Neo-totalitarianism does exist.
It is a phenomena of our age in which the advanced phase of global capitalism seeks to sustain itself in a time of increasingly scarce resources (and environmental damage) by dominating the discourses of the public sphere.
It convinces us, via rhetorical persuasion, minor bribery, coercion and fear that only the established oligarchy have answers to our supposed problems. It marginalises opposition via ridicule and propagandist grand-standing.
It is not a conspiracy theory. It is not a over-dramatisation of events. It is not democratic sour grapes. It is the reality of our failure to come to terms with what ails our society. It is our hiding in the skirts of those who seek to ‘save us from ourselves’. Meanwhile, while the few protect their interests, we are exploited.
But what surprises me, more than anything else, is not simply that we do not see the problem — but that we actively welcome it.
Well, I’ve asked people to take part in the new national tutor’s association. I know that some wont join because they’ll say ‘what’s in it for me?’. Others wont join because they never join anything (even though they complain endlessly about being isolated in their work). Others wont join because they’re so cowed by their employers that they’ll worry that if their manager finds out it’ll produce a black-mark in a work record somewhere. A few wont join because they don’t like (or are suspicious of) me.
So let me answer a few questions:
“What’s in it for me?” — A chance to have a say. A chance to share skills with others and gain skills from their sharing. A chance to be better informed than any of your colleagues. A chance to form your own standards in a community of practice that we can all agree on.
“I wont join anything!” — OK, Be left out. Stay in the dark. You’ll end up being a liability to everyone and easily exploited. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
“I’m scared my boss finds out I’ve joined” — So? Did they complain when you were compelled to be an IfL member? Will they be unhappy when you tell them you’re part of a professional body that really cares how well you do? And who’s to say your line-manager isn’t a member too?
“Who the hell are you Bea?” — I’m an old-hand who has taught in every kind of further and adult education. I want to be part of something important and meaningful where I can meet other teachers, make good friends, learn from them and be better at what I do. I’m a jobbing adult ed’ tutor, and have taught throughout my 35 year career. My late partner was a teacher too. She always supported what I did. And anyone who knows me also knows I’m passionate about teaching, and sincere in what I say.
Does that help? If I haven’t reached you, ask yourself why. Maybe also ask yourself why you’re in this profession in the first place.
This is a call to ALL my colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who are tutors, teachers, trainers, lecturers (or whatever) in the post-compulsory education sector (that’s further and adult education to you and me).
As we head toward a new government (whatever form that might take) it is time for us all to show some solidarity with one another and move to create that community of practice within our sector that we all know that we need.
This is not a political issue, neither does it apply to one employer or one type of teaching. It is a sector-wide call to everyone who teaches (no matter how experienced or inexperienced) to take part in a new organisation that (we hope) will represent our needs as teachers, and speak for us within the public arena. At the moment it’s called ‘Tutor Voices’, but I have a strong feeling the name will change as we get established. What matters is this: it is a CHANCE for us ALL to have a say in how our teaching needs are supported, what influence we have in policy-making, and how we access cutting-edge information and skills that support what we do.
This endeavour is in the interests of ALL in the sector: students/learners, teachers/tutors and employers alike. We can make a go of this, learn from past mistakes (e.g. the abortive situation that IfL found itself in, and the small-scale work of APTT) and make this a force for good in teaching and learning across the UK.
I appeal to everyone as an ‘old-timer’ in the teaching game (35 years at the chalk-face this year!) to help make this new organisation a possibility. Together we have the possibility of putting right all those issues that blight our work, and make the process of adult learning an even greater success than our work has achieved in days past.
I know many of you are not ‘joiners’. But I hope you will think again and become part of this endeavour. For more information and to become a member, please contact me below, or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Note: Membership of Tutor Voices is currently free, and I am pressing hard for sub’s to remain very small for the foreseeable future)
Beatrix. E. Groves