PART 7 -GENERAL POINTS ON THE ISSUE OF RACE
Whilst compiling this autobiography a number of issues arose which I felt the need to
comment on, in some cases they arose when I was editing the video. I will attempt
not only to discuss the point but to try and throw a personal experiential light on the
issues. After collecting and discussing all the points in this part I realised that there
was a common theme to this section, a theme which I have discussed previously -
that in itself is quite interesting; I will draw together the threads of this theme in the
Multicultural vs Anti-Racist
Multicultural education, as an approach, recognises the equal value of
all cultures, and attempts to promote those cultures with equal value.
Anti-racist education recognises that racism exists in society and
insists that teaching take a positive stance to educate against racism.
Twitchin[p6] describes "multicultural education as something for all children in
schools, laying emphasis on ways of revising the curriculum in all subjects to reflect
a global perspective beyond traditional Eurocentric assumptions. According to this
view, it is the bulk of 'white' British children who are the most educationally deprived in
an increasingly interdependent world, by the monocultural and parochial confines of
many schools' curricula, and the conventionally Anglocentric approach to their
subject taken by many teachers". I think there is a recognisable confusion between
the two terms if you consider Twitchin's definition.
The difference comes in the practice, and some of the contentions that I described in
part 5 connect with this practice. Politically these approaches might be described as
liberal versus socialist but the multicultural approach was seen as much less strident
and avoided the political connections that should be made if you recognise that your
society is racist ie is it by intention?
But the issue became divisive because of the "ultra-left". Rather than working
alongside people who were only prepared to commit themselves to the multicultural
position, they would often confront and even alienate these people because the
multiculturalists would not take a forthright political position. These divisions in my
view hindered the development of the work. East Sussex work on this suffered from
the opposite reaction where, although their policy was excellent and contained all that
an anti-racist policy would contain, they were adamant that they did not call it
anti-racist. In one aspect of their criticism of the multicultural approach the "ultra-left"
were absolutely correct. If multicultural education were simply the celebration of
religious festivals together with a few pictures of black people on worksheets then
progress would not be made given the racist tide that is being fought.
What does anti-racism hope to achieve? I am a socialist, I know anti-racism is a
concomitant requirement for socialism - part of the process towards socialism must
include an anti-racist programme in order to establish the prerequisite of equality. But
this process towards socialism cannot achieve the end result of a socialist state
within our education system and within the national or global capitalist system it is a
part of. In retrospect I have no doubts that early anti-racists were trying to introduce
socialism into a capitalist system through the classroom, but this does not alter the
need for the work whatever some of the motivations.
I am wondering now whether to apologise for being active in anti-racist work. Should
we be running before we can walk? Education should have a rationalised programme
of issue innovation carefully graded in stages to allow the students and society to
gradually internalise these issues and programme for advance. This is idealistic and
is not likely to happen in the current education climate so work that should be carried
out, such as anti-racism, is only brought in under extreme conditions, away from
mainstream thought in education, and is often rejected by the students because of
that extremeness. However such a rationalised programme would require a political
will for such issues which I don't believe exists.
On Klein p112 she describes a school ethos. Excellent, I like it - so would Karl Marx
as would any communist party in the world. This is idealism in education politics.
What is the point in putting forward this ethos when there is no practical chance of it
happening in the current climate? Only as an educational blueprint - an ideal. But the
book is part of a series intended for trainee teachers so it becomes misleading. It
becomes part of the "self-realisation" deception where students are led to believe that
education is a "leading out" process towards self-realisation and by clinging to this
ideal disillusioned teachers fight for the rights of the children and become committed
to a vocation. As a counter to this self-realisation process some would contend that
schools are little more than exam factories, and that the fundamental rationale behind
these factories is to maintain the English class structure through public schooling
which includes jobs for their own class and a huge reserve army of unemployed
whose purpose is to frighten those in work into submission.
My point is "what is really intended in this issue of anti-racism?" It comes down to the
single issue approach, you cannot make demands for one issue and ignore the rest
of education and society's ills. Again we come down to the impossible, the need for a
centralised plan conceived in a democratic fashion with participation and consultation
with all interest groups.
Awareness Training and One-Issue Thinking
"The white teacher may 'programme' herself to a teaching style other than the one
most compatible with her own learning style [her perceived norm] one day, but the
'default' system requires her to 'reprogramme' herself daily. Conscious thought and
effort are required daily if we are to do our professional best for all the pupils in our
At Brixton Comprehensive I always found a willingness amongst the staff to consider
new approaches to help the black students, but as usual with such things teacher
time was at a premium. Although I personally did not conduct any training at Brixton
Comprehensive, I was a party to being trained. Although cynical at that time about
the value of such training, especially for myself because I was working elsewhere ie
ILEA anti-racist team, I felt the teachers made the effort to participate and learn.
Although this was not the training of the mea culpa because I'm white variety(see
Klein pp62-63 for detailed discussion together with my comments on anti-racism
earlier), it was mainly discursive trying to alter attitudes and therefore lacked the
quick-fix classroom answers that many professionals sought. Lacking this boost
many teachers were disillusioned but they still contributed - a change of attitude does
not occur through a one day workshop.
However what happened at the end of the workshop? These teachers went home to,
in general, white families, with society's newspapers and media, and friends and
neighbours usually also white. Even though at the end of the workshop they,
maybe, left with good intentions, by the time they had become reconditioned into the
lifestyle and attitudes that they were accustomed to the required deep attitude
changes asked of in the training had been wiped out. Evidence of the
potential for change was seen in the video. Eileen and other teachers had clearly
gone through some form of awareness[video 18:00 onwards] but as the man in the
working party said the tide was too strong[video 29:14].
The training of the unconscious is no easy matter, and when Klein describes the
programming process above I think she does an injustice to work done by many
teachers. Again I see this as a consequence of a one issue approach. There are
many factors which make up a teacher's personal, political and professional agenda,
and to make demands on these people is perhaps unfair. Having said that, at the
time I was very demanding and was not very tolerant of those who were not jumping
on the Race Equality bus.
I am concerned about Klein's closeness to the classroom - her biography[footnote A]
mentions no current or recent involvement at the chalkface. Editing a journal on
education keeps you abreast of what teachers are saying but it is not firsthand.
When speaking to kids in Brixton I often found their manner insolent(as with many
students worldwide). In Brixton these students would play on their cultural
differences and take advantage of teachers who were ignorant. A teacher has an
instinct, a teacher knows insolence etc., and worse the teacher must rely on that
instinct because of classroom pressures. What if that instinct is tainted by racism?
We then have a prerequisite of a teacher's armoury causing problems for black kids.
In Botswana the Batswana cultural respect is much more in evidence. Sometimes
women and girls curtsey, and on other occasions the left hand touches the right
upper arm when shaking hands or passing something out of respect; but not all do it.
Traditional Africans blame western influence for this breakdown, in part this is true
but the traditions are not being reinforced by the African society sufficiently[footnote
On Klein [p129] she observed how "a teacher who has regarded the downcast eyes
and lowered head of a Caribbean-origin pupil to be 'insolent' and has berated the
pupil accordingly, will respond quite differently if she understands that the posture
that had incensed her would, in the child's home culture, denote deference and
respect." In view of the instinctive deviousness of disruptive students I find this
position very simplistic. Here in Botswana downcast eyes are clearly in evidence but
on many occasions I have noticed this accompanied by a slouch and hands in or
near the pocket(with boys), both of which are signs of disrespect. If the teacher
notices the slouch and says "stand up straight" that's OK, if the teacher says "look me
in the eyes when I'm speaking to you", that's wrong. A very demanding code of
professionalism when so many other problems exist.
In my view the problem lies in the complaining atmosphere of English education. At
FSSS with 3B I was walking round and saw a picture of a pin-up; immediately I took
the pin-up, tore it and threw it away saying something like "I don't have such pictures
in my classroom." The boy whose book it was in wanted to argue but I wouldn't allow
it - it was maths lesson time. He thought about what to do, and after a few minutes he
got up walked to the waste paper box and tore off a small corner of the picture. On
this small piece was the name of a footballer.
It appeared that he had accepted that he was wrong for having the picture, but his
intention had been the footballer on the other side! He was concerned about his
image, he didn't want his classmates, and me?, to think that he had porn pictures.
With a slight defiance, getting up, his honour was satisfied but respectfully to me as
the teacher. No more was said.
In the prevailing climate of UK education I cannot imagine such a situation being
easily and amicably resolved. The climate of questioning the teacher in the media,
with the resulting questioning in the classroom, could have meant inordinate
ramifications of incident report writing, meetings with heads of year, headmasters,
Comparing this with Klein's downcast eyes, if the student was in the wrong in any
way then that student should be chastised, it is the student's responsibility to be
respectful to adults especially teachers. Out here students accept such chastisement
- that is the culture, the adult is right(Klein forgot to mention that adults are right in
Caribbean culture when she was advising the teachers - they are not right in the
English situation such courtesy has been lost or driven out). Concern about the race
issue can cause the problems. When Klein is criticised[p114], "there is even a .........
notion that talking about racism makes it happen. Someone once accused me of
being a cause of racism because the word appears in a title of another of my books",
her critics might, in part, be right for the wrong reasons. Complex, eh?
Although I haven't read Stuart Hall's development of the term the use of the word
"common-sense" absolutely incenses me and reminds me of problems that exist in
this arena - the problem of balance. The whole world does not have to be evangelical
about the issue of race, you do not have to eat breathe and sleep the struggle for
racial equality. And I know I would be criticised for having this attitude as being white
and not having to live the struggle everyday but the importance about any issue
whether it is gender, race or class, marxism, socialism, communism or simply
whether the proposed by-pass has to be rerouted is that you have to mobilise, the
"general" population has to want what you are proposing.
Why does the use of the term common-sense elicit my reaction? Common-sense is
usually knowledge of the non-academic variety, in many cases what might be termed
as common-sense has a sense of history that might place it in a wisdom tradition -
the wisdom of the old folk etc. Yet here Stuart Hall has used the term to describe
notions of racism which are commonly-held, such as "young Afro-Caribbeans are
muggers" and "Asian girls are docile"[Klein p44], but these are not common-sense
notions, it is not a common-sense perception to see all young black as muggers nor
is it a common-sense perception to see all young Asian girls as docile. It is a series of
stereotypes which is given credence by word of mouth through a community which is
more concerned with common hostility (and a misguided notion of self-preservation)
than it is with common-sense.
I often try to point to the use of common-sense in teaching maths. Mathematical
techniques are not always understood by students because, by their very nature, the
rational processes are abstracted at least one step back from reality. As a teacher
you will often find convoluted logic in questions, and this could quite easily be
demonstrated by taking a preposterous answer and referring it back to the context of
the question. My teaching is of the form "Look at your answer, look at the question,
does the answer make common-sense?", and serious students are usually then
sheepish. Should I then ask those same student "Is it common sense to say
Afro-Caribbean boys are muggers?"; there is a big problem if in this context of usage
the student says yes.
This use of the term might be classified as a problem of "one issue thinking". The
common sense usage of Stuart Hall might be better termed common credence but
"common-credence" is not catchy because it does not have common usage, and
therefore "common-credence racism" does not have the correct image, not sufficient
as a buzz word.
One further sadness about this is that I will guarantee that in some bar or some
meeting the above criticism of the usage would have been raised but because of the
one issue nature of the people common sense did not prevail!!
One Issue Thinking
Klein [pp47-48] quotes an example of a woman who has been racially harassed at
work and sought justice through NATFHE and was told that the union "had a duty to
protect the jobs of its members". She did not take up the discussion, one could easily
conceive of an implied criticism in this example and in her omission. The question
here is what do you do? Is the punishment for this non-physical(I believe it to be such
or it would have been stated) harassment the sack with all the possible hardship that
that could entail for the two men and their families? At the same time these men
should have been punished. Were they told to resign from the union because they did
not follow the union's code of conduct? (I would expect NATFHE to have a code of
conduct similar to the NUT). But then NATFHE are probably short of members, and
allowing the reduction of numbers by removing racists could seriously affect their
finances. And then if the union' finances are reduced, perhaps drastically, then the
union will not have the power to lobby for issues like anti-racism of which many
NATFHE members do actually struggle vis-a-vis the example Klein[p48] gave where
anti-racists have fought within the union for improved representation of ethnic
minorities on their executive. Mike Cole is a writer and lecturer concerning anti-racist
issues, he has published works on the subject; yet he, in 1992, was the NATFHE rep
at the University of Brighton.
Cases are never simple and to take a one-issue approach is unfair, and Klein's
aspect of "one-issue thinking", however carefully phrased, is unfortunate but again an
example of people whose view beyond their own field could be examined.
Brenda Thomson, the name of the Bradford teacher running the workshop in the
video and later an NUT official, exhibits an idealism which I have difficulty with. In the
latter part of the video [19:20 onwards] I chose certain excerpts from the programme
"Anglo-Saxon Attitudes" which struck a chord. [21:43] "A teacher has to be aware of
his or her own prejudices and the way in which those are fuelling racism in society ....
by what they are not doing ..... watching the British Movement marching and doing
nothing about it. The child knows that because that teacher has done nothing about it
that teacher thinks it's OK." How can she really say that? I never met her through the
union but she had a good reputation amongst the more sensible element, so she
probably regrets saying this. But she cannot say that teachers who are not actively
against these marches (by counter-marching?) are actually for the British Movement.
That is not a realistic perception of the way people, and teachers, are. She might
legitimately argue that people ought to do something but then they ought to do
something about starving children in Africa, the fighting in Rwanda-Burundi, about the
drug cartels in Colombia, about the US administration's condoning of big business
links with the drug industry whilst they attack Colombia for their lack of effort, and
many many more. I was never a part of the Anti-Nazi Movement in Britain, does that
mean I supported nazism or thought the British Movement was OK? Also what about
people who don't get politically active because they are trying to bring up children in a
society whose values for bringing up children have become deflected, if not totally
deviant, from the natural order? It could be argued easily that bringing up children
properly in the UK is a full-time job, and for those children not to contribute to the ills
of UK society their parents are politically active. Idealism of the inactive therefore
pro-British Movement variety is not at all constructive. Yet in her next statement
[video 22:20] she makes the very valid point about the lack of black representation on
decision-making bodies. How many teachers who had just been accused of saying
"the British Movement are OK" were actually listening to her because they were
incensed at the accusation?
"Why should every black person have to make a stance on being black[23:46]?" This
was a statement I made in my commentary with reference to the pressure placed on
the black woman teacher in the working party[23:44 to 28:10]. My commentary
between the above quote and the woman speaking explains my views on this issue.
But this is also an example of one-issue thinking. If the only issues black people fight
are race issues then they become marginalised by the following stereotype Black
people just want to be sports stars or singers, and if not then all they do is complain
about race. Who are the leading trade unionists in Botswana? Who are the leading
politicians here, in Africa? With their being more black people in the world than white,
many leading roles in the world are taken by black people but they are not leading
roles that you know of in the UK because the UK majority is white. These leading
roles are not about being black but about being leaders. Forcing black people into the
role of being champions for the black race is a marginalisation but it follows from
one-issue thinking where emotion runs high and perspective is lost.
The excerpt concerning the tide of racism in society has been discussed in earlier
parts, and the final two excerpts concerning Scarman's desire for "urgency" and
whether schools can respond is self-explanatory and the basis of parts 4-7 of this
Conclusion to part 7
Most of the points in this part revolve around the question of balance ie
extremism and one issue thinking. Klein, as an expert, was asked to write the book
for the education series by Cassell and Stuart Hall is a respected thinker and race
worker. Yet both in my view make demands on people that are beyond reason.
Brenda Thomson accuses people of tacitly saying the British Movement is OK.
Perspective and balance are tremendous problems in this area, I can attest to this
based on my erstwhile aggressive uncompromising approach.
Sadly the root of the problem is the political arena. These people, if not activists
themselves, must meet these activists as part of their daily work schedule. Even if
you don't agree with them their confrontation forces you into strident positions. Their
extremism produces an equal and opposite reaction leading to the sorts of imbalance
quoted in this section. Klein trying to make teachers guilty about downcast eyes when
her own knowledge could be brought into question. Stuart Hall's misuse of the term
common-sense when he is an intelligent and knowledgeable man.
Anti-racism is in the arena of extremism and imbalance but like I said when I was
discussing the maths what good teacher doesn't use examples from the students'
background? Why should the use of real statistics become such a political issue? I
see this as a problem of "left-wing foot-shooting"; the "ultra-left" with its revolutionary
zeal creates a tension around it leading to imbalance and extremism. What parts 4-7
have been discussing is not extreme but good education; the participants in the
debate and the political enemies feed off the misguided energy and divert people
from something which is balanced and common-sense. Perhaps all that teachers,
and people in general, should be given is lessons in detachment, stand back and
review what is happening not based on the vehemence, commitment and emotion of
those propounding but on the validity, rationale and necessity of the work itself!!
References for Part 7
KLEIN G "Education Towards Race Equality" Cassell 1993 ISBN
TWITCHIN J "The Black and White Media book" Trentham 1988. ISBN 0
948080 09 4
"Gillian Klein was the ILEA's Multicultural Resources Librarian and is now a visiting
lecturer in Education at Warwick University. A consultant in Race and Education, she
is founder and editor of the journal Multicultural Teaching
In my view the major impact on tradition has been financial investment. Harkening
after the traditions of the past whilst embellishing the ensuing desire for personal
wealth is not a realistic approach, you can't have both yet the traditional leaders, the
men, wanted both. Can the traditional African blame the West for their own greed?
How much resistence was offered to the glitter and glamour?
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