Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Ruskin College 'strike' of 1909

News from Nowhere Club/
IWCE Network

supported by Labour Heritage

8pm Saturday 12 April

Plebs Magazine

Colin Waugh

The Ruskin College 'strike' of 1909

Independent workers' learning existed across the C20
 but can the Plebs ideal of politically committed education be realised today?

The Epicentre,
Leytonstone, E11 4LJ
0208 555 5248
07443 480 509


RaHN Notes circulated for a similar meeting held on Feb. 11 2009
Plebs League, Ruskin  College strike and independent working-class education
The historical events of a hundred years ago are still mulled over, and concerned  the responsibility for  post school education. In those years, the unions in this country were extending  their activities beyond the realm of skilled workers and seeking to ensure a proper adult education for those many less skilled  who missed out on  secondary schooling.. Many of those with high ability wanted university style education as befitted  their capacities, in order to  take part in the expansion of unions in workplaces  but this  corner was being  dominated by university authorities.  They tried to extend conventional education which directed working class students away from the  labour movement.

The few dozens workers students at Oxford resisted the takeover move in 1909. They used the traditional methods and went on strike, making the issues a national one.  After a few months , when the academics did not back down, the students established the Labour Colleges system.  Classes were run in numerous cities , correspondence courses were soon set up and the adult education system divided down the middle as the conventional teachers  kept to their intentions.  They continued with the-middle-of-the-road  Workers Education Association, the bitter rival of what was to become the National Council of Labour Colleges (NCLC),  with its own college in Tillicoulty, Scotland.  This continued right up to 1964, when the TUC took over the residue  in numerous cities.

The more aggressive unions, especially the miners, called on their financial and political resources.   They sent  full time students  to the NCLC and their members received correspondence sheets and other materials  for a decade or so.  Then the situation was complicated by the divisions within the labour movement as the political party adopted conventional parliamentary procedures but many of the rank and file supported the Communist Party and the new Russian society.   Readers may have their own views on the  fate of the USSR but the struggle still continues for education free from open capitalist influences.

Colin Waugh  who is active on the Post 16 Educator journal, has written a booklet to tell more fully the story above.  Today education is not totally subject to strong influences from powerful institutions in society but many union members feel  that the old master institutions are still very influential. And there is still alienation   Many children grow up  without any personal knowledge of  how, when and where  unions  can act to benefit workplace members , let alone the higher reaches of current society.
The subject is wide open for debate…

134 KB

No comments:

Post a Comment