Chatting Critically Meeting, May 24 – Immigration

Our next CC meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 24th at a new venue – Γάιδαρος ΚοινΣΕπ in Vamos – from 10.30 a.m to noon.

At the meeting, Pete Morton will be leading off a debate on “Immigration; build a wall or a door?”

As promised he has provided links to three articles about immigration that might help stimulate discussion on 24/5 and also provide some data to underpin such discussion.

Pete comments, “there are countless other possible articles. In choosing these I have tried to avoid extreme views at either end of the spectrum. See what you think”.

The first is a piece from the Pew Research Centre entitled “Key facts about recent trends in global migration” and is a data driven article. Pew Research describes itself in these terms “We are a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions.”

The second item is a piece entitled “Multiculturalism is madness” which makes the case for greater controls on immigration and the defence of what the writer sees as the essential culture of the U.K. The source is a website called “Merion West” which was founded in 2016. It claims to bring a new and independent voice to the current media environment which it sees as too partisan and polarising. It claims that it is “nonpartisan and publishes critical commentary and in-depth interviews from across the political spectrum.”

The third is a piece from the director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute which describes itself as a public policy research organisation that creates a presence for and promotes libertarian ideas in policy debates. It says that its “mission is to originate, disseminate, and advance solutions based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.”

In addition, Brenda Foulds has sent Pete a number of articles translated from the Italian, of which this is one.

No country for immigrants
By Laura Salvinelli

Thanks again to Pete and Brenda for the material, I hope to see you there for the discussion. If possible let me know if you are intending to come at

FROM THE ARCHIVES JUNE 2009 -Youth Work Values Under Threat

More or less every month I’ll dig into the archives for pieces that might be of interest or pertinence. I’ve settled on doing so chronologically from the emergence of IDYW in 2009. The following post dates from June 2009. Sadly the links don’t work. There may be a possibility of unearthing the report, ‘Squaring the Circle’.

FROM THE ARCHIVES JUNE 2009 -Youth Work Values Under Threat

Youth work’s values under threat is the title of a new piece in Children and Young People Now focused on Squaring the Circle , the ‘modest’ inquiry into the state of youth work practice led by Brian Merton and Bernard Davies.

The report says: “This inquiry has strengthened our view that these dilemmas are being rendered more acute as the state’s interventions become increasingly prescriptive, intrusive and insistent.” It also fears the distinctive style of youth work is being threatened by the use of accredited outcomes.

Davies said: “Anyone who has their ear to the ground picks up lots of anecdotes about what is happening in youth work. There is a lot of anxiety and anger that the core principles of youth work are under pressure and under threat by some policies, including Aiming High and Youth Matters.

“It is important to get beyond the anecdotes and establish more clearly what is going on,” he added.

More from Janaki Mahadevan’s report here.

The close timing of the appearance of our In Defence campaign and the DMU Inquiry is perhaps fortuitous. But as both Thomas Hardy and Karl Marx agreed, twists of fate or plain accidents play an important part in history. Indeed Janika is pursuing a further article for CPYN, exploring this resurgence of questioning about what’s going on within the arena of Youth Work.  This can only be good for the opening of critical debate.

As part of the research, Janika posed the following questions:

I would like to ask you about some of the concerns/ questions that have been raised in both the inquiry and the letter. I would be most grateful if you would answer the following questions for me.

1) Do you think that current policy frameworks are tipping the balance of youth work from open access to targeted provision? If so do you think this is something that is compromising the nature of voluntary engagement and why?

2) Is the relationship between youth worker and young person and the notion of confidentiality being threatened by the requirement to pass information to others and what impact is this having on the nature of youth work?

3) Is the process and intent of youth work being compromised by the pursuit of targets and accredited outcomes? Is it making youth work too prescriptive and why?

As is my failing my reply was less than straightforward, but went as follows:

Before answering your questions directly a few words on principles and ideologies. In arguing for the Defence of Youth Work the Open Letter is at pains to define a form of youth work that is democratic and emancipatory. The core principles of such a liberatory practice are set out in points 1-6 in the fourth paragraph. However, there are other competing forms of youth work, notably an approach to young people that is hierarchical and conformist. Indeed there has been a long-running tension between the two, hence the classic essay title, ‘Is Youth Work an agency of social change or social control?’ In the three decades after the Second World War the model of social change was increasingly favoured at least at the level of policy and rhetoric, caught in the sentiments of the Albemarle Report [1959] and in its last gasps the Milson-Fairbairn Report [1974]. Youth Work desired to be involved in the creation of critical citizens concerned with the common good. Of course, how far this commitment was carried out in practice is a matter of continuing debate. However, with all its warts, this optimistic view of young people’s individual and collective potential has been eroded gradually and insidiously since the late 1970s. It has been replaced by the hierarchical and conformist in its neo-liberal guise, determined to thrust the values of the market into every nook and cranny of our existence. Dominated by a managerial outlook, obsessed with the technical and behavioural, it seeks to mould young people into being individualistic, compliant and never-satiated workers and consumers. This is the ideology behind the social policy proposals of the New Labour era. However this way of viewing the world is in crisis, hence the beginnings of debate across all corners of society – in our case within Youth Work.

As to your specific questions:

1. Voluntary engagement is thoroughly compromised by New Labour’s emphasis on the compulsory targeting of ‘problematic and demonised’ youth. An authentic voluntary encounter is uncertain on both sides of what might come out of the relationship. This does not mean that the democratic youth worker should be not be prepared for all sorts of tangents. Being able to improvise on the spot requires great skill and preparation. But the managerial demand that the youth worker goes out with a predetermined agenda is utterly at odds with the uncertainty of voluntary contact. As for the issue of open access and targeted provision, I don’t want to dodge the reality that the form of youth work I advocate has sometimes prioritised work with particular groups e.g young women, and black youth. However this ‘targeting’ has been premised on the negotiated identification of needs and rights by young people discriminated against within the system. It would be dishonest, given scarce resources, to deny that this commitment has sat uneasily besides a desire to be ‘open’ and inclusive. This said a democratic youth work rejects the present hierarchical view that those targeted are somehow deficient, dysfunctional and anti-social. To borrow from Jeffs and Smith, a democratic youth work works with young people, whereas hierarchical youth work works on them.

2. The delicate issue of confidentiality is abused by the managerial imperative to collect and circulate information. There is growing anxiety generally about the growth of a surveillance society. In this context, to my mind, a principle of democratic youth work is that you don’t grass on a young person, who has trusted you enough to chat about the mess they’re in. This commitment should only be set aside in exceptional circumstances. The push to integrate services uniformly undermines the distinctive character of differing agencies and undermines worker autonomy. I have been in situations, where working closely with a teacher, or social worker about a particular young person’s situation has been enormously helpful. I have been in situations where to do so would have been disastrous. A profound problem with social policy is that it fails to recognise the intimate and complex picture of professional relationships on the ground. To put it crudely I’m not going to share information about a young person with someone I don’t trust personally or politically!

3. Obviously I think a target-led and outcome-driven model of youth work undermines a creative and improvisatory, democratic youth work. This is rendered all the more so when these prescriptions for practice are imposed from above with no democratic debate between politicians and the workforce doing the job. As for accreditation, there’s always been a section of the work that gave certificates and badges, symbolised by D.of E. It was/is a choice for some young people. But this is very different from the pursuit of accredited outcomes becoming the driving force of practice. And this emphasis again profoundly changes the direction of the work. It does so because [and its advocates stress this point] it makes Youth Work the servant of the Market and the Employer. Now Youth Work with its inferiority complex has dabbled in the past with ‘preparing young people for work’. I remember school-leaver courses in the mid-70s, but until the last decade, we have tried to fend off becoming social and life skills instructors in obedience and conformity. It is a measure of New Labour’s success in transforming Youth Work that we are now forced to make the case afresh for youth workers as social educators striving through a critical dialogue to educate both themselves and young people in the struggle for democracy and equality. It is a measure of New Labour’s failure to fashion a more just society that we are able to raise the purpose and the principles of Youth Work anew.

As always your critical thoughts are welcomed. 


Thanks to Diane Law for tracing this link to the ‘Squaring the Circle’ report. It’s the first article in this issue of Y&P

Francisco Ferrer – radical educator and anarchist

For nigh on seventeen years I was being educated – one way or another. Thence, in one way and another, for half a century I have been seen as an educator – a teacher, lecturer and youth worker, amongst other roles. Thus, it was to my acute embarrassment that I tripped over by accident, the existence of Francisco Ferrer. I had neither heard of him nor his notion of the Modern School. Such ignorance!

Working Class History comes to the rescue, for which many thanks.

Francisco Ferrer

On the 10th of January 1859, Catalan educator and anarchist, Francesco Ferrer i Guàrdia was born. He is best known for his development of the idea of the Modern School: radical, secular education particularly for working-class children, which remains influential around the world today.

Born the 13th of 14 children, Ferrer’s formal education ended at the age of 13 when he began work, later working on the railways before becoming a Spanish teacher in France. At the age of 24 Ferrer became a Freemason, at a time when Masonic lodges were important organising spaces for secular radicals and anarchists.

In 1901 a wealthy student of Ferrer died and left him a property in Paris in her will, which Ferrer was able to sell to set up his first Modern School in Barcelona. The school opened in September 1901 with 18 boys and 12 girls, and Ferrer set about propagating its methodology elsewhere.

In 1909, a strike broke out in Barcelona in protest at the Spanish government sending poor and working-class conscript soldiers to suppress an uprising against Spanish colonialism in Morocco. The events culminated in the Tragic Week, when civil guards violently crushed the strike. A major force behind the stoppage was the revolutionary group Solidaridad Obrera (Workers’ Solidarity), which Ferrer had covertly funded. Despite Ferrer having minimal input into the strike itself, he was accused by the state of masterminding it, and was quickly sentenced to death by a kangaroo court and executed.

The above Ferrer Reader, edited by Mark Bray and Robert H. Haworth, looks to be a fascinating insight into his life and work and can be found at…/anarchist.. I’m duty-bound to repair my ignorance and report back sometime in the future.

On October 13, 1909, Francisco Ferrer, the notorious Catalan anarchist educator and founder of the Modern School, was executed by firing squad. The Spanish government accused him of masterminding the Tragic Week rebellion, while the transnational movement that emerged in his defence argued that he was simply the founder of the groundbreaking Modern School of Barcelona. Was Ferrer a ferocious revolutionary, an ardently nonviolent pedagogue, or something else entirely?

Anarchist Education and the Modern School is the first historical reader to gather together Ferrer’s writings on rationalist education, revolutionary violence, and the general strike (most translated into English for the first time) and put them into conversation with the letters, speeches, and articles of his comrades, collaborators, and critics to show that the truth about the founder of the Modern School was far more complex than most of his friends or enemies realized. Francisco Ferrer navigated a tempestuous world of anarchist assassins, radical republican conspirators, anticlerical rioters, and freethinking educators to establish the legendary Escuela Moderna and the Modern School movement that his martyrdom propelled around the globe.


“A thorough and balanced collection of the writings of the doyen of myriad horizontal educational projects in Spain and more still across the world. Equally welcome are the well-researched introduction and the afterword that underline both the multiplicity of anarchist perspectives on education and social transformation and the complexity of Ferrer’s thinking.”
—Chris Ealham, author of Living Anarchism: Jose Peirats and the Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalist Movement

“This volume brings together for the first time a comprehensive collection of Ferrer’s own writings, documenting the daily life and aims of the Escuela Moderna, alongside reflections, often critical, by contemporary anarchists and other radical thinkers. Together with the editors’ thoughtful Introduction, the result is a fascinating collection—essential reading for anyone keen to go beyond the image of Ferrer the martyr of libertarian education and to understand the perennial moral and political questions at the heart of any project of education for freedom.”
—Judith Suissa, author of Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective