Pedagogy of Hope, Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire – Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Slobodan Dimitrov

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope, first published in 1992, was written “in rage and love”, passionate in its denunciation of social wrongs and in its assertion of the power of education to release the truth.  The book works at both inspirational and practical levels, Freire believing that hope must be secured in practice, in action.  In his own life, Freire embodied this integration of love and need for securing social change.  His thinking and commitment to the best in humanity informed his engagement in the world.  Pedagogy of Hope illuminates Freire’s earlier publications including Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) which with sales of over one million copies has had extraordinary impact throughout the world in its analysis of socially and personally transformative education.  Read more of this post

What Price Justice – The demise of Probation?

Mike Guilfoyle 

Image©Mummelgrummel

It was a piquant moment for me, reading that the prominent Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC had been broached to consider instigating legal action.  This in response to the ill-considered and mean spirited move by the ‘ Hard line’ Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, prohibiting the sending into prisons of books by families and friends under recently imposed restrictions introduced last November via a Ministry of Justice edict, with the Orwellian prefix PSI 30/2013 (Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme). This policy recalled for me, the redoubtable prison reformer Sir Alexander Paterson, who coined the famous adage `that men (sic) come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment’.  Read more of this post

Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

In Defence of the War Poets

Katherine Edwards

Should the First World War be seen principally as a European and world catastrophe or as a British triumph? As we mark the centenary of the Great War, the debate on its commemoration has intensified, with the Education Secretary recently lambasting senior academics for their lack of patriotism.  Attacks on the influence of Blackadder are fast becoming just as much a cliché of the ‘revisionist’ school as the clichés the revisionists claim to be dispelling.  And where Blackadder is mentioned we can be sure the war poets – and Wilfred Owen in particular – will be the target of the next sneer. Hew Strachan is intent on demonstrating that ‘there was something more between 1914 and 1918 than futility and poems’.   Michael Morpurgo came under fire in the Moral Maze for citing Wilfred Owen.  More recently John Blake painted a scornful picture of teachers ‘sonorously intoning’ Owen’s poetry, placing much of the blame for what he considers to be the ‘myths’ taught about World War One on the excessive influence of Owen and Sassoon, who he claims, are misleadingly ‘sold as the authentic voice of the front-line soldier’. Read more of this post

Days of Hope (1916: Joining Up – Episode 1): Directed by Ken Loach (1975)

LeftCentral Review 

This outstanding four part drama begins in 1916; it initially concentrates on Phillip Hargreaves (Nikolas Simmonds) and his wife Sarah Hargreaves (Pamela Brighton).  The opening scene takes us to the Matthews homestead, where Ben Matthews (Paul Copley) meets a soldier and neighbour (Peter Russell) on leave from Flanders; he is carrying a gun and wearing khaki. The soldier in a passing reference to the Matthews family points out “bet their making a right packet, what with the war and the price of beef and all”.  Thus the stage is set for the paradox of the Great War on the home front, as Ben warns his sister that the Police have arrived on the farm to arrest Philip, a socialist and conscientious objector. This prompts Philip and Sarah to organise their departure, while Tom Matthews (Cliff Kershaw) provides the couple with money to make good their escape to London. Sarah’s father does this, even though he is an advocate of war (later attending a pro-war meeting).  Prior to leaving Phillip and Tom debate the issue around the dinner table, allowing Philip to forward a developing socialist analysis.  Despite the views articulated by Tom in opposition, his position is clearly an ambiguous one; he is reluctant to sanction his son’s premature army call up and refuses to view his son-in-law as a coward.  Read more of this post

The Intellectual Life Of The British Working Classes by Jonathan Rose, Book Review

Left Central Book Review

Jonathan Rose has provided a service to the working class, an increasingly ignored and demonised section of UK society; clearly there is more to this maligned group than the sobriquet, Chav. Although such hostility is not new; as the working class portrayal by EM Foster in Howard`s End indicates, the caricature of Leonard Bast, soundly critiqued in this text. Rose compares Leonard Bast with Manchester clerk Neville Cardus, he and a companion we are informed, “talked and talked…not to air our economic grievances, not to spout politics and discontent, but to relieve the ferment of our minds, our emotions after the impact of Man and Superman, Elektra, Riders to the Sea, Pelleas and Melisande, Scheherazade, Prince Igor”. Cardus a brilliant autodidactic represents a highly prevalent though largely forgotten feature of our industrial past. Today readers assimilate classical literature by first buying a`Beginners Guide`, it can only be imagined what the Scottish weavers of the Industrial Revolution would have thought of this. Mill workers carrying out intricate and tough manual labour, while next to them perched on a reading stand was a copy of the Iliad or the Odyssey. They read an entire canon of classical literature this way, an army of working class autodidacts, learning at their work station. Jonathan Rose like the Scottish weavers he so eloquently describes has seamlessly woven a vast collection of working class memoirs into a compelling piece of prose with an essence of John Clare. Read more of this post

Homer, A Beginner’s Guide by Elton Barker and Joel Christensen – Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © User Bibi Saint – Pol

The first page of Barker and Christensen’s book leaves no doubt as to its relevance to readers of Left Central.  They dedicate their work to those “everywhere suffering many pains because of the incompetency and greed of their leaders and the capriciousness of the ‘gods’ who rule our world.”  At another level the book confirms the importance of reading widely, deeply and with attention.

Homer’s stories, “The Iliad” which recounts events in the Trojan War caused by the elopement of Helen with Paris, and “The Odyssey” which describes the return of Odysseus home from that war, are over 29 centuries old and were captured in text shortly after the development of writing at the point when oral story-telling began to decline.  Despite their age the stories are rich in associations and fulfil Italo Calvino’s characteristics of the classic book:  “which comes to us trailing behind the traces it has left in the cultures through which it has passed” and “with each rereading offers as much a sense of discovery as the first reading”.   Barker and Christensen’s guide is singularly well placed to confirm such characteristics. Read more of this post

Confronting the Government on Inequalities –pre-conference memorandum to the opposition

Subject:      Labour Party Conference – put equalities back on the agenda

To:               Kate Green MP, shadow minister for women and equalities

Cc:              Stephen Twigg MP, shadow secretary of state for education

Date:          17 September 2013

From:          Thousands of concerned citizens

 

EXTREMELY URGENT

1)   Thank you, Kate, for your fiercely forthright response on 12 September to the government’s review of the public sector equality duty (PSED) ‘This,’ you said, ‘was an unnecessary and wasteful exercise in PR by a government which is turning the clock back on equalities.’

2)   Referring to the committee that produced the report on the PSED you noted it ‘seems to have endorsed a “do as little as possible” approach to promoting equality, at a time when disabled people, women, black and ethnic minority groups are being hit especially hard by this government. At a time when many people are worried about paying their next bill, the government should be concentrating on tackling the inequalities and discrimination that continue to hold people back rather than seeking to water down existing equalities laws.’ What, Kate, are you going to do to follow this up? Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews 2: Among Believers

Lincoln Green

Image © Michael D Beckwith

Holidaymakers towing caravans towards the Lincolnshire coast via the A46 will notice Lincoln Cathedral at a high point to their right.  The image, in bright sunlight or possibly glowing in the dark, will mean different things to different people.  Simon Schama’s account of the Jews in medieval times under Christian and Islamic rule, first broadcast on BBC Two on 8 Sep 2013, will change perceptions of that building and its art in a manner suggested by Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995).  In this earlier work he discusses the interrelationships between culture and landscape, how the one informs and is a reinterpretation of the other. The TV programme, which is still available on BBC iPlayer, promotes reinterpretation through Schama’s identification of the less emphasised and indeed misrepresented impact of Jews on life in medieval Lincoln. Read more of this post

‘Let’s Cut Out Equality’ The independent steering group’s report of the public sector equality duty (PSED) review, September 2013

Robin Richardson 

Image © Evan-amos

On Friday 6 September a new report crept out from the government equalities office (GEO). It emerged without the company of an official press release and the only media coverage on that day was in the Telegraph and the Mail. Both these papers had apparently been influenced by a private, off-the-record briefing about how the authors of the report (or, anyway, some of them) wished equalities legislation to be trivialised, ridiculed and dismissed. ‘How many lesbians have you disciplined?’ asked the headline about the report in the Mail. The headline was followed by a summary of the report which it purported to be describing: ‘Pointless red tape condemned in new report into how public bodies have become obsessed by equality’.

The Telegraph headline was marginally less sensationalist: ’Red tape “overkill” leaves public bodies counting number of lesbians disciplined’. The heading continued: ‘Equalities rules have sent public bodies into a pointless “red-tape overkill”, a landmark report commissioned by David Cameron will warn today [6 September]’.  Incidentally, there is no reference in the report itself to lesbians, nor does the word overkill appear, nor is there any claim in the report that it was commissioned by the prime minister. It seems clear that the coverage in the Telegraph and Mail was based essentially on an unofficial briefing, not on a reading of the actual report. Read more of this post

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