The Great debate; Remembering World War One

Yoda - wars not make one great

On the eve of its hundredth anniversary, people gathered St James church in London last night, for the great debate on how we should remember World War One. The discussion was led by Lindsey German convener for Stop the War, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Julian Brazier MP and John Blake, a history teacher and Editor of Labour teachers. The key points debated by the panel hinged on whether or not World War One was a ‘just and necessary one’ or only served the interests of empire.

WW1 Debate

The full speeches and Q&A sessions can be found here:

Speeches

Q&A

There were some quizzical views and opinions expressed by both John Blake and Julian Brazier, the debate ebbed and flowed on the historical context which resulted in the war and subsequently world war two. The legacy of these wars should have been peace but instead we have seen countless wars every decade since. The UK, not content with ending the troops on the ground campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, have instead chosen to support the US in the use of unmanned flying machines to be judge jury and executioner (whether you are innocent or not) and Tony Blair would have us blood stained in the midst of a civil war in Syria, going to show that you cannot keep a good war criminal down. Only Lindsey German really touched on this or the role that the military industrial complex plays in the permanent war economy we live in. As for John Blake, to suggest that the military industrial complex was a shadowy conspiracy theory raises eyebrows to say the least.

Julian Brazier also championed the “volunteer nature” of our armies over the conscription of our enemies over the decades but we have conscription, only under a different name – economic necessity. That is why recruitment posters for the armed forces feature heavily in community centres and areas where social deprivation is at its highest and why the ‘Ruperts’ generally come from a higher class base than your children, who get given faulty equipment and bulletproof vests, in the hope they don’t catch an IED and lose a limb.

War is a racket and it is paid for in the blood of innocent people and young men and women from working class backgrounds. We have more in common with the ‘enemy’ our governments and media prescribe to us than the corrupt billionaires sounding the drums of war. If we are to honour the memories of the dead then we must start by putting our arms down and start exposing the links between these generals, military industries, our politicians and the international banks.

Tony Blair blood hands

Standing up for education, the struggle continues

TEACHERS from the NUT went on strike again on March 26th in a bid to raise awareness and build opposition to the attacks on education that they say are damaging to our children’s future. The man directly responsible for negotiations is Michael Gove.

Michael Gove

But who is Michael Gove?

A recent article by the Financial Times (FT) described him as a man who “lauded Tony Blair as ‘the master’ also praising Blair’s attempt to export New Democracy to the Middle East. Here is a man the FT says draws inspiration not just from Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama but also Vladimir Lenin and Malcolm X, with portraits of the former adorning his office. Quite how he thinks hanging a picture of Malcolm X on his wall makes him any more accessible or acceptable to the people whose educational future he is dismantling is beyond me. He also claims (with some justification) that the Cameron government is top heavy with people from one school, Eton, and is his justification for the changes in education he claims will open up the talent pool to ensure effectively that the glass ceiling for state schools is removed and that the top jobs will be open to us all.

Gove has formed the focus for much of the teachers anger, in much the same mould as Jeremy Hunt has for the NHS or Brandon Lewis for the firefighters recent pension dispute, but these individuals are in the main just the messengers. They are the people who will claim in the future, when the dust has settled on the ruins of our beloved services, that they were “just following orders”. They should be reminded that people of good conscience do not blindly follow orders but then we may be expecting too much from individuals who may have bought into the idea that greed is good and of self-interest.

A brighter light needs to be shone on the corporations who stand to make billions in profit from the fire sale of our public services, such as that of the recent debacle of the Royal Mail which prompted Ed Miliband to call David Cameron not the Wolf of Wall Street but rather the Dunce of Downing Street. All very funny but there is potentially a very serious case of fraud attached to the stench of the sale of the Royal Mail. Instead of scoring cheap jokes at the expense of Cameron, perhaps Miliband and the Labour Party ought to be calling for open and transparent enquiries into the privatisation of our services, identifying who benefitted and by how much, focusing on those people with direct ties to our elected politicians. In this way we can stop focusing our attentions on the party scapegoats and get to the root causes of the problems in our self-proclaimed democratic society.

The NUT strike was well received, despite one-sided media attention as virtually every major mainstream news website reporting the strike as a disruption to children’s education, rather than focusing on the key issues our teachers face. There was a well attend demo and march in London and various local events across the country.

Teaching is one of the most important jobs someone can have, teachers are tasked with developing the people who will shape our future and we should aspire to have the best terms, conditions and working environments from which they can flourish and so too our children. The key being them being allowed to teach our children how to think and not what to think. Much has been made in the media about their concerns on pensions and pay but every teacher we have spoken to focuses first on how the government’s changes will affect our children, how they face being tested to failure and brow beaten by exams and their own personal plight second.

The struggles faced by teachers are one faced by us all and only by facing it together can we hope to make a change for the better, that is why we at NNI stand with our teachers, standing up for education.

Pre-emptive outdoor library project takes hold

Stopsley outdoor Library – a project for the new era

Tracee Cossey

In the wake of possible government plans to cut library services, Stopsley Library staff have recently come up with a unique twist on how to promote theirs. As part of the ‘Big Wild Read’, a summer reading challenge in 2008, staff at the library developed their garden by planting a small bed with wild flowers which was occasionally used to tell stories. From this emerged the plan of turning it into a physical reading space.

Picture 391

The garden project was funded through Generations Together, one of the twelve pilot projects across the country that aims to bring younger and older people together through a range of projects, from filmmaking to gardening.  In Luton, Generations Together is led by Luton Culture on behalf of Luton Borough Council.  As part of Luton Culture, Luton Libraries have contributed to the funding of Stopsley Library Reading Garden.

Aaron, a pupil studying construction at Stopsley High School, inspired his fellow pupils and their teacher to design and build a series of raised beds for the garden.  At three different heights, they make the plants accessible to everyone, and look great too.  Put together, their time and the materials they have used are a considerable donation.

Picture 269

Around 50 children have been involved in the project from inception, from assisting with the design and planting, to hunting for minibeasts to entering a radish growing competition.With young people, older people and those in-between added in, around 130 people to date have either volunteered their time or taken part in an activity in the garden. The garden doubles the size of the library, with over twenty places to sit and read.

There are three areas in the garden, each based on a book theme and designed with a different generation in mind. The first area is based on passages in Jane Austen’s books, with comfy wooden seating, a brick bench and picnic table. The two patio areas in the first area are accessible and surrounded by climbing plants; this is a great place to sit and read. The second area incorporates an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme, where there are roses and lots of room to play.  The caterpillar from the stories has transformed into a butterfly play sculpture and a there is a story circle too.The last area is inspired by gothic fiction that includes Stephanie Meyer’s well-known ‘Twilight’ series.  Hidden around a corner are three giant tractor tyres, planted with spiky and dark foliage.

The garden was officially opened to the public by the Mayor on Saturday 17 July 2010, to coincide with the start of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – ‘Space Hop’. Stopsley Outdoor Reading Library is the only library in Luton that has a green space that can accommodate an outdoor library.

Anna Simmons, Senior Librarian for Luton Culture said: “Now officially open, there are still lots of opportunities to take part in the garden and in the wider Generations Together project.  A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party marked the first efforts to establish a friends’ group and a mailing list for an electronic and print newsletter is currently being compiled.