Thursday, 7 July 2011

Progressive ideas

Or are they?

A friend writes to describe a frustrating attempt to explain Conductive Education to a member of the Fourth Estate (the press) –

...she was a pinko-liberal, bleeding-heart leftie.

My friend is usually one of the gentlest and most tolerant of souls (believe me, it takes one to know one) and has suffered more than a lifetime's fair share of suffering fools gladly. Much (though not all) of this experience, from the perspectives of both provider and user of services, has been in the field of what used to be called 'special education' – now enduring an ugly, miserable, lingering death with the label 'special educational needs' tied to one toe.

When a future generation looks back of what happened to services for disabled children and their families in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, there will be several factors to which to attribute responsibility. I suggest that in the United Kingdom the newly emerging sub-class of 'pinko-liberal, bleeding heart lefties' who, from the mid nineteen-sixties onwards appropriated control of the labour market in the education, social welfare and charitable sectors (and in academe and the disability movement) might find themselves bearing considerable share of the blame.

Iron fist in velvet glove

My friend's words make a statement in a form commonly expressed amongst those who are not of this caste – and those who were once that way but have moved on. The words include liberal, they imply socialist and presume progressive. Without doubt protagonists sincerely believe them, or sincerely believe that they believe them but the old formulation of J. V. Stalin (among others) comes readily to mind:

Left in form but right in content

The words used might sound kind and generous-spirited, and sometimes they really are. But all too often they can cloak profoundly reactionary and oppressive policies, actions and practices. I have sat through enough case conferences and testified as expert witness in enough court proceedings involving professionals and their public-body paymasters, to see the disjunction between the woolly, whoopsiedaisy language used and the the steely determination to control and suppress – and recoiled from the spoiled, outraged horror should anything arise to question the legitimacy of the ways in which authority intends things to be done.

It can all look and sound so soft and cosy, but watch out for the iron fist of reaction clothed in the soft velvet glove of liberalism (who said that?).

This ideological position has entered the governing ideology of countries like the United Kingdom, as a useful means of controlling the aspirations of powerless groups and middle-class 'liberal professionals' alike. It allows little room for the tough love of Conductive Education or the notion of human transformability towards which this is harnessed.

Why should my friends have all the best rants? It has been a warm day here in the English Midlands and I feel like one too.

2 comments:

  1. A rant? That's no rant ... sinply a statement of fact :)
    Ray

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Ray, sometimes it feels a bit lonely! Andrew

    ReplyDelete