Educating for a Just and Sustainable World 

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“An Epic Portrait of Working-Class Existence” Reminds us that Class is a Neglected Issue in Development Education

Stephen McCloskey

Development Education's Doppelganger

Naomi Klein’s latest book, Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World, asks some searching questions of the political left during the pandemic.  Did it do enough to challenge the conspiracy theories and hoaxes emanating from the far-right that undermined the already flawed state response to the spread of COVID-19?  Did it agitate enough to have patent waivers enforced at the World Trade Organisation to ensure that everyone across the world received the vaccine while citizens in the global North had already received two or three doses?  Did it work hard enough to protect the rights (and lives) of frontline workers when they risked everything to sustain healthcare, transport, food distribution and retail during the pandemic?  Does the left work hard enough at building alliances with people who are not in our movements?  As I read these questions and applied them to development education (DE), I recognised that the DE sector had become a doppelganger of its former self.  As a sector with its radical origins in the global South governed by an impulse toward tackling injustice wherever it exists, we know that ‘true solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them “beings for another”’. 

Corporate Monopolies Are Accelerating Global Poverty and Enriching the One Percent

Every year Oxfam produces an economic report that coincides with the gathering of the World Economic Forum – representing the world’s business and political elites – in Davos, Switzerland.  The Forum regards its purpose as nothing less than ‘to shape global, regional and industry agendas’.  The elitist nature of the gathering was reflected in 1,040 private planes flying in and out of Davos during the 2022 Forum which quadrupled CO2 emissions from private jets.  The economic narrative and analysis of Oxfam’s report is, therefore, a much needed corrective to the rarified parallel universe occupied by the Forum and its guests.  Titled Inequality Inc.: How Corporate Power Divides Our World and the Need for a New Era of Public Action, Oxfam’s 2024 report is a cold blast of reality at odds with the WEF’s hope that it is on the path to ‘a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economic system in the future’.  Inequality Inc.

The War on Gaza: How Do We Respond as Development Educators?

As the sector inspired by the pedagogy of Paulo Freire and committed to his values of social justice, solidarity and transformation, how should development education (DE) respond to the war on Gaza?  Drawing upon Freire’s seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, provides the answer: ‘solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is solidary’.  Thus, we should not objectivise the Palestinians or ‘remain distant’ from them by treating them as ‘unfortunates’.  ‘Political action on the side of the oppressed must be pedagogical action in the authentic sense of the word, and therefore action with the oppressed’. 

Anatomy of an Occupation

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama is a powerful, wrenching but compassionate book that goes a long way toward explaining the root causes of the Middle East conflict.  It distils the occupation and oppression of Palestinians through the prism of a tragic road accident in the occupied West Bank in 2012.  A thirty-ton, eight-wheel trailer collides with a school bus flipping it on its side and setting it alight.   It is the kind of agonized event that every parent dreads.  Abed Salama is the father of five-year-old Milad one of the kindergartners on the bus taking them on a school trip.  As news of the accident filters back to him, he spends the day on a nightmarish loop from hospital to hospital, desperately seeking news of Milad and clinging to hope that he is one of the children dragged from the wreck.  Abed is unable to travel to Jerusalem, where some of the injured are being treated, without the requisite blue ID pass and as the author pans out from the accident to reveal its wider context we become witnesses to the panoply of laws and restrictions imposed on Palestinians with the primary objective of separating them from Israelis.  The author converts meticulous research and interviews into a narrative that sinks further into our consciousness because this is a work of non-fiction.

Fifty Years of Neoliberalism: Lessons for Development Education

The fiftieth anniversary of the United States’ (US)-backed coup d’étât in Chile, led by General Augusto Pinochet, on 11 September 1973 had a significance and resonance beyond remembering the 3,000  victims of Pinochet’s brutal seventeen-year dictatorship.  The coup also signaled the first practical experimentation in neoliberalism, the radically deregulated economic system that has driven ‘development’ for the past fifty years and exposed millions to crushing poverty and inequality.  Premised upon the ‘holy trinity’ of laissez-faire economics – privatization, deregulation and spending cuts – neoliberalism was ruthlessly implemented in Chile by Pinochet under the under the tutelage of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite economist, Milton Friedman.  The neoliberal playbook established by Friedman in Chile combined cuts to government expenditure, privatization of state services, the removal of price controls and welfare support, and the suppression of wages and organized labour.  The enforcement of these deeply unpopular ‘reforms’ was most safely left in the hands of an autocrat like Pinochet with Friedrich Hayek, one of the intellectual architects of neoliberalism remarking on a visit to Chile: ‘my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism’.

Shock economics

“It’s the Monster”: Revisiting Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

It’s a novel about migrant workers escaping environmental catastrophe, being subjected to racist abuse and robbed of their dignity and basic rights by extreme poverty.  It has the ingredients of a contemporary narrative of forced migration driven by climate change but The Grapes of Wrath was written during the Great Depression and the mass displacement of farming families by drought, floods and the dust bowl in south-west America.  The dust bowl migration was the largest in America’s history with the number of migrants reaching 2.5 million by 1940.  John Steinbeck immersed himself in the migrant experience and had already published two books, In Dubious Battle (1936) and Of Mice and Men (1937), about the labouring class in California.  But The Grapes of Wrath became his towering achievement with the physical toll of writing 260,000 words in a year nearly finishing him as a writer. During one of his long trips along migration routes he witnessed deplorable conditions in migrant camps in the valley of Visalia, California, where he tried to assist starving workers marooned by floods, knee deep in mud and lacking basic sanitary facilities.  He invested the seething anger induced by these experiences into his writing and said ‘I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags’.  In his introduction to the book, academic Robert De Mott describes its mission to expose:

“the entrenched power, wealth, authority and consequent tyranny of California’s industrialized agricultural system (symbolized by Associated Farmers, Inc.) which produced flagrant violations of the migrant’s civil and human rights and ensured their continuing peonage, their loss of dignity through threats, reprisals and violence…”.

The market as ‘monster’

The Impact of Lebanon’s Economic Crisis on Palestinian Refugees

The Centre for Global Education has published a new report which assesses the impact of Lebanon’s four-year economic crisis on the socio-economic status of Palestinians.  The report is based on field visits carried out in May, September and November 2022 to nine Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, which included consultations with UN staff and visits to camp installations, notably schools and health clinics.  The report focuses specifically on the health, education and situational poverty of Palestinians in Lebanon since the precipitous collapse of Lebanon’s economy in 2019 which has seen a ninety percent depreciation of the country’s currency.  The World Bank ranks the financial crisis in Lebanon among the worst economic crises globally since the mid-nineteenth century and the economic contraction experienced by the country as one ‘usually associated with conflicts or wars’.

Poverty is a Political Choice: Another World is Possible

Stephen McCloskey

Five days before Christmas, members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) were on strike for the first time in one hundred years.  They were forced into industrial action to secure a living wage commensurate with inflation and decent working conditions just two years after they were applauded by a grateful public from their doorsteps during the pandemic.  A highly trained and invaluable workforce, nurses were among the frontline public workers who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us from COVID-19.  Now, they are among the in-work poor that include retail staff, classroom assistants and factory workers found by the Trussell Trust to make recourse to their foodbanks for emergency food parcels.  With one-in-five or 14.5 million people living in poverty in the UK and struggling to meet essential needs, particularly food and energy bills, inequality for many has become a permanent condition.

Why are INGOs Avoiding the Question of Neoliberalism?

This blog reflects on new research that investigated the extent to which development NGOs and development educators are engaging with the dominant economic paradigm, neoliberalism, as the 'root cause' of global poverty and inequality.