History tour of St Giles

In a time when Lincoln is about to expand yet again this tour will concentrate of the very first attempt to build a large-scale social housing project in the City, starting with the purchase of 60 acres of prime land by the City of Lincoln before the start of the WW1, and a fiery meeting of the Lincoln Trades & Labour Council in which its members vowed to prevail against all opposition and get every working family a home “with a bathtub” and out of the squalor of Lincoln’s old slums. 

We will talk about how this movement swept up the local establishment and combined perfectly with the influential garden-city movement to create the green spaces and decent homes on a scale and with such attention to detail rarely seen today.

We will also touch of the eponymous church, and the remarkable story of transformation from an empty white elephant near the Stonebow to being moved brick-by-brick to the serve the needs of this new community, the struggles of local planners to deal with the problem of hundreds of newly-arrive children swamping the local schools and how the estate changed the face of Lincoln, both up-hill and down-hill forever.

Meet 1pm Saturday, 2nd September (following monthly meeting at 12noon), Jubilee Hall, adjacent to St Giles Parish Church

Notes for Know-how: Do-It-Ourselves Higher Education (third session)

Know-how: Do it ourselves higher education

Session 3: 30th October 2014

Croft Street Community Centre

Start 7 pm

Present Mike, Joss, James, Andrew, Peaceful, Tim

The session started with James presenting work he has been involved with in the Abbey Ward, The Old Bunker Project: http://www.theoldbunkerproject.com/

The aim of the Old Bunker Project is to convert a bomb shelter, built in the Second World War, into a community facility. This project iis being carried out through a process of extensive consultation, collaboration and co-operation with the local community. The project has completed phase one: research and consultation, is seeking funding to carry out phase two: design, before moving onto phase 3 of the project: building the new facility.

James’ work shares many of the values and politics of the SSC so we were very excited to hear about the very practical steps he had taken to put the project into practice.

James has worked very closely with local community development organisations and the local council and was able to give us a very useful list of people to contact.

Talking with James helped the group to focus our thinking around the research project we should undertake as the main part of the K-h course this year. We decided to focus on writing a local history of the Abbey Ward with local residents, based on stories and experiences of the local population; and, not only a local history, but also a ‘social topography’ looking at the relationship between the geography and the geology of the city, as a basis for the location of different parts of the population: the bourgeois areas on the top of the hill near the cathedral looking down over the working class parts of the ward, situated near the factories and the river. A key theme to focus on in this work would be the history of immigration in this part of Lincoln.

It was decided that we would carry on developing our general knowledge about Abbey Ward and to make contact with the key people who James had identified for us. James expressed an interest in collaborating with us so that we could work for the mutual benefit of the two projects.

At the end of the session we had an update on the health and wellbeing project being undertaken at a local further education college. We were pleased to hear how well the project is going with a number of unforeseen positive effects already taking place.

The meeting ended at 8.45.

Notes from Social Science Imagination Week 10: History of the Co-operative Movement Part 3

There were two suggestions for texts to read this week:

 

Facer, K. Thorpe, J and Shaw, L (2011) Co-operative Education and Schools: An old idea for new times? The BERA Conference, September 6th 2011, London, UK

 

Kadam, Parag Pramod (2011) Co-operative movement in the world Role of co-operative movement in sustaining rural economy in the context of economic reforms: a case study of Ahmednagar district(Chapter 3)

 

We decided to focus on Facer et al paper, kindly suggested by one of our new scholars, Wendy.  The paper was written in 2011 and at that time there were 143 cooperative schools in the UK.  There has been rapid growth over the past two years and it is now believed there are over one thousand.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Below is a rough transcript of our session, I’m hoping to capture the essence of the session:

 

Joss: are these schools primary, secondary or a mixture.  Are they all fully cooperative or in the process of becoming cooperative?

 

Wendy: rapid increase in cooperative schools was a reaction to neo-liberalism

 

Joss: is this a reaction to neo-liberalism or a product of it?

 

Kathleen: idea of neo-liberalism is to give people more freedom

 

Wendy: no, neo-liberalism just gives the illusion of freedom, capitalist have hijacked words such as freedom and dis-articulated them.  They are using emotive words to give the illusion of freedom.

 

Tim: Can we change from within by using cooperatives?

 

Wendy: academies are run as top down businesses, with management restricting teachers, where the budget not the curriculum is the priority.

 

Kathleen: we need to be clear on what academies are.  Academies are simply schools that receive money from central government.

 

Wendy; One of the criticisms of cooperative schools is they are outside the system, they are not democratically run as others.

 

Kathleen: my vote for my local councillor will not have an effect on how they are run.

 

Joss: cooperative schools can be academies, trust schools, free schools, church schools. You can have a cooperative academy.  Cooperatives are seen as undemocratic as they are not under state control, they are about autonomy.  Cooperatives are private, not public.  We have been schooled to think public ownership is important but cooperatives can be seen as the opposite.

 

Wendy: cooperative schools are more about the teaching and learning, they have a more open curriculum, co-learning.

 

Kathleen: it is not as simple as one versus the other.  I have seen a noble ethos in schools other than cooperatives, community schools, church schools and free schools.

 

Wendy: my thesis is going to test this.

 

Laura: can you tells us about your research, what its about

 

Wendy: my thesis is going to test the claims of cooperative schools against academies.  Develop a new model for secondary education, partnership management, politics, governance interest me but the pedagogy is what im most interested in, open, creative curriculum stimulate learning.  Would like to remove targets and testing.

 

Laura: is anyone at liberty to be removed from testing.

 

Wendy: I hope so

 

Kathleen: two things are separate the curriculum is choice and the tests are statutory, schools have to present evidence of progress to ofsted but in primary education: new curriculum has been designed and due in Sept 2014, is a programme of study rather than having levels of attainment. It’s not statutory for any school which is an academy.

 

Gary: that happens in academies as well they have to do gcse’s.

 

Kathleen: not all academies have to, some do, some don’t.  Its a mixed picture.

 

Joss: The difference between the curriculum and tests,  the curriculum is free and the tests are all standardised.

 

Wendy: I don’t think the idea of the curriculum being free is right.

 

Joss: We have four people who work in education; Tim in sixth form, Wendy and Kathleen and Laura. What is interesting is its a period of real flux and change, people are not set on what is going on.

 

Tim: has anyone come across the Upside of Down Catastrophy and Creativity and the renewal of civilisation by Thomas Homor-Dixon makes reference to Buzz Holling.  Applying a theory of eco-systems to society.  Panarchy and fractals.  All complex eco-systems go through destruction and renewal and that’s when new ideas can be formed. I would like to do some research in this area.

 

Wendy (to Kathleen): I want to pick up this point about curriculum and free to choose this. An impact of that is school targets. Highly competitive system is taken out of cooperatives

 

Laura: don’t cooperatives have targets

 

Wendy: no not in the same way

 

Joss: back to the text, I don’t think we can say cooperative schools do this and cooperative schools don’t do that.  The only way to define a cooperative is to test it against its values and principles as cooperatives are not a legal form.

 

Two examples can be found in the text, a faith school and an enterprise academy can both be seen as cooperative (page 8-10).  Cooperative values and principles are open to interpretation, change and are aspirational which is both their success and downfall.

 

 

Joss: Tim I will read this article you have mentioned about fractals.

 

Lucy: what are fractals?

 

Tim: you don’t want a hierarchical structure, society is communities working together, non-hierarchical, it creates a pattern

 

Kathleen: like the leaves on a tree

 

Tim: brassica (shows us the picture of a close-up brassica).

 

Joss: Rhizomes and Rhizomatic theory.  Deleuze  and Guttari  were political theorists who were popular in the 70s and 80s.  Rhizomes are root systems.  You can also look at Rhizomatic learning pedagogical model.  A network of people learning from each other inspired by the internet.

 

Kathleen: Gregory Bateson did a lot of work into the patterns in society mirroring the patterns found in nature.  He was very influential in my career.

 

Joss: Gregory Bateson was a systems theorist and his work was influential in the 60s and 70s to computer scientists working on the internet.  Systems theory can explain some things, there are structures that regulate our lives but I think it is ‘seductive’.  Systems theory doesn’t explain politics. The internet is no longer the organic  creation it once was, it has become too regulated.

 

Wendy: I want to go back to this idea of the cooperative movement, what is the cooperative movement?  I’d like to think about John Holloway and the idea that we can change the world without taking power.  We can change other things before the political.

 

Joss: the point of Holloway’s second book is there are cracks in the capitalist system.  Where we can create a different world.  For example he talks about the community gardens and also the SSC as being those cracks. Its about creating an abundance of cracks. Critics say you wont get anywhere with just a community garden or the SSC but its about creating an abundance of cracks.

 

Gary: That challenge capitalism as the dominant logic.  The cracks will eventually meet up and shatter capitalism. It can be as simple as an allotment you tend to at night.  There is the Johnson Forest tendency in America, workerism in Italy and France.  It is about local communities organising and controlling themselves.

 

Laura: I have a practical idea, its about co-operators, cooperating with each other.  I use SUMA which is a worker cooperative as an alternative to Tesco.  The downside is £250 you have to spend at once.

 

Peaceful: interested in permaculture like Laura.  Capitalism controls what goes on but is not the best option,  dont think we have yet imagined what would replace capitalism, what is the best way forward.  The idea of permaculture is observing how nature is already working.  Permaculture looks at how everything can work harmoniously together.  Capitalism isnt the best way to live as its fundamentally about greed.

 

Joss: ‘greed’ is one way to look at it but early capitalists were promoting ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ as it was a better system than the feudal system.  Even if you aren’t greedy, you are still stuck in the capitalist system.

 

Gary: how can you get people to work together to produce wealth, it was a form of cooperation.  It was once seen as advanced but due to technological advance we have outgrown this system now.

 

Joss: JS Mills wrote that early liberals hoped capitalism would produce enough wealth, people would no longer have to produce more wealth and we would reach steady state – no growth.  There is now the thought that there must be growth.  Especially recently.

 

Lucy: and then they start to invent growth.

 

Wendy: nothing is ever good enough.

 

Gary: in the school system, teachers who get grade 2 in school system which is ‘good’ will go on capability as they are not progressing to grade 1.  Good is not good enough.

 

Kathleen: but there isn’t enough money for everyone to be grade 1, with grade 1 comes a salary increment but there isn’t enough money in the pot.

 

Tim: students are failing because the lessons aren’t interesting enough.  Teachers are being blamed for societal problems impacting on students learning.  Crude analogy: only the best potatoes make crisps.  We are expected to ‘make crisps’ out of all students!!  getting politicised by the current situation and will be joining others on the picket line next week on strike.

 

Wendy: children are depressed even in primary school.

 

Kathleen: There was a review called children in their world written by Alexander.  This is about primary education.  Biggest review since Plowden in the 1960s.  It dispelled some myths.  It is a myth children are depressed.  Children are happy at school as it is a safe haven.  Children also felt safe. It is parents that feel their children are not safe anymore.

 

Joss: shall we return to the text and think about reflecting back on the SSC from what we’ve learned from the text as we’ve done the last two weeks.

 

There is a quote I like from page 5

 

“At a very early period in the movement, cooperation set before itself the task of becoming mentally independent as being quite important as that of becoming independent in its groceries” Gurney 1996 pg 38

 

Useful things to reflect on form the text

 

“we could argue there are three broad and interwoven currents of aspiration and activity which characterise the emergence of cooperative education from its roots in the 19th century

  1. Teaching about cooperation – making visible the alternatives
  2. Training for cooperation – building cooperative institutions
  3. Learning through cooperation – developing cooperative identities”

 

To what extent is the SSC undertaking these aspirations?

 

Tim: I’ve picked up on the second one, that’s just neo-liberalism

 

Joss: that’s not just a neo-liberal approach, it can apply to other political systems.  It can apply to permaculture.

 

Kathleen: we are looking at free services, free transfer of knowledge.

 

Joss: what do you mean by that

 

Kathleen: free of charge, no exchange of money.

 

Joss:  there is money changing hands.  Members of the SSC do pay every month,  however, to sign up to the course, you do not have to pay, though you might consider joining the SSC after joining the courses.

 

Kathleen: article in the Guardian about the IF Project.  Around us there are lots of free things going on for example, free museums, talks, lectures etc.  There is a lot to do in Lincoln.

 

Joss: not ‘free’, publicly funded.

 

Kathleen:  IF are developing a programme of courses  that are intellectually stimulating form the free environment.  The two people creating this are Barbara Gunnell and Johnny Mundy.

 

Joss: the word free is used differently for this project than to the SSC. The IF project mean free from charge.  Free means freedom and free association here at the SSC.  The IF project is not cooperative.  It is going to consider being a social enterprise.  They have sought crowd funding to get it off the ground and have asked for donations up to the sum of £10,000, although this has caused some criticism as they were not constituted at the time of asking for donations, they were just two people. The SSC is nomadic and joining up with resources and other cooperatives in the city.

 

Laura: cooperatively we could choose to get a guest lecturer to come and talk to us.  When we first set up we started with study skills sessions and lectures.

 

I don’t think we do the middle one.  “training for cooperation”. Does anyone agree?

 

Peaceful: I think by coming here we are imagining the world we want to live in.  Imagine a world that is different before we can live in it.  We are trying to do something about the oppression by being here.  It is important to provide a platform the critique capitalism.  We are putting into practice training for cooperation by for example putting on the conference next month,

 

Gary: I think that things happen implicitly and explicitly.  Consensus decision making, curriculum, structure, taking turns to facilitate are all developing our skills.  We spend three weeks talking about the history of cooperatives, values and principles, mapping cooperatives in the city.

 

Joss: Something to think about: whether we consciously and explicitly use these ideals as a foundation to build upon.  What do we want to take forward, can we discuss in the last class.

SSI course reading for week ten

Is it week ten already?

We’ve extended the course a further week to accommodate some scholars’ availability and will use the extra week to read more relating to the history of the co-operative movement. This Thursday, we’ll be discussing the following:

Facer, K. Thorpe, J and Shaw, L (2011) Co-operative Education and Schools: An old idea for new times? The BERA Conference, September 6th 2011, London, UK.

History of the co-operative movement (2): Gender

Co-operative Women's Guild

The class consisted of twelve people this week, with three new scholars joining us, helping to make it a very rich and interesting class.

The seminar mainly focused on Alistair Thomson’s article: ‘Domestic drudgery will be a thing of the past: cooperative women and the reform of housework

Recap

We began by reading Gary’s notes from last week. This helped remind us of what we discussed and it is always interesting to read reflections on the class from one person’s perspective. Both Woodin’s article last week on co-operative education and this week’s article on the Co-operative Women’s Guild focused on a similar period in history around the turn of the 20th century, when clearly the co-operative movement was significantly expanding and thriving. In contrast, several articles in this week’s newspapers said that the UK Co-operative Group was ‘ungovernable‘ and ‘collapsing under the weight of its debts‘.

Discussing the reading

As we turned to Thomson’s article, we each spent a few minutes going back over it to identify one or two key passages that were of interest to each of us. This was a technique we used the previous week and it gave us time to reflect on the article and each contribute to the discussion.

We learned about the Owenites’ earlier efforts to “abolish private housework” and how the Owenite radical vision and practice remained a source of inspiration to co-operators. The biography of Robert Owen was a particular source of inspiration for women in the co-operative movement.

Within the co-operative movement, there remained a distinct tension between seeing household work as “domestic drudgery” but also the source of women’s dignity. Many argued that household work was restricting women from engaging in public life and so women sought ways to introduce efficiencies into their housework, allowing them more time to do other things. Unlike the Owenites, co-operative women, on the whole, did not seek to divide household labour within the home between genders, but rather argued for a division of labour among co-operative households so that services for the household such as washing and cooking, were collectively owned and operated. Just as industrial work was becoming visibly shaped by a division of labour and “modern methods of production”, women appealed for the introduction of new technologies into the home to improve the conditions of work, ‘lighten the load’, and create time for other things. The operation of the household (the ‘women’s workshop’) must have seemed backwards compared to the operation of the factory. However, as Thomson notes: “Co-operators were usually more interested in gaining control of economic relations than in reforming the relations of domestic life.”

What struck me from reading the article and our subsequent discussion was that the earlier Owenites, who tried to address inequalities of gender and overturn the “prison” of domestic life, was a negative critique of emerging capitalist social relations as a whole (i.e. the practice of ‘communism’). In contrast, the co-operative movement a few decades later was in part inspired by the visionary experiments of the Owenites, but primarily concerned with working class control of capitalist economic life. Co-operation was not an alternative to the capitalist mode of production, but regarded as an improvement on it. Economies of scale, machinery, division of labour in the workplace, mass-production, and private proft-making were all welcomed and even efforts to improve conditions for housework were judged on their contribution to the wider economy, rather than the household economy. In a sense, co-operative women had an interest in improving the ‘economy’ in its original etymological meaning of ‘household management’, while co-operative businessmen turned their attention to the industrial economy. The co-operative movement was after all, a working class reaction to the exploitation and alienation of industrial work. “While labour leaders agitate for better wages and a better distribution of wealth; we women ask for a better distribution of work.”

Another aspect of the article which interested me was the emphasis that the co-operative movement and the Womens Guild placed on private enterprise as opposed to reliance on the State. We learn from Thomson’s article that “the main strategy of Guild domestic campaigns was to seek change through co-operative rather than municipal action” and that Guildswomen  favoured co-operative solutions “because working through the state seemed too indirect.” It raised the question for me about the extent of the state’s involvement in people’s lives at that time compared to today and the extent that we have come to take the idea of a ‘welfare state’ for granted in a way that was inconceivable for most people at that time.

In summary, our discussion touched on a number of themes: the continued power structures within the home; the desire for all workers, but especially women, to have more time for leisure, education and public life; the continued drudgery of work; the conditions of labour both inside and outside the home (while women suffered in the home, men also suffered in the factory and mines); the degrees of status within the working class; the lack of security as housing was attached to terms of employment; how the household is not seen as a political space yet conditions people’s identities; the outsourcing of domestic labour (e.g. the production of washing machines) to countries with poor industrial conditions; and the impact of war on women’s roles in society as well as the post-war introduction of the welfare state;

Reflections on SSC

In the final part of our class, we shifted the discussion to ask what issues of gender there are at the Social Science Centre. Mike noted that perhaps for the first time, this class had an equal number of women and men attending. Below is a flavor of the discussion. I have left my (incomplete) notes unedited to offer a raw sense of the directions our discussion took.

Gary: Why don’t we discuss issues of gender and race more often? There isn’t the political charge any more.

Jane: Depends on the settings we put ourselves in. Jane chooses to be in those settings where race, sexuality and gender are discussed.

Tim: Media has compressed history. There is no sense of time among his students. It erodes politics.

Lucy: Are young people even questioning inequality? Is education teaching the working class about these things? Co-op women’s guilds sought space/time for education.

Tim: Middle class students are more aware of the pathways in life.

Sarah: Opportunity for us to discuss these issues at SSC. How to structure our space. Dorothy Smith. The positions we write from. It does matter that we almost never read anything written by women. Most people in the room are white. We don’t discuss sexuality, private lives. We have formed intellectually. We started by writing about ourselves/biographies. We need to work on the issue of childcare. Kids aren’t allowed in this building (Pathways, where we meet is a ‘halfway house’ for homeless adults).

Mike: Harney and Moten: Undercommons. Talking about alternative universities. Not really alternatives. They just replicate the university. The SSC is such. Need to find a way of radicalizing ourselves again. “Who isn’t in this room?” We used to have kids in the SSC.

Kathleen: It’s “being schooled” in the true sense. Older generations are looking after their parents. Younger generation are looking after their children.

Jane: To what extent are we embodying the world that we’d like to live in? We need to put the effort into designing a curriculum, choosing texts, etc. that is more diverse. How do we issue an invitation that is more open? Embody it in the aesthetic?

Andrew: Single parent of disabled child for 12 years. Impact on carer. There’s a whole structure of subordination that crosses gender, class, race.

Mike: How can we stretch ourselves again?

Jane: There’s an extraordinary thing that’s going on here. It’s about trust. Able to be vulnerable. In a loving way. Age, class, disability, gender, sexuality, race. Important moment when Lucy said she didn’t understand something.

Sarah: Discussion about what is valuable to us. Collective decision.

Wendy: Do we know where we want to go? What we want to achieve?

Joss: SSC was always about higher education.

Gary: The last 10 mins been ‘ground breaking’ in terms of SSC.

Lucy: What the SSC means to me is changing, every week.

Laura: Wants to study social science, but has SSC, but not the same as university.

Jane: SSC is about higher education and it’s up to us to define higher education.

Lucy: I’m really enjoying myself. That’s all that matters.

Sarah: Questioning patriarchy is a form of higher education. Radical for some people.

I/Joss think that by the end of the class there was a general sense that the SSC was entering a new stage of its development and those scholars attending the class welcomed the opportunity to radicalise the nature and purpose of our co-operative. This had partly been the intention of studying the theme of ‘co-operation and education’ this term, so that we created space to read, reflect intellectually and then take forward new practices within the SSC. It was intended that the course this term became a critical and reflexive space for our co-operative as a whole and this is clearly taking place.

Next week we will focus on ‘co-operative learning’. Laura said that our ‘homework’ is to recollect a positive learning experience and explain it without writing it. “When have you had your most positive learning experience, what factors enabled this and what kind of learner do you think you are? Make, cook, bring something!”