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Devon Worker, Katharine Birbalsingh and a Solidarity Educational Trust?

Issue 1 of Devon Worker. The first in a series of national, regional and trade-based agitprop publications

THE THIRD WAY THINK TANK welcomes the recent publication of Devon Worker ‘the voice of Solidarity Trade Union in Devon’.

Devon Worker represents the first – in what promises to be a whole raft – of national, regional and trade-based publications. According to the Solidarity web-site, other agitprop publications are in the pipeline:

“It’s looking increasingly likely that Scottish Worker will be our first national publication and Health Care Worker will be our first trade-based publication.” (1)

Intriguingly, Devon Worker comes in two formats. One is in full colour and seems purely for web-based distribution. “The other is a printed version – and it’s printed in Devon’s traditional colours of green, white and black. Glen Nicklasson – Solidarity’s South West Regional Organiser – is currently arranging the printing and distribution of 5000 copies.” (2)

We were extremely interested to note that the main article related to social problems – in this case, bad housing and associated Anti-Social Behaviour. (The smaller of the two front page articles promoted STU’s main publication, British Worker). We thought that this represented a brave choice, as many people would expect a nationalist union to just simply to focus on immigration and its effect on unemployment.

Issue 1 of Devon Worker comes hot on the heels of the latest issue of British Worker. As we noted in our article – New issue of British Worker out Now! of 28 December 2011 – it has been transformed from a magazine format to a street paper. (3)

As it’s now aimed at ordinary British working families (who’d normally read the Sun, Star or Mirror) its article are – of necessity – very ‘populist’ in tone. Many working people will have never have come across a patriotic and nationalist Trade Union before. Thus British Worker’s articles are now nice and simple – “tight, punchy and to the point”.

Although we’re a Think Tank (as opposed to a political movement) we feel that there cannot be enough of these agitprop publications. We recognise the absolute need to introduce people to new ideas via very simple publications. At the same time, however, the Third Way feels that there is also a need for the mass distribution of educational publications.

The need for an extensive programme of education – using mass media tools like tabloids, pod casts, CDs, DVDs and social media – was brought into sharp focus by an article in the Daily Star late last year (4).

The article itself looked at the failure of “trendy teaching methods.” These were highlighted by a former teacher Katharine Birbalsingh, “who was forced to quit her teaching job after slamming the state education system last year.”

According to the Star some “dim youngsters reckon Stonehenge is in Egypt, while others believe Simon Cowell, 51, and Lady GaGa, 25, are members of the Royal Family”.

The paper also quoted some examples from Miss Birbalsingh (5) whereby she noted:

“You may laugh but I have, as a teacher, had conversations with 14-year-olds where they simply don’t understand the difference between France and Paris.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with kids about Winston Churchill where they think he’s ‘that dog off the insurance advert on TV’.”

Notwithstanding the Star’s inclination to sensationalise stories, it appears that some form of a mass educational programme really is a necessity. Whilst we realise that Miss Birbalsingh is talking about 14-year-olds, we have to remember that these are the adults (and, thus, blue and white collar workers) of tomorrow.

With this in mind, 3W feels that perhaps the best organisation to carry out this ‘extensive programme of education’ would be Solidarity Trade Union.

Indeed, over the last few months, STU has published a few articles which have looked at the idea of it becoming more pro-active in providing educational and welfare services to its members, supporters and indeed the general public.

To date, perhaps the most in-depth article looking at the proposed educational side its work was written by the union’s General Secretary, Pat Harrington. Solidarity: More than just a union? appeared in issue 4 of British Worker (5). In part it noted:

“I’m a little bit old fashioned and believe that trade union web-sites, publications and interviews should try to raise standards of debate and provide detailed information, not just soundbites. I like debate and telling the truth. I also seek to inform and let people make up their own mind.

Therefore, I’d like to suggest that Solidarity investigates the setting up some form of educational charity. It should aim to educate our members, supporters and the public about Britain’s rich agricultural, industrial and trade union history and heritage.”

The Third Way Think Tank would like to echo this statement. We’d wholeheartedly encourage Solidarity to get the ball rolling in this respect.

The real test, however, would be for any charity to produce such (non-political) educational material in a populist and entertaining format. We look forward to hearing from anyone who has any ideas – and more importantly, experience – in this particular field.

(1) http://www.solidaritytradeunion.com/news-mainmenu-52/489-14012012-devon-worker-coming-soon

(2) http://www.solidaritytradeunion.com/news-mainmenu-52/493-03022012-issue-1-of-devon-worker-out-now-

(3) http://thirdway.eu/2011/12/28/new-issue-of-british-worker-out-now/


(4) Variations of the Star’s article can be found on the web-site of the City University London: http://www.cass.city.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2011/october/is-the-british-education-system-broken and (unsurprisingly!) on the Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2046371/Teenage-pupils-believe-Winston-Churchill-TV-advert-dog.html

(5) Please note that the Third Way Think Tank does not necessarily endorse all of Katharine Birbalsingh’s views. However, to check out what she has to say for herself click here: http://katharinebirbalsingh.com/

(6) To get hold of issue 4 of British Worker simply e-mail solidaritygb@aol.com and ask for a FREE pdf copy.


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