of a Bolshie Dismissedby Dave Hill
(Written in September 1996)
Newly redundant Teacher Educator, former adviser on Teacher Education to the Labour Party, Labour and Trade Union activist.
Sacked, down the road, out on my ear, voluntarily redundant and early retired at 51, pushed out. Call it what you like. The writing was on the wall. Bolshies, and teachers of bolshie subjects such as the sociology and politics of education, are clearly fingered in the restructuring of teacher education.
Following the effective removal of almost anything ‘critical’ and ‘oppositional’ from teacher education courses in England and Wales- (in line with the Government’s Committee for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Criteria of 1992 and 1993, soon to be ratcheted up by Education Minister Gillian Shepherd) - the sack - kaput - finish by November - out - sorry to see you go - jump through a few hoops please- demean yourself, just a bit, squirm, you powerless employee and then bugger off- you’re redundant. An ordure of calumnies, a litany of forgotten and unimagined `offences’ and `tensions’. Apparently we aren’t allowed to disagree, however pompous and ludicrous and slothful a particular order or its maker might seem. A far cry from collegiality and collaboration. All lightened by kindnesses, a sense of the ludicrous, and by the Union solidarity. But made heavier by the eviction of yet more critical thought and people.
Bolshieness I have always admired - its potential as a purposeful kickback by the powerless against the powerful, in society and in education. My mum and dad, in their different ways, were bolshie. Mum, determined, exuberant and Cockney, at 83, still wilful and obstreperous - full of fierce love and determination and a sense of justice- and of fickle hates too- marching up the school to help her boys. That was purpose.
hard bastard from Hoxton, the toughest
part of the
He loved words, revelled in them, wanting to know how to pronounce them properly, rolling them round his mouth, savouring them - One of his proudest possessions a huge battered etymological dictionary he would consult. He knew he was placed and situated by his language, his accent, and by his Lawrentian physicality.
As a boy I fought against bullies, did it for myself, or for justice, occasionally noting the applause as more villains bit the dust. Despite being the shortest and youngest of the three, I fought for my brothers, bopping a nose here and there if anyone threatened them. The repertoire extended to jumping in to defend the bullied - getting a black eye on my first day at Secondary School, returning the compliment on the first day of my second term. Great was my surprise when one of the oppressed, on whose behalf I thought I was fighting, rejected my protection and turned on me, flailing in ..., what, - anger, humiliation, pride?
Nobody pushed us about - at least, not that we noticed in the micro-societies of our youth. Not until we were segregated into first and second class schooling, me to Grammar and University, my brothers to Secondary and the manual labour market..
Then I stopped growing
bigger- and learned to fight with words, the working class grammar
form debates, in the Trade Union, in the Council chamber, on the
picket lines over 30 years, in the
We all did well, me,
John and Rog, well as
All of us became shop
stewards. John, the Building Workers Confederation
But victories were sweet - and the blood burned as twenty, or two hundred, or five thousand, or a hundred thousand marched - and marvelled - in solidarity - learning through action, the body reinforcing the learning of the intellect. Adrenalin and reason, desire and understanding, theory and practice, a pleasure and an understanding, as five hundred Kent Miners boldly, determinedly, step by step in serried, disciplined ranks, marched towards us twenty thousand demonstrators. Over the Hendon hilltop they came, with the sun behind them, big lads, the shock troops of the working class, out there, in solidarity with the Grunwick strikers, Asian women, pittance pay, compulsory overtime, putting their hands up to ask to go to the toilet.
Later, in the nineties and in charge of a teacher education course, similar victories, of Crawley B.Ed mature and non- standard entry students, in various sorties. In their results (with higher pass rates, academic results, teaching practice performance and job acquisition, than for equivalent courses), in exam board meetings, in individual and collaborative intellectual leaps and acquisitions, and in co- using individual and group life experiences- and launching the first exam boycott in the history of the college (the 60s bypassed Bognor).Such victories were as sweet as the campaign and comradeliness.
And so to teach, to
lecture, was a gift, a love, a scintillation in the doing, a labour of love, a love of labour
and of Old Labour. It got me denounced of
it does any activist. Denounced for being a flying
while in the Inner London Teachers Association unofficial strikes of
1960s. Denounced for presenting a Marxist analysis of history in
A level history at
So, down the road and signing on, for being bolshie and for teaching bolshie ‘critical’ subjects such as the sociology and the politics of education and of policy. Student teachers don’t need them any more. Will New Labour bring back thinking and critique and social justice into the teacher education curriculum, into the minds and sprits of new teachers? Will it allow disagreement and democracy at work? Big questions, no final answers yet. No hostages to fortune. Only to misfortune, to accepting what is a conservative nationalisation and policing of a national curriculum for schools and for new teachers. A Curriculum for Conformity, bashing the bolshies. Precious little space for anti-racism or anti-sexism, let alone criticism of social class inequalities or homophobia.
Now, following the welcome solidarity of many colleagues, comes a new freedom, to write, to search for a convenient employing organisation to feed, stimulate, challenge, and fund the organisation, development, proselytisation of a particular bolshieness. That in pursuit of a better, egalitarian, solidaristic society. Where accent, language, body language, relationship to the means of production - class- as well as ‘race’ and gender -are not mocked by the meritocratic facade of a ‘free and liberal’ school, academy and society. Where critical, focused, constructive and mass bolshieness can rock the foundations of inequality.
Dave Hill was
dismissed in November 1996. Dave
worked with his family as a building
worker following his dismissal, then worked