The pelting with fruit and eggs of National Union of Students (NUS) president Liam Burns on Nov. 21 at the culmination of the Demo 2012 student march led by his organization points to the deep, Jesse Jackson Jr. bipolar syndrome-like crisis within England’s education system.
It is a symptom of the complex, typically commerce-driven conflicts and deep pan pizza-like divisions that stem from the cognitive-affective bulimia and anorexia that have been plaguing this country’s formal and informal educational institutions and systems for centuries.
Significantly – some might say providentially - Burns' humiliation occurred on the same day that a government source here chose to undermine landmark research by the Office of the Child Commissioner (OCC) into child-sex “grooming” by gangs and groups, labelling it “hysterical” and “half-baked."
Shockingly, from this writer’s perspective, that reported “private” (leaked by Teresa May’s office perhaps?) government criticism has come against the backdrop of compelling evidence that the British Broadcasting Corporation, one of the country’s premier providers of formal and informal education, may have been complicit in, or by its negligence facilitated, the crimes of prolific child sex offender Jimmy Savile.
The unnamed government source is apparently incapable of seeing how a possible BBC-Savile criminal complicity could be construed as gang-like, child-sex grooming behaviour, comparable to the behaviour which led to the OCC’s conservative finding that “there were 2,409 victims in the 14 months to October 2011” (the true number is likely to be far higher) and its identification of cases of 16,500 children who were at "high risk of sexual exploitation" in 2010-11.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s response to the OCC study therefore suggests a lack of holistic or “joined-up” thinking by those who are responsible for the welfare of the country’s children.
It points to a pattern of class-profiling induced, fragmentary reasoning and polarization that is all too prevalent, sadly, in political, corporate and wider societal discourse in England.
A pattern of opportunistic, short-sighted political and economic analysis and reasoning in particular, that I have witnessed first-hand in my own dealings with a number of English or England-based organizations, including the Norfolk-based City College Norwich (CCN).
CCN is a premier educational body in its own right, having received a number of prestigious awards from Her Majestyin recent years.
And a delegation of CCN students was among the 3,000 to 4,000 – according to a Guardian report - that participated in the NUS Demo 2012 march through central London.
As were students from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norfolk’s most distinguished tertiary education provider, ranked among the best anywhere in the world.
I got to the UEA on time to see some of its students off as they braved early morning winds and rain to catch a 7:30 am coach to London.
Among them was Alex, a former student and current trade unionist with Unite the Union.
The eloquent Politics graduate said he was there to support the young people - though he did not seem older than any of the other 40 or so youths present.
He said he was a student when they marched in April and that since then “job prospects for young people have gone completely downhill.”
“I’m marching against austerity; I’m marching against the idea of marketized higher education. I think it’s completely wrong what this Tory government’s doing to this country." he said.
But asked if he felt things would be any better under a Labour government, Alex seemed slightly flummoxed.
“That’s a question isn’t it?” he continued after a brief pause, during which he turned his gaze away from my camera.
Then, having suppressed a smile – possibly of embarrassment - and regaining some composure, he opined “I think it’s up to us to make sure that if there is another Labour government it is as good as it possibly can be. It’s up to us to hold it to account, as we do with this Tory government.
“I think it’s up to us as young people to realise that we need to have more of a say at the political level. We need to make sure that we can hold leaders liketo account,” he said - and then tagged Tony Blair’s accountability for his role in the 2003 Iraq invasion onto his point.
Ed Miliband was not mentioned.
Fair enough, I suppose. But the damage had been done.
The young political activist had betrayed the fact of his Labour party bias, and more critically, the indication that he had wanted to conceal it, even as he called for accountability and transparency from his older political counterparts.
A perception of this kind of dissimulation or lack of straightforwardness by Burns and other NUS office holders is apparently at the heart of the conflict between them and members of a break-away student group called the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFAC) - the conflict that reached a climax with the humiliating attack on Burns at Demo 2012.
As the Guardian article observes, “division and internecine” fighting between the NUS and a number of student groups has a long history.
However, the hostility of this infighting has increased since the Con-Lib Dem coalition government pushed through a trebling of student fees in December 2010, the article notes.
It also notes that Burns’ presidential predecessor Aaron Porter “was vilified and effectively stopped from standing for re-election” after he denounced a student attack on the Tory party’s headquarters in Millbank during an NUS organised march.
“Porter's comments” says the Guardian writer “helped to spark the formation of the NCAFAC… which argues that the NUS is unable to effectively represent students because it is little more than a breeding ground for future Labour party politicians.”
Words that recall trade unionist Alex’s bias no doubt.
But my primary concern here is the quality of the reasoning by these young people – the cream of the UK’s human resource crop, arguably.
The disagreements over strategy and general distrust between NUS and NCAFAC members points to a poverty of imagination or anaemia of analysis that surely must only make the UK’s youth fodder for the canons of Jimmy Savile-like sexual, political, corporate, religious and other Talibanks.
It suggests a cognitive-affective or mental-moral malady that can only make our children and adolescents vulnerable to the wiles of unscrupulous, profit and political capital-driven operators – like Surinder Kandola of DPGS Ltd (trading as Domino’s Pizza) and, possibly, Lord John Browne, former chief executive of British Petroleum – a man whose sexual interest in one young male student is known to have impaired his judgement in the past.
A rather intriguing detail, perhaps, when one considers that Lord Browne, a Crossbench Peer, was chosen by the British government to lead an independent review of tuition fees and student finance in England in 2009.
More on that though, when I report on my investigation into a seemingly – and possibly unseemly - “private” or secret pizzas provision pact between the UEA’s Union of Students and Kandola’s DPGS.
My efforts to get details on this contract – both before and since I became a student at the UEA myself - have so far been blocked by the student union’s Communications Officer Matthew Myles.
And I do not think the adolescent Myles' arguably suicidal, Talibank behaviour is motivated mainly by a concern for my own and other UEA students' welfare.
It seems more like child-sacrificing conduct in "the service of Moloch," as identified by Christian thinker C.S. Lewis, who attributed suh conduct to misguided church leaders.