Education’s Trojan horses: the thoughts of an academy school worker

Shiny new buildings: academies

Some thoughts of an academy school worker in England.

I’ve been teaching in this school for less than two years, and in that short time have seen a lot of things that have angered me as a worker and as someone who values education, and made even more apparent to me the need for a radical overhaul in education that can only be achieved by revolutionary change in society as a whole.

Schools as business and the business of schooling.
My school is run by a large multinational company, and its presence in the school is well-felt. We’ve had representatives address staff meetings and talk about their ‘visions’ for the school. We have a fantastically fancy looking building, great computer suites and lovely music facilities. Much is made of our students and parents as ‘customers’ and how we need to give them the ‘service they deserve’. The pupils know the sponsor name; volunteers come in from the company to work with the pupils. It’s perfect PR for the sponsor company – ‘look at this fantastic community work we do, giving an education to these poor kids’. It’s ‘community outreach’ or ‘putting something back o the community’… something like that.

The flip side is that in some subjects we don’t have GCSE textbooks because we can’t afford them. We don’t have enough classrooms for when the school grows. We count every last piece of equipment in and out, cos we can’t afford to replace rulers and markers. ‘You know what the budget’s like’. And we’ve class sizes of over 30 in some GCSE subjects, frankly appalling. The Trojan horse of the fancy building and uniform betrays a real lack of resources, a strapped budget, and massive class sizes, which are projected to increase in the next few years.

At the end of the day, it’s a business. And pennies have to be saved somewhere, hitting frontline staff and students the most.

Organising
We have unions; NUT, NASUWT, Unison. They have members. None are recognised, nor likely to be soon given the almost total lack of a culture of dissent, or even awareness of advancing workers interests. So we’re not tied into national agreements on pay & conditions and we’ve consultation over such issues.

There have been a few isolated, individual grievances and the like; atomised and easy for management to deal with without too much fuss. There’s potential for organising and some small gains have been won, such as keeping a member of support staff from getting the sack after a solidarity campaign. But the struggle to organise is proving to be a long one, but not impossible. There are many structural barriers:
- Non-recognition of unions – no facility time for reps and no consultation over changes to conditions etc
- Staggered lunchtimes – no chance for staff to have lunchtime meetings.
- Compulsory after-school clubs and meetings – difficulty meeting and placing strain on admin duties.

Workplace issues
We work LONG hours, longer than I remember any of my teachers working. It’s common for the photocopy room to be busy at 6pm, really. We ignore national assessment practices (such as ‘opting-in’ to SATs despite them having been abolished at key-stage 3) and we have extended school days through compulsory after-school clubs for all teaching staff. Many expect staff to stay much longer than ‘normal’ schools, and if people don’t do it they aren’t ‘committed’ to the ‘team’. We have 24/7 access to the building, so the expectation is there that ALL the work gets done, on time.

In my experience, this has a depressing effect on any sort of dissent in the workplace. Many of the staff are union members on paper, simply for ‘protection’, and our union almost never meets. This is perfect for management – they have also intentionally employed a very young, naïve, and ‘flexible’ workforce – one that is unaware of even basic rights and standard practices, who have very little experience of a different model of education, and who are unlikely to have the ‘burden’ of outside responsibilities like children or spouses.

The culture of the staffroom is odd. No one seems to have a ‘meta-critique’ of education, and it’s unusual to hear anyone question the policies we enact in our school. The staffroom culture is definitely not one of dissent, which makes organising all the harder, but not impossible.

What I do notice is that the demographic of teaching staff has changed dramatically. Not only has the school had a very high turnover of teaching staff, but most of the staff are under 30, most have only been teaching for 2 years or so. Even the heads of departments have probably on average been teaching for 4-5 years. This makes for an incredibly inexperienced workforce which is beneficial to management for two reasons:

1 – total naivety: inexperienced teachers are unlikely to ‘know any better’ and will assume that our practices, from class-size to assessment measures are ‘normal’ and ‘how it’s done everywhere’. They are also less likely to have been involved in workplace disputes elsewhere.

2 – less outside responsibilities: No families, no kids, no things that can stop them staying til 6pm every day to make sure that last bit of marking and data-entry gets done. The few staff that do have kids have faced serious childcare issues and dirty looks for daring to leave a meeting early to pick up their kids!

The relative inexperience and young age of our managers means they are a bureaucratic authoritarian nightmare. Their ‘authority’ is not based on years of classroom experience in their respective subjects, which would at least make some sort of sense within the logic of education, but on a willingness to say ‘yes’ to senior managers and to implement uncritically every whimsical change in policy and practice, parroting management jargon and viewing our pupils as ‘customers’, which only makes sense within the logic of business. I don’t even take them seriously in meetings, but they make working life tough.

Compounding this is the growth of the Teach First* initiative, read: people who couldn’t care less about education but are doing us all a ‘favour’ by lending schools their ‘high-flyer’ brains for a few years before they jump ship to management or consultant jobs. These people are the least critical teachers I have ever met. They parrot every single thing management says, have little-to-no philosophy of education, and will not be ‘normal’ classroom teachers for longer than 2-3 years. Most I’ve met are aspiring managers and are looking to climb the ladder as quickly as possible.

The future
The most daunting aspect is that my school is a model for what Michael Gove wants. I’d urge workers in any school that is being touted as a future academy to stand up now. However bad your school is, whatever issues you have now, they will be compounded by becoming an academy, do whatever you can to oppose it. Recently in London, three Hackney schools have voted in a preliminary ballot for strike action should their schools become academies. That sort of thing is a start, but it will involved serious collective action between education workers and their communities, revealing academies for the Trojan horses that they are.

I love my subject, and I really value education for its own sake, but I want to work in a school genuinely run BY and FOR the community it is supposed to serve. As it is, I feel like I am barely teaching. Increasingly it feels like service-delivery, like working in the bottom-rung of a two-tier education system - merely equipping students with generic skills that they can use in whatever demeaning, unfulfilling job they get, assuming they get one. With over a million people expected to face job cuts in the next few years and the possibility of 9k per year university fees, many of the pupils I teach will be unable to afford university. I do worry about their futures, and I’m conscious that I’m a part of that.

Some of our students refused to go to class recently during the school walkouts, that was a brief glimmer of inspiration.
Me and my workmates could learn a lot from them.

* Teach First is a charity that takes ‘high flyers’ and trains them ‘on the job’ to be teachers. Teachers trained this way complete minimal pedagogical/theoretical training and are expected to become a lot more common in schools according to the November 2010 White Paper on education, effectively removing any academic pretense in teaching.

Comments

Steven.
Dec 26 2010 20:08

Great article, thanks for posting! I will circulate to school staff I know…

gypsy
Dec 26 2010 20:18

Great article. I have 6 teach first teachers at the academy im currently working at. After some detective work it transpires that most do not want to even have a career in education, one is doing it so her cv looks good for a future career in a lucrative profession, the rest basically follow her thinking and all seem to be of very priviledged backgrounds and so have little understanding of the deprived community which the school serves. For example one teach first teacher who teaches history(with a degree from cambridge) does not seem to be able to simplify the vocab she uses meaning that kids at times don;t have a clue what she is going on about.

Teach first teachers are also 'teaching on the cheap' as I heard they earn about 14 and half grand a year. One of the management at my academy has only got 2 year teaching experience and hes acting head whilst the current headteacher is off sick. Alot of the other heads and management have not got a background in teaching and are 'behaviour management specialists' and some are actual evangelical preachers(as the guy who funds the academy is one). There is also a security guard type system at my school but I won't go into that. Will tell you more soon.

I have to say that my staffroom has much dissent- the experienced teachers who are holding out for their pensions are completely pissed off with the way the school is run. Management do not support the staff and the support staff when they are abused. Even some of the teach first teachers have complained about the management. So hopefully something is done. However the future of teaching seems to be an inexperienced flexible workforce whose wages are kept down and to the minimum.

Another problem at my school is the supply teachers are 'cover supervisors' who have no teaching qualification and are paid peanuts were as the experienced/qualified supply teachers can't get any work because of their wage demands. The future is grim for teachers and the children we are meant to provide an education to.

LBird
Dec 27 2010 11:55
OP wrote:
These people are the least critical teachers I have ever met. They parrot every single thing management says, have little-to-no philosophy of education...

I have no experience of 'Teach First' teachers, only of student teachers on a PGCE, teachers on a social basis and, of course, everyone's experience of their own teachers, but this 'uncritical' attitude and belief in the system seems to be widespread amongst nearly all teachers, not only 'TF's.

I couldn't get either my fellow student teachers or lecturers to really discuss 'what is a teacher?' or 'what is education?'.

I argued we were going through a course of 'trainer training', not 'teacher education'.

And no-one ever spoke again of my 'mini-teach' criticism of 'Reflective Practice', which was being taught completely uncritically, as a simple, uncontroversial, non-ideological method to help improve one's teaching practice. I might have been wrong in my critique, but it was never debated.

No, a PGCE is not a place for anyone who wants to critically think about teaching. I didn't last long.

Perhaps the 'teaching profession' is the new 'trades unions', which we should reject as an outdated agency of the state. Was useful in one historical epoch, but now beyond reform. I don't know.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 27 2010 12:14

Good article. I'd like to read more detail about the negative consequences of a school becoming an Academy, since these are the kinds of arguments we'll be having in the next few years...

Choccy
Dec 27 2010 12:49
LBird wrote:
I couldn't get either my fellow student teachers or lecturers to really discuss 'what is a teacher?' or 'what is education?'.

I argued we were going through a course of 'trainer training', not 'teacher education'.

And no-one ever spoke again of my 'mini-teach' criticism of 'Reflective Practice', which was being taught completely uncritically, as a simple, uncontroversial, non-ideological method to help improve one's teaching practice. I might have been wrong in my critique, but it was never debated.

No, a PGCE is not a place for anyone who wants to critically think about teaching. I didn't last long.

Perhaps the 'teaching profession' is the new 'trades unions', which we should reject as an outdated agency of the state. Was useful in one historical epoch, but now beyond reform. I don't know.

I think the 'de-professionalising' and further proletarianising of teaching is doing a lot to undermine what you might have experienced on PGCE. And if you thought PGCE was bad, Teach First is much worse.

My pgce experience was about as far from your experience as possible, I was lucky enough to get my PGCE at a 'progressive' institution and my lecturers couldn't really stick uncritical teachers or careerists as they were still firmly wedded to old-Labour comprehensive values and fairly radical ideas about education. They were almost universally positive when I sounded off in lectures wink

Can I ask, why did you start a PGCE? You must have thought there was something worthwhile prior .

LBird
Dec 27 2010 15:53
Choccy wrote:
I think the 'de-professionalising' and further proletarianising of teaching is doing a lot to undermine what you might have experienced on PGCE.

Hmmm... I'm not sure... 'de-professionalising' will remove even the modicum of theory that was taught on the better PGCE courses like yours, and 'further proletarianising of teaching' won't, in itself, create critical thinking... or will it? Mind you, look at all the new Commies that the 'call centres' and 'agencies' are creating...

Choccy wrote:
And if you thought PGCE was bad, Teach First is much worse.

This is like being told, 'And if you thought Dachau was bad, Auschwitz is much worse.'

It may be true, but I'm even more depressed at the thought.

Choccy, aka 'Teacher's Pet' wrote:
They were almost universally positive when I sounded off in lectures

I'm green with envy [teeth gritted] at your positive reinforcement.

Choccy wrote:
Can I ask, why did you start a PGCE? You must have thought there was something worthwhile prior .

Well, I think my enthusiasm for history, etc. is infectious, and some people said I explained things well, and I thought I might be able to do something useful...

But I'll never make a Behaviourist teacher in a Behaviourist education system. Even the students (PCET) just wanted to know, 'Do I need to know this for the exam?' - I felt like saying, 'No! You need to criticise it to get your f*ckin' brains workin'!', but I didn't.

And me mate, who's a PGCE 'trainer trainer' himself, warned me about the problems I would have.

But I never listen to teachers. What's the lesson there, eh?

Choccy
Dec 27 2010 20:42
LBird wrote:
Choccy wrote:
I think the 'de-professionalising' and further proletarianising of teaching is doing a lot to undermine what you might have experienced on PGCE.

Hmmm... I'm not sure... 'de-professionalising' will remove even the modicum of theory that was taught on the better PGCE courses like yours, and 'further proletarianising of teaching' won't, in itself, create critical thinking... or will it? Mind you, look at all the new Commies that the 'call centres' and 'agencies' are creating...

No, but I'm recognising the tension that exists, that the myth of professionalism meant a 'proper' education or that education could ever be liberating under capitalism is being shown for the sham that it was.

Quote:
Choccy wrote:
And if you thought PGCE was bad, Teach First is much worse.

This is like being told, 'And if you thought Dachau was bad, Auschwitz is much worse.'

It may be true, but I'm even more depressed at the thought.

It wasn't meant to be uplifting, it's a recognition that a bad situation is getting worse.

Quote:
Choccy, aka 'Teacher's Pet' wrote:
They were almost universally positive when I sounded off in lectures

I'm green with envy [teeth gritted] at your positive reinforcement.

I think it was more they were the last in the line of 'critical educators' at their institution

Quote:
Choccy wrote:
Can I ask, why did you start a PGCE? You must have thought there was something worthwhile prior .

Well, I think my enthusiasm for history, etc. is infectious, and some people said I explained things well, and I thought I might be able to do something useful...

So lemme get this straight, this was an ok motivation for you... but everyone else's motivations must be sinister or their brainwashed? I'm not sure who you're arguing with here, my motivations to teach were exactly the same. Although I'm suspicious of anyone who says their 'enthusiasm is infectious' as it sound like self-aggrandizing shite.

If you had finished the course would you have stayed in teaching? I'm genuinely curious.

Quote:
Even the students (PCET) just wanted to know, 'Do I need to know this for the exam?' - I felt like saying, 'No! You need to criticise it to get your f*ckin' brains workin'!', but I didn't.

Why didn't you say it then?

Quote:
And me mate, who's a PGCE 'trainer trainer' himself, warned me about the problems I would have.
But I never listen to teachers. What's the lesson there, eh?

That you can both 'argue from authority' and dismiss authority in the same sentence?

LBird
Dec 27 2010 21:49
Choccy wrote:
So lemme get this straight, this was an ok motivation for you... but everyone else's motivations must be sinister or their brainwashed? I'm not sure who you're arguing with here, my motivations to teach were exactly the same. Although I'm suspicious of anyone who says their 'enthusiasm is infectious' as it sound like self-aggrandizing shite.

Where did that come from? I thought I was jokingly sympathising with you.

I've have never accused you, or anyone else on here, of being 'sinister or 'brainwashed' - I like reading (most) posts on this site, and constantly learn things.

And I'm a 'self-aggrandizing shite'? Because I'm enthusiastic about Communism and a few people have said to me that my explanations are good? Isn't that what we all aim at? Y'know, being persuasive?

Choccy wrote:
Why didn't you say it then?

It was a joke to you, to try to emphasise my frustrations at the focus on 'exams' - I'm shocked you would suggest that I really say that to a student in a college.

Choccy wrote:
That you can both 'argue from authority' and dismiss authority in the same sentence?

You don't do 'sense of humour', do you, eh?

Choccy wrote:
If you had finished the course would you have stayed in teaching? I'm genuinely curious.

Not with comrades like you - you'd destroy my motivation.

Thanks for the discussion. I know my place now, Teacher.

Choccy
Dec 28 2010 01:10
LBird wrote:
Choccy wrote:
So lemme get this straight, this was an ok motivation for you... but everyone else's motivations must be sinister or their brainwashed? I'm not sure who you're arguing with here, my motivations to teach were exactly the same. Although I'm suspicious of anyone who says their 'enthusiasm is infectious' as it sound like self-aggrandizing shite.

Where did that come from? I thought I was jokingly sympathising with you.

I've have never accused you, or anyone else on here, of being 'sinister or 'brainwashed' - I like reading (most) posts on this site, and constantly learn things.

I thought yer post was very dismissive and responded in kind, apologies if I got the wrong end of the stick wink

Quote:
Choccy wrote:
Why didn't you say it then?

It was a joke to you, to try to emphasise my frustrations at the focus on 'exams' - I'm shocked you would suggest that I really say that to a student in a college.

No, I would happily say [minus the swearing of course] that they should read the stuff critically, while explaining that they do in fact need it for their exam. I'm very honest if I think something is rubbish and try not to bullshit them too much, but I'm grounded enough to tell them 'what examiners want'. I credit my students with a bit of wit.

LBird wrote:
Choccy wrote:
That you can both 'argue from authority' and dismiss authority in the same sentence?

You don't do 'sense of humour', do you, eh?

I thought I was being witty, but there ye go.

LBird
Dec 28 2010 08:37
Choccy wrote:
I thought yer post was very dismissive and responded in kind, apologies if I got the wrong end of the stick

Apologies accepted. I was shocked by the terms you used, but given that you thought my post was 'very dismissive' of you, it's understandable, I suppose. I also apologise if I was a bit too touchy.

The internet is not very good at capturing 'humour', is it?

For example, I thought my comment 'But I never listen to teachers. What's the lesson there, eh?' was self-deprecatory, in that I lost the battle we all have between knowing whether to dismiss what we are told by authority (because it's lies or damaging) or to listen to advice (because some things are of universal value, even if propagated by an authority figure [Be careful when you cross the road, son!]).

Anyway, back to school at St. Libcom's...

jef costello
Dec 28 2010 12:02

Interesting article.
I also found while doing a PGCE that critical engagement was appreciated by the lecturers. I think it was because there was a very strong culture of esearch in the department so they were perhaps more critical than usual. The staff also for the most part had very extensive teaching experience (one had 20-odd years in comprehensives as a teacher). I think the lack of questioning is a systemic problem and one that is hard for classroom teachers to deal with. When I was a kid I was always pissed off that what I thought wasn't particularly important, but what I produced was. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive but when you have a tight timetable and large classes then something has to give and the time to really investigate things is always going to be under pressure. We live in a results-based culture where schools would rather kids get 5 A*-C grades (equivalent including maths and English) than ensure that those kids can actually read or count. LBird, it's not easy to resist that when, at least in part, those kids do need these shitty qualifications. A sixteen year-old with no GCSEs is basically unemployable and eligible for no benefits, (apart from the soon to be lost EMA which is based on their getting onto a course) Obviously we can't just shrug our shoulders and say "that's the way it is" but equally we can't allow the importance of our work to be used as leverage against us as is done with teaching, nursing, care workers or any 'caring' profession. As flawed as a teacher with a conscience might be when it comes to what we believe education should be I'd rather have that than someone who is quite happy that no one is actually learning as long as the kids can be coached through the asessments (or even worse fails to even realise that is what is happening)

LBird
Dec 28 2010 13:29
jef costello wrote:
I also found while doing a PGCE that critical engagement was appreciated by the lecturers. I think it was because there was a very strong culture of research in the department so they were perhaps more critical than usual.

Sounds like you and Choccy had more luck than me in your choice of establishments - but then perhaps you just had the sense to be a bit more discerning than me.

jef costello wrote:
The staff also for the most part had very extensive teaching experience (one had 20-odd years in comprehensives as a teacher).

I think this was true of my lecturers, too. They were very hard-working and experienced.

But I think that the key to the difference in their reception of 'critical ideas', compared to yours, was, perhaps, the research culture. My lecturers gave me the impression of people under pressure, just keen to get through the workload and tight schedule, who thought that my (almost constant) interruptions, questions and outright disagreements with what they were saying, were just slowing down the 'learning' for everybody else. Who knows, perhaps they were right, given their pressures. At first, I think most of my fellow students were inclined to tell me to 'shut the fuck up!', but some, over the months, as they got to see that I wasn't just being disruptive and destructive, but also questioning and creative, gave me some more slack.

jef costello wrote:
I think the lack of questioning is a systemic problem and one that is hard for classroom teachers to deal with.

Isn't it scary that teachers aren't more concerned about the 'lack of questioning' and haven't, like you, drawn the conclusion that it is a 'systemic problem'.

In my experience, even after theoretical discussion, most revert to 'jug and mug'. For example, they almost all see 'knowledge' as a pre-existing entity that they bring to the classroom, which they then transfer to the student, and they then test to see that the student has remembered what they brought. Of course, they pay lip service to 'active learning', but essentially the student is passive (even if they 'actively' write notes, draw diagrams, act out scenes, colour in books, etc., in the attempt to remember what the teacher tells them).

Any notion that 'knowledge' is created by interaction (active discussion, debate, disagreement), that the point of the lesson might not be known prior to the lesson, that the 'student' can often take the role of the teacher, that the teacher might, in fact, be the student who learns in the process, is entirely missing.

For example, my knowledge of political philosophies/ideologies lead me to soon realise that behind the three main theories of knowledge, Behaviourism, Humanism and Social Constructivism, lay the political views of, respectively, Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism. Now, the lecturers, for all their years of hard work and experience of teaching, could have learnt from me about this particular issue. But, unfortunately, they were there to teach, not learn. Some insights into those three ideologies might have helped both them and the other students to appreciate B., H. and S.C. in a deeper way. As it was, everyone seemed to think that the three were just tools, like a knife, fork or spoon, which a teacher could choose to employ in any suitable context, rather than complete systems of thought, not just of teaching, but also social, political and economic organisation. They also have implications for other things, like the architecture of school buildings and accountability in the classroom.

Hence, the PGCE was Behaviourist, to train 'trainers' to 'train' others in a Behaviourist system of 'training'. Just like Pavlov's Dogs.

jef costello wrote:
When I was a kid I was always pissed off that what I thought wasn't particularly important, but what I produced was. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive but when you have a tight timetable and large classes then something has to give and the time to really investigate things is always going to be under pressure. We live in a results-based culture where schools would rather kids get 5 A*-C grades (equivalent including maths and English) than ensure that those kids can actually read or count. LBird, it's not easy to resist that when, at least in part, those kids do need these shitty qualifications.

Yeah, I realise everything you've mentioned, which is why I was aiming to teach adult 'access courses' and the PGCE was PCET ('Post-Compulsory Education and Training, for those not in the know, ie. post 16 (now post 14?)), which might have given some space to reject Behaviourist methods, in favour of some of my own ideas. But perhaps I'm just playing at 'god'.

Anyway, I admire you and Choccy for having the stamina and determination to continue (which I clearly hadn't), even given your difficulties.

jef costello wrote:
...someone who is quite happy that no one is actually learning as long as the kids can be coached through the assessments (or even worse fails to even realise that is what is happening)

This, I fear, is many, if not most, teachers, in my personal experience. Especially the latter.

I hope you and Choccy are kind in your criticism of my ideas and views. Especially my mate Choccy.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 6 2011 21:33

Just want to say that I sent this to some of my co-workers over break and one of them came up to me today all of his own accord and told me how much he liked it.

Dean_Moriarty
Oct 24 2012 11:33

The trouble is, the author of the article is effectively hoisted by their own petard.

What passes for 'radical critique' dovetails into 'we want the best for our kids, Academies can't provide this because of a lack of resources, too much pressure put on teachers' etc.
In fact, that whole shibboleth 'teaching is a vocation, to serve' needs completely demolishing. Instead, schools remain a holding pen for the needs of a system, etc. etc. What passes for 'education' is truly laughable.
The problem is, to develop a thorough going critique of a value producing system that doesn't repeat the old mistakes of a 'burn it all down' ultra leftism - a redundant ultra leftism, because the barbarism of value production is evident at every level of society.

So a thoroughgoing radical critique minus ultra left rhetoric? Is it possible?

knotwho
Nov 9 2012 21:04
Dean_Moriarty wrote:
The problem is, to develop a thorough going critique of a value producing system that doesn't repeat the old mistakes of a 'burn it all down' ultra leftism - a redundant ultra leftism, because the barbarism of value production is evident at every level of society.

So a thoroughgoing radical critique minus ultra left rhetoric? Is it possible?

I think Federici, et al.'s theory of reproductive labor is helpful in forming this critique. Instead of housework, substitute education work (which also happens to be a largely feminized profession, at least in the US):

Sylvia Federici wrote:
Also, when we said that housework is the work that reproduces not just “life,” but “labor-power,” we began to separate two different spheres of our lives and work that seemed inextricably connected. We became able to conceive of a fight against housework now understood as the reproduction of labor-power, the reproduction of the most important commodity capital has: the worker’s “capacity to work,” the worker’s capacity to be exploited. In other words, by recognizing that what we call “reproductive labor” is a terrain of accumulation and therefore a terrain of exploitation, we were able to also see reproduction as a terrain of struggle, and, very important, conceive of an anti-capitalist struggle against reproductive labor that would not destroy ourselves or our communities.

How do you struggle over/against reproductive work? It is not the same as struggling in the traditional factory setting, against for instance the speed of an assembly line, because at the other end of your struggle there are people not things. Once we say that reproductive work is a terrain of struggle, we have to first immediately confront the question of how we struggle on this terrain without destroying the people you care for. This is a problem mothers as well as teachers and nurses, know very well.

This is why it is crucial to be able to make a separation between the creation of human beings and our reproduction of them as labor-power, as future workers, who therefore have to be trained, not necessarily according to their needs and desires, to be disciplined and regimented in a particular fashion.

It was important for feminists to see, for example, that much housework and child rearing is work of policing our children, so that they will conform to a particular work discipline. We thus began to see that by refusing broad areas of work, we not only could liberate ourselves but could also liberate our children. We saw that our struggle was not at the expense of the people we cared for, though we may skip preparing some meals or cleaning the floor. Actually our refusal opened the way for their refusal and the process of their liberation.

Once we saw that rather than reproducing life we were expanding capitalist accumulation and began to define reproductive labor as work for capital, we also opened the possibility of a process of re-composition among women.

The Chicago teacher's strike seems to be a good example of this theory being put into action. Many of the demands were directly beneficial to the teachers -salary, retirement, etc.- but a number of them were mutually beneficial for students: class size, availability of support services, length of the schoolday, relief from testing, etc. I heard a slogan that summed this up: teachers' work conditions are students' living conditions.

knotwho
Nov 9 2012 21:07

That Federici quote is from here: https://inthemiddleofthewhirlwind.wordpress.com/precarious-labor-a-feminist-viewpoint/

Precarious Labor: A Feminist Viewpoint