Why the Goves need a little history lesson

Below, my column in Education Guardian today.

A few weeks ago this newspaper published a piece by Sarah Vine, Daily Mail columnist and wife of the education secretary, Micheal Gove, explaining why they had decided to send their daughter to a London state school.

It was a funny and lively article, and I agreed with just about every word. I was particularly drawn to Vine’s argument about the importance of educating students with very different interests and talents alongside one another, her belief that state schools produce more rounded, socially open citizens and her surprisingly robust criticism of the exclusivity and excessive competition of so much of the private sector.

Yet as time has gone on, Vine’s article has unsettled me. Why? Am I being irrational or ungenerous, unable to welcome even the spouse of an uncompromising Tory frontbencher over to “our” side of the educational divide?

Read the rest of the article here.

The Ghost Road

Below, my latest piece in Guardian Comment, on education’s growing culture of overwork, and how it is affecting children and parents.

Do you know a ghost child? Are you possibly raising one? A report this week by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) pinpoints a worrying new phenomenon – the institutionalised infant, a whey-faced creature, stuck in school for 10 hours a day, the child of commuting parents possibly, wandering from playground to desk to after-school club without real purpose, nodding off through boredom and fatigue.

The sad thing is, as yet another timely ATL report brings home, the ghost child is increasingly likely to be taught by the ghost adult – a teacher grey with fatigue and stress, stuck at school for 10 hours or more a day, wandering from duty to duty in playground, classroom or after-school club. Both, it seems, are part of a culture that increasingly overworks our citizens, from a younger and younger age, in the often fruitless quest for job security and social mobility.

Read the rest of the article here.

Upcoming events and discussions

Apologies for lack of website activity over the past few months (site statistics suggest a lot of you have been visiting this site during this period) but I am sure regular readers will understand – given the final illness and death of my father, Tony Benn, a few weeks ago – why I have been so quiet.

Am now, slowly, picking up the threads of life and work.

Below, then, a few upcoming public events/discussions.

Most, but not all, of these connect to the late March paperback publication of ‘What Should We Tell Our Daughters?’ For reviews of the book, see previous post.

But many of these discussions touch on more general feminist themes and are part of a wonderfully diverse and vibrant ongoing public debate on so many aspects of women’s lives.

Please come along!

April 16th,Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford, at 7pm.

I will be in conversation with Selina Todd about ‘The People’, her extraordinary history of the working class over the last century.

April 22nd 7pm

ELF debate: Fifty Years of Feminism.

With Jude Kelly, Laura Bates of ‘Everyday Sexism’ and Beatrix Campbell.

Venue: Rich Mix (in the main space), 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA
Time: 22 April 2014 at 7pm

This is a free event, but RSVP is essential – book your tickets here. You can also watch the live stream online from 7pm
@EastFawcett#Feminism50

Apparently this event is now sold out, but there is a waiting list for those still keen to come.

April 29th 6pm Stratford Arts House/ part of Stratford on Avon Literary Festival

World War 1 – the War that Changed Women’s Lives.

Chaired by the writer Vik Groskop, our panel will discuss the impact of the war on women,
some of the women who had the most impact on social change for women and ask how much
further women have come on the road to equality. With Baroness Shirley Williams and novelist Judith Allnatt.

May 1st 6.30pm

The F word: Twenty First Century Feminism

Discussion with writer Anne Dickson on modern feminism, particularly looking at the role of men in current campaigns.

May 12th 7pm

Discussion on ‘What Should We Tell Our Daughters?’hosted by the wonderful independent hackney bookshop Pages.

With Kat Banyard of UK Feminista and Kate Pickett, co-author of The Spirit Level, chaired by Zoe Williams of the Guardian.

May 13th 7pm

Smashing The Glass Ceiling: Women in the PUblic Sphere.

At the Working Men’s College, Crowndale Road, Camden.

With Tulip Siddiq, Amy Lame and Bonnie Greer.

Free lectures – reserve places by email or phone
Tel: 020 7255 4748
Email: lectures@wmcollege.ac.uk


Coming up…..!

Will post further summer events in a couple of weeks: including a first ever visit, with the Local Schools Network, to the Sunday Times Education Conference and two events at the Edinburgh festival.