Flow of Ideas
Education Fireworks!

Glenn Rikowski, posted to the Volumizer, London, on 5th November 2006

Exactly a year ago today, on Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night, as some prefer to call it), Richard Hatcher (2005) sent me what purported to be a critique of my Habituation of the Nation blog of 19th October 2005 (Rikowski, 2005a). Rather, it was an implied critique of key aspects of my work as a whole. This critique was sent not just to a number of e-lists (and I have no problem with that) but also to some of my friends and colleagues at Northampton and beyond, including to some part-time and guest lecturers in Education Studies at Northampton. His article constituted a wilful misinterpretation of my work and a gross manipulation of other blogs on the Volumizer in an attempt to undermine my work in general and on the Schools White Paper of October 2005 in particular. Indeed, the Habituation blog hardly figured in his onslaught; rather, he used material from other Volumizer blogs, without referencing them, and stringing bits and pieces together, to argue his case.

In his critique, Hatcher (2005) indicated that I suffered from the following maladies:

1. I had overestimated the White Paper of October 2005 in terms of its implications and consequences for the business takeover of schools

2. That some of the assumptions I had used regarding the business takeover of schools – especially on the ‘interests’ of education businesses, and whether schools could be sufficiently profitable – were unwarranted or questionable

3. That I took the position that the state acts in the interests of edubusinesses

4. That my analysis was reductionist

5. That my analysis was economic determinist

Now, whilst the first three points have no general bearing on the nature of my work on Marxist educational theory overall, the last two certainly do. For these last two points imply that my mode of analysis tends towards economic determinism and reductionism. If I could be an economic determinist and reductionist on the analysis of the White Paper, then this implied some deep seated problems in my general approach.

Having spent over 25 years working on a form of Marxist educational theory that was neither reductionist nor economic determinist I took Hatcher’s rubbishing of my work seriously. He maintained, onthe other hand, that his contribution was only a slight piece and that I was getting everything out of proportion. Yet if he had worked on Marxist educational theory for so long, putting career, health and wellbeing at risk in the process, then perhaps he might have understood why I was so agitated.

I responded on a big scale, with: In the Dentist’s Chair (Rikowski, 2005b). I demonstrated, at great length, how Hatcher had twisted and turned various blogs of mine to fit his view of my work. As his manipulations of my work to attain the ends he desired were so Byzantine and clever, my replies in my In the Dentist’s Chair were necessarily long and detailed. Along the way I also critiqued his views and generated some ideas, for example on the capitalisation of schools that had independent value for me. There was intellectual gain, as well as critical and personal pain.

Hatcher’s reply to In the Dentist’s Chair (Hatcher, 2006) came out on the MASSES Yahoo! Group only, on 12th February 2006. I tried to access it a few minutes ago, but noticed that there are problems with it. However, for those that want a copy I am pleased to supply one by email attachment [1]. Hatcher objected to the tone of my language. He said that the sources he quoted in his original paper (Hatcher, 2005) were readily available. Well, I did not find them so! In this February 2006 paper, I:

1. Am paranoid

2. Have Stalinist tendencies in the way that I conduct arguments

3. Am a Healyite: a follower of Gerry Healy and the Workers Revolutionary Party, by my association with the Movement for a Socialist Future, a Healyite fragment according to Hatcher – which is terrible according to him

4. Do not give sufficient recognition to his work: when he only sought to undermine my work, and gave no recognition to anything I had done. Towards the end of In the Dentist’s Chair I pointed out the significance and importance of Hatcher’s work

5. Am still an economic determinist, despite what I say in, In the Dentist’s Chair

6. Totally misread the CBI Report of January 2005 and other aspects of education policy

7. Am reliant on the work of Paula Allman, who apparently for Hatcher advances the idea that critical pedagogy alone can lead to socialist revolution (Does she really do this?)

8. Am also influenced by the writings of John Holloway, who, according to Hatcher, rejects the traditional Marxist notion of the state; and this is awful, for Hatcher

To date, I have not replied to these ‘charges’, apart from writing a satirical poem, The Hatch. But I shall, over a period of time, show Hatcher’s significant accusations (as opposed to mere smears, e.g. points 3. and 7.) against me to be without foundation.

As I continue to push forward Marxist educational theory, I will in the process indicate the flaws in Hatcher’s analyses and perspectives on educational change and policy. Since 1996, I have been collecting material on the business takeover of schools in England. I shall stop collecting this material when New Labour has been in power for ten years. With this material, and through Marxian analysis, the foundations for the business takeover of schools during this New Labour decade will be revealed.

Of course, these foundations can be shaken through struggle, and destroyed. It is never too late. But for analyses of New Labour’s education policy that end up yielding too much to capital and its human representatives, the time is never right.


[1] From Rikowskigr@aol.com


Hatcher, R. (2005) Business Sponsorship of Schools: For-profit takeover or agents of neoliberal change? A Reply to Glenn Rikowski’s ‘Habituation of the Nation: School Sponsors as Precursors to the Big Bang?’ 5th November, originally available on Glenn Rikowski’s the Volumizer, posted 7th November, now available at ‘The Flow of Ideas’: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Business%20Sponsorship%20of%20Schools

Hatcher, R. (2006) A Reply to Rikowski’s ‘In the Dentist’s Chair’, 12th February, first posted to them MASSES e-list, at: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/MarxSIG/message/623 and now available at ‘The Flow of Ideas’ at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Privatisation%20of%20Schools%20in%20England

Rikowski, G. (2005a) Habituation of the Nation: School Sponsors as Precursors to the Big Bang?, 19th October, London, now available at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Habituation%20of%20the%20Nation

Rikowski, G. (2005b) In the Dentist's Chair: A Response to Richard Hatcher's Critique of Habituation of the Nation, 31st December, in three parts, available at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=In%20the%20Dentist's%20Chair

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