I attended a picket line on Thursday, 14 December, 2017 at Hackney Picturehouse against the mistreatment of the workers at the cinema and every other Picturehouse and Cineworld cinema in the United Kingdom. The Picturehouse workers have been on strike now for over a year: they’re paid £9.30 per hour, no access to sick, maternity or paternity pay, and the managers are refusing to negotiate with them.

This simply cannot continue! No workers at such cinemas can give you tickets to watch Star Wars, give you pizza and coke to enjoy whilst relaxing, or anything for the means of production for our people – that’s the power in the hands of a worker – if they don’t receive enough money for a decent home, TV or any decent living standards, or don’t get paid at all if they break their legs, have a new offspring or anything to require a vital day off work.

You can read more about the campaign for this strike and sign the petition here: https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/picturehouse-cinemas-pay-your-staff-a-living-wage

Hence, I did a speech on that demonstration, conveying my solidarity with the strike and announcing my Take The Stress Out Of Studying (TSOS) campaign. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0UubAO17fo&feature=youtu.be&a=.

The points of solidarity between the Picturehouse strike and the campaign for stressless education, of which are

–          Students are the future of the workers, so why not support the workers who’re on strike for a Living Wage, if you’re supporting the movement for better and stressless education – Workers and Students United!

–          It was the workers who fought for a weekend, and a summer holiday, and an NHS – so why not support the fight for a Living Wage – No to Low Pay!

–          Too many students are demoralised during education, so they abandon their will to continue learning and get into the workforce so easily, as they cannot think for themselves – No to Stress, No to Exams!

–          If you’re a student, or education worker and you’ve crossed the picket line to see Star Wars, think again: these are people of our class – the workers – who are fighting for enough money for their lives and better treatment whilst serving you at work, and going into the cinema during this boycott will undermine our strike, and let the managers continue to pay their workers low pay – Picturehouse and Cineworld makes so much money, but doesn’t share any of it – so why not support the workers fight for better wealth for life and better treatment in the workforce?!! – Workers and Students United!

–          If you’re a Picturehouse striker and you support academisation and the exam system, think again: students are the future of our class – the workers – and they all want to learn, but their education collapses when they’re given 3 homework’s a day, and 2 hour detentions for defying unnecessary rules – let alone students, teachers and other school workers are demoralised in the workforce when they have to deal with 20 students at once, respond to over 15 emails simultaneously, and work for 11 hours a day – Workers and Students United!

Therefore, I call on students, education workers, parents, the labour movement, cinema workers and everyone who receives low pay, ever-lasting workload and workforce mistreatment of any sort, to expand the TSOS campaign and Picturehouse strike. So, if you or anyone else is in either of these situations, please invite people to TSOS – tsos.blog – convey them your solidarity and empathy, sit down and confer with them about their anxieties, explain patiently why workers and students should be fit to fight for better pay and stressless education in solidarity, pass motions onto your local trade union or Labour Party branch about TSOS and the Picturehouse workers and sign the petitions: https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/picturehouse-cinemas-pay-your-staff-a-living-wage | https://tsosdotblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/tsospetition.pdf.

We need to continue the struggle for better pay and stressless education, so why not attend the Picturehouse Strike Solidarity Gig on 10th January, 2018 at 7pm, where you can have discussions and meet like-minded people about the strike. Book tickets quickly: https://www.facebook.com/events/349171762223405/. I’m going to be leading a street stall in East London soon in the New Year of 2018; location, time and date TBC, but if you sign our petition and give your Gmail address, I can email you for information.

There’s a saying for the birth of every proletarian, socialist mass movement: Agitate, Educate and Organise. And that’s exactly what’s linking these two struggles together.

 

In solidarity, Joe Booth

How to tackle the exams that are operating today

Today’s Solution to Mock Exams: No to Stress, No to Exams!

My name is Joe Booth, I’m 15 years old and I’m from the London Borough of Hackney. I’m currently revising very hard for my mock exams from December 4th to 13th, 2017, and so are other peers of mine. It’s called a collective pressure: almost everyone at my school, of my area, of my age and of my generation is constantly having to revise very hard for their continuous exams, as a mere response to the extreme pressures of exams and our school system.

It’s been too hard for us. So many students in this situation are having to find the most pressurized strategy possible to pass their exams: some I know have come off social media to revise hard, over 6 students simultaneously go to the library every Saturday, so many (including me) have to spend their entire days revising and missing their events or other personal plans, and so it goes on. Too many of us have even been demoralised in this situation: students (including me) have taken days off school due to anxiety or depression, too many students (especially ones in need) express high distress during tests and get given negative sanctions if they lash out, 26% of students experience suicidal thoughts, and so it goes on.

You can learn more about this factor of youth mental health reading this:
workersliberty.org/node/30996

Like with most of the British school system now, my academy is focused centrally around exams and qualifications of students in lieu of teaching them their subjects. Four years ago, when doing GCSEs, students could do project work and 75% exams and 25% course-work. Now, it is just exams. There’s not even work experience at my school for Yr10 students, like how their used to be. There is now debating clubs – which were suspended between 2014 and 2017, for examination reasons – but so many of us (including me), who would love to debate and are good at it, cannot attend, due to so much catch-up work, intervention work, unnecessary detentions and all kinds of factors related to examinations and education hierarchy.

This simply cannot continue! We’re all students who want to learn as much as we can, but we cannot think independently under this hierarchical school system that only cares about qualifications, obedience and hard revision. Most students are not even learning if they’re demoralised or become virtually rebellious. Hence, I intend to interview and confer with most students about their personal anxieties and vulnerabilities about their exams – one strategy would be to produce bulletins: papers that collect information from the oppressed, present articles on how to fight their oppression, and present thousands of ideals to build their solidarity from all related struggles.

Which is followed by the expansion and support of the campaign to Take The Stress Out Of Studying! So, if you or anyone else is in this situation, please invite people to this campaign – tsos.blog – convey them your solidarity and empathy, sit down and confer with them about how to end this pressure and overload, pass motions onto your local trade union or Labour Party branch and sign the petition for Department for Education: https://tsosdotblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/tsospetition.pdf.

We must continue fighting for a free, stressless and properly educative education system, so why not join the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) – a national campaign for this entire cause – at its Winter Conference in Liverpool on the 9th and 10th of December this year where we will discuss our next steps and where you can meet like-minded people.

In solidarity, Joe Booth

Report of the March for Free Education (15/11/2017)

A 14-year-old Labour Party and education activist called Hasan Patel wrote a report of the national demo for free and better education on November 15, 2017, and shares his own views on how to continue this struggle.

Please share this all over social media, and use it for the struggle for free and democratic education.

Free Education Now! Tax the Rich!

My name is Hasan Patel, I’m 14 years old and I’m from the East End of London. On the 15th of November, 2017, I marched with thousands of other students from across the country on the national demo for free education which was organised by the stellar organisation, the NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts). The NCAFC is a voluntary organisation led by student and education worker activists from around the U.K.

The three main demands presented at the demo were: “Scrap all fees”, “Living grants for all” and “Stop the campus cuts”. Even though the demographic of the demo mostly consisted of university students, there were several schoolchildren, including me. Like many others nationally, my school has to deal with severe budget cuts everyday. My own teachers have to spend their own money on basic equipment as they are being squeezed by tight budgets. My Arts department is losing out because smaller budgets mean that they have to focus on academic subjects such as English and Mathematics. Class sizes are increasing.

This simply can’t go on. That’s why I mobilised for and marched on this demonstration. I know that this does not have to happen. I know that it is the same government attacking higher education that is cutting my school’s funding. It is in my interest to fight for the education that I deserve.

The march was very lively and full of young and vibrant energy. It was an awe-inspiring and motivating experience. Some of the chants included: “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” and “Education should be free, not just for the bourgeoisie!” We also passed Picturehouse Central cinema in the heart of the West End where workers are striking for a living wage and against zero-hour contracts. Things started to kick off here with chants, such as “What’s disgusting? Union busting! What’s outrageous? Poverty wages!” Solidarity!

Once we reached Parliament Square, we assembled for the closing rally. I was given the chance to speak and I spoke about the school cuts I’m facing as well as about the vision for a National Education Service that a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would deliver. It was my favourite moment of the day by far and my speech has amassed 30K views online! Here’s the link if you want to see it:

https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2017/11/16/fourteen-year-old-hasan-patels-fantastic-speech-at-the-free-education-now-rally-yesterday/

We must continue fighting for a free and properly funded education system, so why not join the NCAFC at its Winter Conference in Liverpool on the 9th and 10th of December this year where we will discuss our next steps and where you can meet like-minded people.

Thank you, Hasan Patel