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Co-operative education and culture in the c20 Tom Woodin.

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1 Co-operative education and culture in the c20 Tom Woodin

2 Background Themes and contradictions in the development of co-operative education Progressive change is never linear – snags and dilemmas are inherent in co-operative education Danger of separating co-operation from historical contexts

3 Co-operative education Wide definition of activities: classes, reading rooms, libraries, lectures, social activities and entertainment, propaganda and press, literature, auxilliaries, children’s groups, cultural provision – choirs, dance, bands, sport, drama and pageants

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13 Sport London Co-operative Society Employees Recreation Club has a membership of 8,358, 20 cricket clubs, 25 football teams, 18 netball teams, 22 table tennis clubs. Bowls, darts, golf, swimming, tennis. ‘Co-operative Olympiad’, 1936 Co-op Congress

14 Youth ‘Each year the [Wolverhampton] Society arranges a railway excursion to Rhyl, transporting and feeding between three and four thousand children.’ Comrades Circles Woodcraft Folk Classes and books eg Our Story

15 Co-operative character ‘In the final judgment, we shall be judged, not by our success in organising industry, but by our success in making character.’ S Fairbrother, 1922 ‘The Guilds are dealing with a special constituency, requiring educational methods differing from those natural to the “academic” type of mind. The working class married woman, not normally a student by nature, is not interested in abstract study. What she needs is something concrete, linking directly onto her immediate experience, and equipping her to deal more wisely with the actual situations of her life.’

16 Moral seriousness Puritan fears about ‘ gala days, bun fights and excursions’ ‘To be preceded by a comedian and followed by a conjurer is a frightening prospect and seems to present no opportunity of saying anything worthwhile’ but ‘In a democracy, educationists must evolve techniques as varied as the interests of those it is intended to teach.’ Co-operators must develop the ‘arts of public appeal and mass education’ Jack Bailey 1955 Youth work more experimental

17 Extending and contesting culture Encroaching provision: libraries, reading rooms, social and economic classes WH Brown 1919: ‘intensive education’ for a ‘co-operative consciousness… He weakens his influence when he applies co-operation to his meal tables and lets capitalism run amuck through his house, garden and workshop.’

18 Co-operative amateurs and professionals? 1937 –74 dramatic groups ‘Drama… implies very practical co-operation between different groups of people – dramatists, actors, producers and stage craftsmen. Drama originally belonged to the people… at the market place or in the churchyard, and the whole community attended… If drama is worth organising on a co-operative basis through amateur societies then it is worth organising properly, and co-operative societies should see to it that drama is presented at its best.’ April 1936

19 Business response Film Radio Co-opera: ‘one society’s educational committee… made a considerable financial gain by transferring its show from a school room to a super cinema’ Appealing to a ‘vast middle class Public… on grounds of commercial merit... not… social revolution.’

20 State ‘the true purpose of every form of co-operative association is the development of human character through the acceptance of personal responsibility for social progress. In education, as in other matters with which the State is concerned, and in which it is obliged to interfere... a time comes when co-operators are compelled to bid it halt.’ S Fairbrother If we analyse the nationalisation movement, the municipalisation movement, and the co-operative movement, we see that they are all tending in the same direction... there is plenty of room for growth for each...’ Alf Barnes

21 The education system Co-op as a pioneer that filled the gaps ‘That the workers have to develop their own culture no sympathetic observer can possibly deny, and the more they use the educational funds of the State for the purpose of developing their own system of education, the greater will be their chances of building a new system of society’ Joseph Reeves Separateness or isolation? ‘a tendency to restrict the place given to Co-operation in other educational institutions of the workers’ movement, and so to separate Co-operation and its problems from the rest of the Labour movement’

22 Practice and theory Co-operators wary of theory and few links with higher education Not well-placed to respond to decline The College should produce not only good students, but fresh ideas stimulated by well-conceived and well- conducted research undertaken by the teaching staff. It is sometimes difficult to convince business leaders of the value of unhurried study and exploration which do not lead to immediate and measurable results. They distrust ‘mere theorizing’ and fail to realise that the patient is as much treated in the laboratory as in the surgery.’ Jack Bailey

23 Institutions and social formations – theoretical and practical; historical and contemporary Insularity and engagement are hard to separate and both are needed Character, self-responsibility and self-help are coming back into prominence and offer scope to help change education Business case for education and membership is shifting Longevity of co-operative traditions – classes, conferences, discussions

24 C20 changes Intensification of capitalist competition – profiteering, trusts Attacks on co-operation and polarisation of politics War Challenges: state, capitalist, labour movement, voluntary, mutual Eg WH Lever, John Speedan Lewis, co-partnership Commercial forms of organised leisure Educational idealism vs materialism -


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