Brutality & Complexity in an Age of Anger (Nigel)

In the Age of Anger, education is practised as a selective and exclusionary activity to support political, religious or pedagogic beliefs focused on gender, economic status, nationality and the individual achievement of financial, exploitative success. Saskia Sassen, in Expulsions; Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (full pdf 2014) highlighted income inequality, displacement and incarceration of populations as key drivers behind the social changes that led to the outbreak of what Pankaj Mihra now characterises as being the Age of Anger.

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In the UK education systems, both state and privately funded, at all levels from nursery/pre-school to higher education, promote and privilege fixed political positions along with subject knowledge and restricted curricula at national level; for example the English National Curriculum and Citizenship tests. At an international level, through Aid NGO’s affiliated to religious and political groups, as well as education initiatives funded by corporate interests promoting, for instance, the OECD assessments of educational success embodied in the PISA tests, corporate and supra-national interests generate new orthodoxies, in relation to curricula, that privilege content and pedagogy over learner needs. 

This increasing educational exclusion parallels and reinforces the expulsions of income inequality, displacement and incarceration of populations, biological expulsions (Sassen) such as; destruction of tropical forests, the taking over of land and community water rights by corporate interests along with the financial displacement of the poorest in society. In the UK we have witnessed the holding down of wages for the majority of workers since 2008 and severe reduction in funding for education, health and welfare since 2010.

Today the needs of learners (and service users) are seen as entirely secondary to financial and political priorities of Government and Financial bodies, such as central banks so, as a result, education is funded and supported to the extent it meets the priorities of the governing parties and their populist, anti-expert agendas. These go hand in hand with the increasing imposition of educational audit cultures, epitomised by OFSTED in England and OECD internationally with, in many countries, the hollowing out of the curriculum to promote the limited range of skills and knowledge currently required by employers to meet their requirements for labour.

Having reached a point in early 2017, where Brexit and the election of Donald Trump indicate the rise in influence of political views that characterise the “Age of Anger”, we are concerned to identify what learning is needed to overcome the climatic, ecological, political and economic damage, already demonstrated by Sassen,  Wolfgang Streeck and many others. We will be making use of our own work and analysis to help identify what educational practices and interventions might best foster learning as opposed to the limiting purposes of much current education funded by corporate interests and neo-conservative governments, often working hand in hand, in the UK and US,  with compliant interests such as conservative think tanks and senior managers within our heavily audited education systems. 

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