A taster of the potential of the catalytic nature of the Arts towards Social Justice? 6.2.15

I was really interested in how the power of arts based projects (Young Musicians for Heritage and Only You 2.0, see Some of my Projects) in the communities I worked with led two MC’s from Crewe and Manchester to gain places in my department of Contemporary Arts to study music, community practices and creative writing. This is significant as these two youth leaders have become local role models for younger musicians in their communities, where education is slowly becoming valued again. I think what was important was that these artistic projects, led these two musicians to re-evaluate the value of education on their terms, so that they could see the point of Higher Education and what it could do for them, not just in terms of employment prospects but more broadly in terms of their sense of self determination. We cannot underestimate the power of this ripple effect in their communities, for whom education has largely been “inaccessible” and “irrelevant”.

We also must not fall into the trap of thinking of Education merely as a commodity that can be traded for social mobility, especially as this very concept of mobility is currently eroding before our very eyes. I believe that Education has to be more than JUST a ticket for successfully accessing a neo-liberal paradigm because if its function is only just this, then as educators we will only be churning out graduates to fit into the “system”, cogs in the wheel of a neo-liberal ideology that exists only by (re)producing structural inequality (despite what market advocates will tell you). Surely, education is about more than this? I would like to think that the Arts can encourage a self reflection and expression which can better enable a potential learner to re-engage with education on their terms. This has never been more important for deprived communities for whom education can seem a more and more remote possibility with the psychological factors of debt aversion that our increasingly marketised education system brings.

Perhaps we need to update our concept of social mobility where WE move upwards up the social ladder to where we MAKE THE LADDER MOVE to our present position. I think education can be a powerful tool in enabling people to be enterprising and self-determining, where who they are and what they do from where they are can gain value without the need for being “mobile” in a dynamic sense. In our current post modernist era, surely learning how to “curate” your own knowledge and in the process generating value that is specific to you but valued by others has to be the way forward. In fact, it could be argued that this is exactly what has been done and continues to be done by those who hold Power in society but perhaps, as educators, by teaching our students to understand these hidden levers of Power the education we will have to offer them, might just be truly useful to them after all, where they won’t have struggle to open doors that remain closed to them but create their own doors of opportunity (albeit with a struggle). Idealistic, I know but I am intrigued by the process of how this could be made to happen!!!! Cassie Earl in her essay about Critical Pedagogy explores this, as does Dr Kehinde Andrews in his essay about Black Supplementary Schools.

For more on this read:

here (Community education and Race)
here (Structural discrimination and hidden privilege in Education)
here (Restructuring Education to favour the privileged)

Please visit my Academia.edu page

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