What are the London riots teaching us?


There are signs everywhere in the world that extreme inequalities are bad, bad, bad! what more evidence do we want to see than this ongoing mayhem in London?

The situation is even more combustible in other regions of the world, such as in South Asia. There are well intentioned people who keep talking of reforms through education. I have them in mind when writing this. Take a pause to reflect that education alone does not help with the situation created by high inequality. Education is not an automatic cure for the disease of ‘social closures.’ Many Tamil fighters in Sri Lanka were highly literate. Its also not that the rioters in London have never seen a school. Most, almost all, have.

The societies would do well to not mindlessly hurl head long into an abyss created by huge potential differences between the rich and the poor. Calls such as education for all etc. that do not at the same time address the problem of ‘social closure’ and presence of advantage barriers [or disadvantage barriers] are not addressing much [Also see the earlier posts on this here and here]. When these ‘disadvantage barriers’ are crossed by other means, criminality is what you see.  The criminality at this scale cannot be dismissed just as criminality. What went wrong for so many young people to engage in such obvious criminal behaviour under the watchful eye of the close circuit cameras and in open confrontation with police.  How could a country go so wrong with the education of young men and women? But its not just education.

Read this piece in the guardian of today:

As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as “social problems” (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

via There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored | Nina Power | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Education alone cannot remove social closures and disadvantage. Most rioting youngsters have been to one school or the other. The ‘badness’ wrought by the extreme inequalities in a society cannot be simply undone by the ‘goodness’ of an education [of mostly uneven quality ] which cannot offset the social and economic disadvantage of the children receiving it.

It is this, if anything, that London riots are teaching us. Are we learning?

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About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

2 Responses to “What are the London riots teaching us?”

  1. jay featherstone Reply 10/08/2011 at 12:41 am

    Irfan, great point. I wish more people were saying this. Not to condone rioting, but to point to the evident and epidemiological link between riots and radical inequality, particularly years of systematic policies promoting inequality. jf

  2. It depends how we define education. simply schooling can’t solve our problems. For me, education without any values and morals are simply creating ‘Pharoh”, “Afsoos kay firoon ko college ki na sojhi”

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