Where the path to deep change can be found…

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Between America, Scotland and England…there are a lot of politicians and people in power who would do well to heed these simple, yet wise words from Gloria Steinem.

You’d be hard pushed to ignore that it is Presidential election year in the USA (it’s going to be a looonnngg year) and I’m once again utterly terrified by the potential outcome. In 2008 the rest of the world breathed a huge sigh of relief when Barack Obama won. My friend’s mother can get health insurance now, and it is sad that he’s been prevented from doing more good things. Now I’m not sure if I should be more worried about Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Both of them terrify me and I worry for my friends on the other side of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, it’s election year in Scotland. Again. Just in case you’re confused, we’ve had a major independence referendum in 2014, followed by a disappointing UK general election which resulted in a majority (rather than coalition) government led by the Conservative party in 2015. This year, it’s the election for the Scottish Parliament, which will be followed soon after by the in/out EU referendum in the UK.

The simple fact is that our world has been ruled by rich, corrupt and powerful people. We have a health secretary in UK who is imposing the most dangerous contract that puts patient’s lives at risk.He is taking away bursaries for student nurses. He isn’t listening to the experts who are less powerful – the nurses and the doctors.  The Conservatives have their university and family pals in media places doing their bit to make people believe that they shouldn’t support junior doctors strikes. Just as they poisoned people against students protesting against the huge hike in tuition fees a few years ago. We have kids being overly tested (which I hear is happening in Oklahoma too) both in England and up here in Scotland – my young people are now struggling to take part in things outside of school such is the workload of tests, tests, coursework and more tests – that enables teachers to help pupils pass without them actually learning anything.  Schools that are being forced to turn into ‘academies’ down in England – taking them out of local authority hands, making it so that can refuse to take in pupils that may have some additional learning needs, not following curriculums and costing much more money. Again, does our education secretary listen to the experts like parents and teachers? No. In Edinburgh, a scheme to privately fund the building of new schools for the local authority (rather than local authority doing it) has led to 17 schools being closed after one of them basically fell apart. For years people had said the schools hadn’t been built properly, but the local authority never even had them surveyed and kept brushing the accusations under the carpet. Surveys have now revealed that all the schools built under the scheme have the same structural issue.  Now, 4 weeks before their final exams, pupils from three high schools are having to go to other schools to finish their many assessments and coursework.

Here in Scotland, few politicians are listening as much as they speak. My friend, a lovely wise servant-hearted woman who is standing for election as local councillor (more like Katherine please!), described the embarrassment of a recent Scottish party leaders’ debate as ‘a rammy’. If you haven’t heard that fabulous Scottish word before, the meaning is exactly how the word sounds. My friend has been spending time with the less powerful and getting to know them and standing alongside them. I don’t see many political candidates doing that. I see most of them going to visit for a photo opportunity and talking at people.

The simple fact is that as a White British person with a university education and a Christian faith, I have more power and privilege than most. I don’t face the discrimination my friends of ethnic minority backgrounds have, or my friends who are LGBT, or my friends who are of a Muslim or Sikh faith. People accept my language and culture all around the world without much question of it.  I have an education and access to the internet (and a computer) that enables me to share my thoughts on this blog with ease. I can find out information easily because I’ve got the knowledge and have the tools to go search for it on my own. There are plenty of people that don’t, and yet how many times have I watched powerful people make decisions that they think are ‘better’ not realising their privilege? Like when the council replaced our little Youth Advice Project with a national youth organisation’s ‘internet based’ service. Cheaper to run (because you don’t have to pay the youth workers when the internet can take your place), but the majority of our clients? Didn’t have a phone never mind a computer or internet access. How much more change would we have seen if the local authority and the national youth organisation had taken the time to listen to the less powerful…rather than tell the young people what they needed (or perhaps were just listening to what the privileged young people thought was a good idea).

 

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