Why It Took Me So Long To Realise The Importance Of Education By Eddie Luigi

Let me make this clear from the start. I failed my 11+, and was thereby consigned to the ever growing ‘scrap heap’ of the under educated.

This never occurred to me to be a problem. I could read, I could write and I could accomplish basic arithmetic. You can not miss something that you never had.

I joined the Royal Navy, and learnt how to read electrical engineering manuals, in order to carry out the tasks assigned to me. My leisure reading was, purposely, limited to pulp fiction western and detective novels.

The news held no interest for me and I was quite happy blindly obeying orders. In an armed forces environment there is no place for a square peg in a round hole. Life was cosy in an environment where you were cocooned from the cares and worries of the civilian population.

Now that I have retired, and broken three television sets getting angry at day time programs, I decided to do something positive with my free time and enrolled at my local college for an access course with a view to attending university.

Now I understand why the Tories don’t want to invest in education and why the media write articles that you only need a rudimentary education to read, but not necessarily understand.

Primary and Secondary education is adequate for what used to be termed ‘factory fodder’. You are taught that this is a word and it must be true because there it is. You are taught to read the words but not taught to question the words, and as long as there is a roof over your head and food on your table you don’t particularly care. You assume an ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude.

However, what about your children, or your children’s children.

Once you get beyond rudimentary education you start to question the written words and ask

Who wrote this?

Why did they write it?

What are they trying to achieve?

This is just the thing that the Tories want to avoid. They do not want an educated population that will question any of their policies, they require an obedient population that are happy to live off the few crumbs that might fall from the master’s banquet.

If you want a quiet life for yourself vote Tory, do not become educated, accept that ‘this is the way things are’ and ignore your children’s plaintiff cries of inequality.

“There is no more far-seeing investment for a nation than to put milk, food and education into young children” Winston Churchill 1939

My Vulva Has Betrayed Me By Lucy Chapman

By Lucy Chapman

I love my vulva. I even like to say ‘vulva’. But my vulva doesn’t like me.

It is because of my vulva that I bore children. Wonderful, full-of-joy children. It is because of my vulva that after doing so I dropped down from being a full time secondary teacher to working three days a week.

We had a choice, it could have been my husband who stayed at home two days; I earned more than he did at the time, so it would have made sense financially, but it was my breasts which fed the babies, so it was me who went part time.

Damned breasts.

Being part time, there aren’t many positions of responsibility in a school; if you’re a Head of Department, your staff could need guidance and you’d be at Baby Song Time or as a Head of Year a child protection issue could arise when you’re at soft play / ball pool hell. It just couldn’t work.

So, as I stagnated in the workplace, I watched with pride as my husband (who worked at the same school as me) progress, get opportunities and promotions that were just not available to me. His pay was now already more than mine, simply as a result of me going part time and still the gulf was getting bigger.

As a direct result of this common phenomenon, my husband is swiftly paying off his student debt whilst I chip away £14 one month £21 the next. His pension contributions are also substantially higher than mine are now.

So, does any of this matter if we plan to grow old together and pool our income forever?

Well yes actually, it does. 

What if I was to become a single mum (imagine he had an affair or I discover he’s gambled away our life savings)?

Firstly, I would probably have to move my boys out of their school to get a more affordable home, I’d also become reliant on benefits and as a result I’d probably be labelled a ‘scrounger’ and television programmes would be made about my ‘sort’ of person.

I’d be villainised and people would wonder why I didn’t think about this before having children. I’d still be part time, so we’d struggle a little.

I’d still have a tonne of student debt left to pay and in my old age I’d be trying to manage on my meagre pension, whilst my now ex-husband joins the fancy golf club and books a cruise on his.

Women currently make up two-thirds of Britain’s poorest pensioners and changes being made to pensions (both public and state) will disproportionately affect women further still. 

It’s 2017 and in response to me querying why I’d not be getting my expected pay increase when returning from maternity leave, my boss, I kid you not, replied “it’s not as if you’re getting a pay cut”.

It’s 2017 and if my husband was beating me I’d honestly have to decide if I could financially afford to separate.

It’s 2017 and there are hundreds of thousands of mothers working part time and passing up on opportunities whilst fathers continue to breeze their way up the management ladder with the people they work with not knowing nor caring that they have children at all; it’s just not an issue. Nor should it be.

Girls have been doing better than boys in school for years yet we still have more men in management and leadership positions and there are much more male higher earners.

Only a mere 7 bosses of the 100, FTSE 100 companies are women.

It’s shameful. 

Women have been hit far more drastically than men by welfare cuts due to harsh austerity measures, a whopping 74% of welfare cuts are coming out of the pockets of women.

Women’s refuges are closing up and down the country despite 2 women being killed every week at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

Women are considerably more likely than men to be in part time work and part time workers earn less per hour on average than their full-time peers.

65% of public sector workers are women so have been disproportionately affected by public sector pay freezes and job cuts.

I sound bitter.

I sound jealous.

I sound dried up; it’s not sexy to be overtly feminist, but is it that unladylike to want to be self-sufficient (even if from within a marriage)?

Am I that much of a bore to want a fair shot?

Is it so very unappealing to ask not to live completely dependent on another person?

It’s 2017 and my wonderful, sensual, sexy vulva has betrayed me. 

Children Listening To Political Debate: Wrong or Necessary? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

Broadening Children’s Political Horizons? Some may say it’s wrong but it didn’t do Michael Rosen any harm.

This week we, accompanied by our children ages 13 to 8, went to an event at Conway Hall: ‘Michael Rosen In Conversation With Daniel Hahn.’

Michael was there to speak about his early life, which he chronicles in his new memoir, ‘So, They Call You Pisher.’

He spoke about parent’s running Communist Party meetings in the front room, being involved in campaigning and his acts on anti-establishment rebellion at Oxford University. Cheekily in the question and answers section we asked for a poem and, to the delight of ourselves and everyone in the room, he recited ‘Hot Food.’

Before the book signing, which we gladly joined, Michael came over and chatted to the children and commented that he hoped “they were not bored by the political talk” to which we responded that “they are used to it.”

Growing up with parents who are political activists, our children are well versed in left wing arguments, being dragged to campaigning activities and listening to furious arguments.

Is this right or wrong?

Growing up listening to arguments about football, no one ever commented on that as being anything unusual; so it is interesting to see politics often portrayed as something ‘not for the interest of children.’

Michael talked about the culture he was exposed to as a child by his parents. This was felt empathetically by our children who are regularly dragged from political rally to watch an author on a book tour, or to the theatre.

Why do we do it?

Well we think there is so much to see, so many sides of life that a person should experience in order to experience the diversity of life.

Daniel Hahn himself said to Michael ” With all the education and culture you were exposed to, it must have been difficult for the school to match this” to which Michael replied that education doesn’t have to end at the classroom.

Thinking about how restrictive the curriculum has become in the last few years with the new reforms in 2014, we think that now more than ever we need to enrich the cultural lives of our children outside of school.

With the Arts being watered down in Secondary and with Primary school children spending the majority of their time working on Maths, English and Handwriting; it is worrying that their creative abilities and critical thinking wings are being clipped before they’ve even been allowed to grow.

Some may say that teaching your children the subject of politics is wrong, or that it is indoctrinating them, but I beg to differ.

Letting them hear arguments from left wing ideology can’t be a bad thing when those arguments teach our children basic human values like sharing and social responsibility.

Of course not all parents can afford to take their children to the theatre or have the time to go to events such as these. But we feel that all children deserve to have a broad education that covers the arts, politics and other subjects not normally covered in the curriculum.

So we hope that a Labour government gets elected soon and fulfils their promise of bringing back the creative arts and broadening the educational experience of all children, not just those whose parents can afford extra curricular activities.

We are, after all a nation with a strong cultural heritage.

Without an education broader than what is currently being delivered by the curriculum set out in 2014, how do we expect to produce the future Shakespeare’s, the future David Bowie’s and the future Michael Rosen’s?

Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland are the Co Founders of The Avenger UK

Should Abuse Ever Be Ignored? By The Masked Avenger Anonymous 

Author Anonoymous

Maybe ignored is not the right word but I am finding words so difficult right now. You see a really good friend of mine is struggling and I am broken watching what she is going through. She is in such a bad place and I can’t help her. In fact no-one can really help her though she should have had help 65 years ago!   

She is the reason I am now wondering if sexual abuse should ever be ignored.

I had such a black and white view of this until this week you know. I was one of those people who would want to kill a paedophile and would scream at the news in anger when child molestors were given short jail sentences. Child abuse is wrong. Sexual abuse is wrong. So why would anyone think it should be ignored? 

Well what if the victim had, after many years of recovering from a mental breakdown and hours upon hours of counselling, finally moved on from a very traumatic childhood. I was so proud of my friend for this. She had her life together finally. I watched as she raised her own kids and went on to have grandchildren. I mourned with her when her husband passed away and admired how she adapted to living on her own. She was settled, happy and well and then all of a sudden this week that changed and I am angry for her. 

You see I was with her when things changed. All it took was a phone call. I was in her house when her phone went and she questioned if it was a crank caller. I wish it had been, I truly do. I wish her phone had never rung. Out of nowhere she had a call from the police. Can you imagine watching daytime TV comfy in your reclining armchair having a cuppa and a scone and a natter with your friend and the police ring you and you have no idea what has happened? 

This is why I wanted to talk to you about child abuse and sexual abuse. This is why sometimes I wonder if it IS best ignored. 

My friend was abused as a child. We just don’t talk about it. We are the generation that sweeps stuff like that under the carpet and get on with our lives. Apparently someone else decided he or she could no longer do that and several months ago the children’s home my friend was in as a young child started to be investigated by the police for abuse. Yes it happened. No-one doubts that. But this was sixty plus years ago. Yes I know the perpetrators should never have got away with it but is it right that after almost seventy years things need disturbed? 

My friend wants her life back to how it was last week and she can’t now. The resurfacing of the past is destroying her. 
She asked me why someone would upset her like this? 

She wants to know why she should have to relive memories she wants to forget. She is old and tired and has reconciled her past. The people who abused her are long dead, so she assumes. Now my friend is so so sick. She can’t sleep, she is imagining all sorts and not eating. Why do that to someone who is in their seventies? 

What is being gained from digging up the past?

Hundreds of people are going through this now. Children’s homes, boarding schools, mental hospitals and so forth from the forties, fifties and sixties are all being investigated because of abuse of children and vulnerable adults. It was common place in our time. We all know it happened and it is shocking and awful. But when I look at the state of my good friend I am so worried about these investigations now. If the victims are past pensionable age what age are the abusers now? They will have lived life and many will have passed away. Even those who are still alive, is it worth jailing a 90 year old for something he did at 19?

I know for some finally seeing their abuser locked up may give them closure but what about the other victims who have had memories dragged back up and are now left alone, vulnerable and ill as a result of having to discuss things they had long buried and moved on from? 

While the State may end up looking after the abuser people like my dear friend have been left in a state. 

I tell my grown up kids that is something isn’t broken don’t touch it. Maybe I am old and old fashioned in my ways but I can’t help but wonder if there are times when abuse is best forgotten about or ignored. 

What if the trauma of all this kills my friend?

There is no punishment enough for that. 

Lefty Scum Tour: A Review By Lucy Chapman

By Lucy Chapman

When the government are cutting funding to the arts; when schools are being strong-armed by the same government to cut arts subjects to save the ever-decreasing pennies; when arts education is being down-graded, valued less than other areas of study.  In a world where welfare cuts are creating hungry children cold grannies and suicidal young men; where equality amongst the sexes, classes, races, religion, sexualities, genders is having to be fought for rather than being the expected norm; How do the ‘Lefty Scum’ respond? With song and poetry and performance in pure defiance and it is glorious!

Lefty Scum, a night of ‘comedy, music and revolutionary socialism’ was as empowering as it was funny. 

The tour isn’t going to do much in terms of changing minds or convincing non-lefties as the only thing blue in the room were the jokes. 

But to feel for a couple of hours like I’m not on the fringe, that I’m not the biggest leftie in the room, to hear my political and social ideas (stuff like feeding hungry people being the right thing to do) not only validated but sung and shouted about in bloody brilliant style was exactly what I needed.

It was simultaneously comforting and jarring; I’m not alone in my anger and fear and we can and should shout about it.

For me it was Grace Petrie who completely stole my heart. 

She had me thankful of tena lady for a good 15 mins before knocking the wind out of me with “God Save The Hungry” without a moments notice.

I didn’t see it coming; I was too busy having a good time. The reality of quite how insulting it is to have people living in palaces whilst others look in bins for their dinner or how offensive it is to suggest that somebody’s sexuality makes them lesser able to be a valued parent (Farewell to Welfare) floored me.

Of course I knew all of this stuff already, I exhaust myself relentlessly trying to explain, persuade and convince others of these things in every interaction. But there is just so much to fight for and against! And sometimes we need to be re-grounded. And sometimes it takes a beer and a song and a shout to do it.

Jose Long was her usual charming, wonderful self only stronger than I’ve seen her before. A wonderful reminder that our anger doesn’t always have to look angry to be valid or powerful or beneficial or more importantly on a night like this – funny!

Jonny and the Baptists had the audience howling at the image (and sound) of revolutionary nationalised swans and I think I must be Jonny Donahoe’s long-lost sister because their song to his dad was undoubtedly written about my dad. Maybe he’s the nation’s dad and maybe that’s where the genius lies.

I had a bloody good laugh in York last night but I also felt inspired again, reinvigorated and impassioned. I wanted to come home and write again, better than I have before.

I wanted to get that research done for my local Constituency Labour Party that I’ve been avoiding.

I want to get more women involved after several previously unsuccessful attempts.

I want to shout from the rooftops and fight for my children, my sister’s children, for myself and the young people I work with. 

I want to fight for drama and arts and the poor and disabled. 

Defend those who are exploited or overlooked and work out how to give a voice to those with none. Except there’s no such thing as a voiceless person, only earless ones so let’s lay the blame at the right door to start with.

Thank you Josie and Grace and Jonny and the Baptists for reminding me about the passion and energy in my soul that I’m sometimes too tired and beaten to pay attention to. 

Thank you for making my sides ache. 

Thank you for demonstrating brilliantly the power of performance. 

Thank you for the canvassing and rallying and thank you, comrades, for standing with us to fight the good fight in the most wonderful way. 

Hats off my friends, hats off.

There are only two dates left now of the 10-date tour:

WED 08 NOV | LEEDS The Wardrobe

THU 09 NOV | LIVERPOOL Everyman Theatre

https://jonnyandthebaptists.co.uk/lefty-scum-tour/
But I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on what these guys are up to next!

Kids Talk Politics And Put The World To Rights – By The Avenger Kids

At the Avenger our main mission is to put issues often unheard by mainstream media under the spotlight. And that means allowing people from all walks of life to share their experiences and view points on current affairs and politics.
Children and young people’s ideas and opinions are often unheard by the media; yet they often have the most creative ideas and simplest solutions to society’s problems.

We interviewed four children aged between 8 and 13 on their views on politics and this is the first of many Avenger Kids blogs, which will eventually extend out to older children and young people.

We feel that children and young people should be encouraged more to think critically about the world they live in  and although the ‘Votes at 16’ discussion may not have got the attention we feel it deserved in Parliament,  we will continue to keep that discussion going and ensure that children and young people keep talking about politics. 

We kicked off with asking the children; Luca aged 8, Naomi aged 9, Chloe aged 9 and Harrison aged 13 what they would change if they were Prime Minister. They had so much to say that we had to break it down into common themes!!

Here is what that had to say:

Healthcare


Chloe aged 9: Why do they charge for prescriptions when you are ill and probably don’t have a lot of money anyway do they want people to die or to live?  All medical things should be free. Everyone should be allowed to live.

Luca aged 8: I would keep it free forever. I would have more doctors and more technology to help them find better cures. Also it is very dangerous for people to have one kidney so this should be illegal. Everyone should have two kidneys.

Naomi aged 9: When children are sick they should get seen first in hospital because they have little bodies and want to go home to play. 

Harrison aged 13:  Our health service is good but we need to fund it more. It is severely under appreciated and under funded.

We must focus on welfare and healthcare more rather than industries. Why does the government help big industries and corporations? I don’t understand it because they can look after themselves. We don’t need to help and fund them they earn so much and they don’t even need to advertise. We should be helping the NHS and welfare instead.

Education and Schools:

Luca:  I think kids should learn about politics. And more fun stuff like cooking and art.

I would change the rules in schools. I would let kids go to the toilet any time they want. I would also give schools more money. 

Harrison: We need to change the way we educate like core subjects have been boiled down to three. We can’t thrive with just these. The system is broken. They constantly shove the core subjects down our throat. They act like anything other than core subjects is useless. In truth the core subjects are there to provide the basics. Without extras like art and technology we will come across as boring and we won’t have any skills. A lot of our subjects tie into together.

For opportunities for careers that pay well, we need extra creative subjects. We need to broaden out more to be successful as adults.

Naomi: Schools should pay for all kids to have iPads and technology to make learning fair.

School dinners should have nicer things like nuggets and things that kids like. Some children are not eating because they are horrible and that makes people sick. 

Children with lots of problems like my brother should still be allowed to come to the same school as all the other children but should just have their own class. Otherwise children forget there are children like that and laugh at them and be rude. 

They would not do that if they had lunch with them and if the others could see them all the time. I miss my twin brother at school.

Chloe:  There should be dabbing in school, and no school uniform so you don’t have to rush to buy it and it costs more money.  

There should be free school meals for everyone because not everyone can afford it and everyone should be doing more fun stuff at school.

Housing, Homelessness and The Poor

Harrison: The taxes aren’t doing so well. What are they being spent on?
 The poor are not receiving a lot of welfare. There aren’t enough things to go around as we are supplying big industries and they are big enough and rich enough to manage themselves.

There should be more homeless shelters in the UK and around the globe.

Real estate prices are over inflated compared to Scotland. Why is that? And our economy is not very good either.

The landlords don’t pay attention to the houses they own and don’t care and they don’t notice that there are empty houses. We need to start letting people live in them.

We have a lot of houses and they are going to waste. We should have a service that goes to these old houses and if we deem that the landlords don’t care for those houses we should confiscate them and have a service owned by government to clean them up and let people live in them

Luca: I would give the poor more money. I would give the homeless homes. I would spend money on what materials they need for homes and tell builders to just build them, it’s not hard to do. Why don’t they just tell them to build them for the homeless?

Politicians

Naomi: When countries and big people fight like wars they should have time out and say sorry like kids do.

If they don’t they should lose marbles and not get treats like stuff other countries have that their people like… like bananas and stuff. Be nice to the countries that give you bananas or you don’t get any.

Chloe: Why does the Prime Minister and politicians get more money than doctors and teachers? 

They get all that money and make stupid decisions. It is unfair that they get expenses and they should have to learn how to use their own money to pay for things.

Harrison: Politicans can be straight up annoying and stupid. They need to do a lot of work to get their priorities straight. 

Luca: Why don’t politicians make it law to be nice to old people? Some of them might be lonely. They shouldn’t be and there should be websites for them to meet friends and talk to each other. 

Most of all if I could be Prime Minister I would only be it for a day and let Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister. 
He’s really nice and he has cool ideas and better ideas than me.

Let’s Reclaim Our Public Space For Childhood By Kelly Grehan 

By Kelly Grehan

Barely a day goes by without my hearing a member of the older generation decrying the children of today:

“We never used to sit in on devices all day”

“All they want to do is stare at screens”

“We used to spend all day outside.”

It is as if children today are of a different species from their senior relatives, who speak of some sort of famous five style childhood. 

While I strongly suspect their memories of the past are somewhat rose tinted I also strongly suspect one reason children do not play outside is that they simply are not welcome.

In my own area (Dartford), many of the green spaces we played on in the early 90s are now occupied with signs saying things such as ‘no ball games’ or ‘this is not a play area’ and have been filled in with bushes to stop any fun activity taking place.

Although we are fortunate to have several good parks in our area, taking children to the park is a time consuming business and not one that can be done every evening for most children.  

When children used to ‘play out’ the benefits were multiple: children made friends with the same children who shared their streets, developing close bonds, isolation was therefore less, the feeling of belonging, and community was embedded and the benefits of being outdoors are well known. 

Dozens of studies from around the world show regular time outdoors produces significant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fighting obesity, improved learning ability, and creativity and better emotional well being.

Unstructured play in the outdoors has also been shown to boost problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness.

However, the disconnect with nature is now so strong that more children are taken to hospital having fallen out of bed than out of a tree. 

In fact one fifth of all children report never having ever attempted to climb a tree and a similar number have never visited a farm.

 And it not just outdoor space often denied to children now, with libraries lost in many towns along with community centres, church halls and youth clubs, for those whose parents are unable to afford expensive activity groups childhood can often be a lonely and boring time.  

This is coupled with the fact increasing numbers of children are now living in overcrowded accommodation and so, do not even have the luxury of being able to play imaginative games inside. 

What are we doing to our children? 

Is the epidemic of mental health and anxiety problems in the young a coincidence? 

I say a community ignoring the needs of children is no community at all.  

New housing estates seem to be built on the premise that grass verges are all the public green space that is needed. 

How about a space based along the idea of a village green in the centre? 

How about spaces which encourage den building and where ball games are encouraged? 

What is the worse that could happen?

Maybe the odd window will be broken, perish the thought, but I tell you this, it is much easier and cheaper to fix broken windows than broken adults who are the result of miserable childhoods. 

Our children have enough problems to contend with poverty, exams, school work, peer pressure, cyber bullying and knowing they are growing up in a world where they are likely to be worse off than their parents. Trying to keep them from public spaces is just another way we fail to enrich them.  


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