Sunday, 29 March 2015

Nice if you can afford it

My generation will recall the great days of evening classes on the rates during the 1970s and 1980s; local councils funding nil or nominal cost classes for adults in pottery making, woodwork, car maintenance, Serbo-Croat and flower arranging. It was all very Margot Leadbetter, in that the beneficiaries were generally the aspirational middle classes who could afford to buy a pottery kiln, set of carving chisels or bathtubs of cut flowers. A chum of mine, an accountant, did a car restoration course at the local tech and afterwards spent about £20k buying and restoring an old MG.

History, of course, is not written that way. For those under 40 such as the Guardian's Lola Okolosie, adult education was about brave councils fighting poverty and class disadvantage and bringing the light of literacy to the poor and ignorant. The slow death of evening classes on the rates for Lola is symptomatic of a war on the poor rather than the consequence of the ever-expanding costs of child surveillance and custody by councils.

Lola is of the generation and milieu that believes that the State should do everything for them, including no doubt wiping their arses. The State, however, can't incubate the drive for self-improvement, so strong in our people in the early part of the last century that it supported an entire mass publisher - Dent - bringing an Everyman's Library of cloth-bound 8vo knowledge into Glasgow tenements, Plaistow attics and rented rooms. An amiable Scots vagrant once accosted me on the Strand quoting Wordsworth - his mother was a Dent subscriber.

Whilst early evening classes may have been the continuation of self-education by the local State, they didn't stay that way for long. Do gooders and social fiddlers soon realise that the poor are not queuing in droves to spend several hours of good drinking time learning irregular verbs. So the classes soon changed to attract motivated middle-class attenders keen to learn Spanish or Italian for their holidays, or how to bend and spot-weld steel sheet in the case of my accountant chum. Nice if you can afford it - but now we can't.


Sackerson said...

Remember the WEA? And the working-class movement for sobriety? The modern State's approach to keeping the plebs down is to keep them drinking and gambling, under the guise of freedom and individual choice. Viva the Postcode Lottery, Foxy Bingo, Mr Green's online gambling and all the rest.

Anonymous said...

Social networks, and back in the day.

The Christmas fayre, raising money for the local school and church, bob a job week and cubs, scouts and guides gathering stuff for jumble sales to raise money for charities throughout the year.
PTA evenings, coffee mornings and local library meetings, all mothers and fathers and helping and fixing stuff in the meantime and yes evening classes galore at the local college; in French, woodwork, bricklaying and dressmaking-crotchet - not necessarily all at the same time tho'.
They - PEOPLE also met in the evenings at the local, Britain was a very sociable culture, mums and dads looked out for other friend's kids - all kids and more often than not people had time for the older generation too.
Though, respect for the elderly sadly was slowly ebbing incrementally throughout the 50s60s70s, mind you most died at not much above/below three score and ten - old is a relative term.

We walked and cycled everywhere, car ownership was a bit unusual, getting the bus into 'town' was an occasion when we were very young and a bind when we were not much older - to have a car in your teens was a 'babe magnet'. By our tweens we could just about afford a house - so a bit of cheap entertainment while learning sumpfink was a golden opportunity to personally better yourself, either for monetary gain or more often than not - because you just wanted to learn summat because it interested you - how weird is that, huh?

Community, there isn't much of it today - because, read it Lola OKOLOSIE: big government fucks you and everything else with it.

Anonymous said...

Crotchet and crochet depending on musical taste, or get the needle, guitar maybe.

Roger said...

The wheel of history doth turn and turn. Back in the 19thC British education was well behind the Germans, the upper class got nervous and educating the working class became a priority - Mechanics Institutes, WEA etc. There was also a benefit in the pay packet to getting a certificate in this or that. By the mid '30s a higher purpose had set in and as you say, by the '70s evening classes became a middle class aspirational thing. But rather worse, Whitehall had decided educating the working class was no longer so worthwhile with industry in long term decline. Slowly the educational and cultural benefit (and cost) has been removed. So now we are behind the Germans again and the Chinese and all of Asia is catching up fast. The upper class is not bothered - no existential threat and money is global now, So Lola and friends will be sending their kids to the private sector to catch the few decent jobs around.

Anonymous said...

Roger we were not behind the Germans. The Germans had state education, the British had Dame schools, paid for and funded by parents. Children would be educated by a local retired person who was educated. The C19th claim that we were behind the Germans was an excuse to nationalise the schooling system, largely at the request of qualified teachers to protect their status and pay (rather like the NHS), and to give the state power.

Demetrius said...

Following on from Sackerson and Roger above, where I was it was for the lower middle class, supervisory and sober respectable working class. But and a very big but was the whole raft of evening trade and apprentice training and professional courses. A lot of all this has not gone it has morphed into all the full time day education now loaded onto the main stream higher education system and all those degree etc. courses. Probably a lot less efficient as well as being hugely more expensive and bureaucracy ridden.

Anonymous said...

I find the internet quite a good resource for self-improvement. Not quite as sociable as night classes but at least I can learn in the comfort of my own home.
Unfortunately, the government would desire to meddle with that too and ruin it in the process.

Brightside Bob said...

Picking up on Sackersons comment about online betting games.

One of the gutter press has a tv ad for it's online bingo. The setting is an empty bingo hall(bar the caller & one lady punter). This is the evil of it all.

Keep people isolated in their own homes. Same as with the pub smoking ban. Don't want the plebs conversing with eachother in social settings do we? Might lead to social cohesion & a unified disastisfaction.

Divide & distract.

Ps: Says me, tapping away on my laptop keyboard... *sigh*

Anonymous said...

"Keep people isolated in their own homes. Same as with the pub smoking ban. Don't want the plebs conversing with eachother in social settings do we? Might lead to social cohesion & a unified disastisfaction."

And that's exactly the point, particularly the pubs - not all were but some could be havens where social classes mixed and mixed well and the conversation mutually beneficial and always interesting.

Now, I am a just a bot!

Anonymous said...

Good post Raedwald, brought back memories of a life once lived - 'rates' was something inside a tin in the kitchen cupboard.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

"Nice if you can afford it - but now we can't"

Well, why can't we?

Anyone my age lived through those times, and remembers also that every town had a library, a swimming pool, and many had an ice rink. We paid our rates, didn't we?

And now the economy is three or four or five times as large as it was then, but suddenly nobody can afford any of those things.

Have local (or any other taxes) reduced so much, or even at all? Well no they have not.

So where's the cash going?

We all know really - hordes of useless pen-pushers in lavish offices, unaffordable (except for the public sector) pension entitlements, and silly-money pay for those we used to call town clerks.

Is there no way to stop all this, and go back to spending our money on things that benefit the people? Probably there isn't. The triumph of the unproductive.


G. Tingey said...

Correct & Radders is, I'm sorry to say, wrong.
If er can't afford education, then we are fucked - completely.