Saturday, 19 December 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series # 5 “Education” …

 

“Education” is last of these amazing films … which are receiving acclaim from all quarters over here …

 

From a YouTube link on
'How to Draw a Rocket Ship'

We see a very bright boy interested in the stars and planets, while wanting to be an astronaut, who was good at maths, able to communicate, excellent at art with an imagination that was broad – only to be undone as a child by an education system that was populated with racist teachers with exceedingly narrow and unhelpful minds.

 

The child, Kingsley, portrayed by an outstanding young actor ‘Kenyah Sandy’, is followed through this nightmare … his problem is he cannot read … he’s dyslexic and terrified of disclosing this problem – suffering at school, concealing it at home. 


Star Cluster Pismis 24
with nebula

The school shuns him – offering no choices or help – he is to go to a ‘special school’ … where all the kids who cannot help themselves go … those who are definitely backward, those who will struggle, and those whom the ‘system’ is not prepared to recognise.

 




The teachers … if they can be called that … just take the mickey out of the system … for example one of their teachers incessantly plays ‘House of the Rising Sun’ badly on his guitar … to a class that cannot do anything about it – authority disinterestedly suppresses.

 

Debuts 25 July 1964



It is painful to watch … but McQueen brings each scene to life by taking it back to the 1970s … all details exactly as they would have been.

 



It is, as it happens, autobiographical … and we see that early part of McQueen's/Kingsley's life unfold – he’s a kid, he doesn’t know what to do … his elder sister is supportive, their mother is working three jobs, their father a carpenter/tradesman … their own aspirations – suppressed by the British system.

 

Steve McQueen c/o Washington Post - 
see article below
Fortunately the women in the West Indian community realise something needs to be done … one goes undercover to the appalling sub-normal school – and sees the disaster being wreaked …


 

… another colleague goes to see Kingsley’s mother … who cannot understand what’s been happening … and whose husband is typically locked into the way of life … downtrodden, and certainly has no aspirations for his family or himself.

 

The women persuade the family to let Kingsley attend Saturday school, put on by understanding West Indian parents to help children who struggle. 

 

Amazon book on 'The Glory of
African Kings and Queens' - by
Pusch Commey



Kingsley very quickly thrives … his talents are recognised, his curiosity is acknowledged by being encouraged … he learns to read … and is seen round the family dinner table getting to grips with his reading through a children’s history of African kings and queens.

 



Steve McQueen – as we now know did get out of the sub-normal school system and has achieved so much with his life – which I will write about in 2021.

 

Kenyah Sandy as 'Kingsley' in the BBC film

There’s an interesting snippet in the film … when the West Indian Women’s Association … whose aim is to allow children to blossom, and not be kept back by ‘the system’ …

 

… as the parents can, if they’re in the period of appeal, apply to get their children out from the sub-normal schools into regular schooling … by writing to the Secretary of State for Education – who at that time was Margaret Thatcher – our future British Prime Minister!

 

These have all been extraordinary films … with Education being the last of the five … appropriate … as it lets us know about the British school system fifty years ago (1970s) …

 

An appropriate Chinese proverb
… but I would also suggest opens our eyes to other ways of life … back then and now … here in this country, and in other countries in this muddled world we seem to find ourselves in …

 

 

The book written by
Bernard Coard on the
system published 1971


It is well worth seeing … as poor schooling, lack of appreciation of others’ societies, where our historical roots might be … has been the ruin of many a poor person




 


I will struggle to enjoy that song ever again … the visuals will remain …

 

Thank you for reading, commenting and being interested – there will be more … along slightly different lines in 2021, as well as report backs on outings I haven’t written up about …

 

One more post before Christmas and the New Year … which ties many of my recent posts together … it’ll be short …

 

Washington Post article with Steve McQueen on this his 5th film in the Small Axe series ...  

Article on the 'How the West Indian Child is made institutionally sub-normal in the British School System' ... by Bernard Coard

Article from The Guardian - by Bernard Coard on why he wrote the English Sub-Normal Schools book - see in post


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

22 comments:

Botanist said...

Stories like this make me so mad. Schools are supposed to be places to allow children to blossom, and I guess school was that for me back in the 70s, but they were only geared towards the academics.

Elephant's Child said...

Ouch.
This strikes home.
How wonderful that he (finally) found the support he needed. He AND WE benefited.
Which makes me think of, and ache for, all those who didn't and don't get that support, many of whom no doubt travel through life feeling stupid and sadly fulfilling the misplaced expectations and labels that were foisted on them.
Different is emphatically not lesser.

Anabel Marsh said...

Terminology has at least come on since then. I remember educationally sub-normal being a perfectly acceptable term. Awful! Even in our presumably “normal” school we were sat in order of test results.

John Holton said...

There's a big push here to allow parents to send their children to a school they choose, even if it's not the one in the neighborhood. It's getting a lot of push-back from the teachers' unions, who know it means "shape up or ship out" for some of their members. Ideally, every school would deliver a quality education from which anyone could progress and find success in their lives, but there are too many inside and outside forces that make that more of a dream than a reality, and those need to be dealt with. There are too many Kingsleys in the world...

Personally, I wish people would get as angry about poor quality education as they do about police brutality, because it affects communities even more so. In fact, I think fixing education would go a long way to solving a lot of social ills.

Inger said...

I have the highest admiration for Black women here in the US as well. They truly are the strong backbone of this country.

Janie Junebug said...

Education sounds especially good, albeit it sad at times. Children who have learning disabilities continue to struggle.

Love,
Janie

Susan Kane said...

Angry, that Kingsley had this struggle. School and education are history changers. Every student that walks through the classroom door deserves and should receive what he needs to succeed.

Liz A. said...

And that still can happen in schools. It's sad. We hope that things will improve, and hopefully they will. But any system that has so many people in it is bound to leave some behind. The more light that's shone on the situation, the better things can get.

Erica/Erika said...

A fascinating description, Hilary. “Painful to watch” yet an excellent film. You indicate there is hope and Steve McQueen can move forward. You bring up a great point about “opens our eyes to other ways of life, back then and now. I look forward to reading more in 2021. You definitely have baited me.

Hels said...

Neglecting and abusing children, who are too young to defend themselves or to call on outside intervention, is cruel. Teachers who neglect or abuse their students receive punishments twice as long as other adults for the same crime (in Australia at least) because teachers have a unique professional and responsibility to kids in their care.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

As someone who worked in Special Education for over twenty years, I can assure you that some things have improved since the 1970s. However there are still some children being failed by the system. There is greater understanding of many conditions - dyslexia, autism, ADHD and so on - however implementing strategies to help these young people costs money in that they need more individual attention and, for some, specialist equipment too. One result of this is that schools become very good at dealing with their "average" children, while those who vary too much from the average (low-attainers, high-attainers, those with behavioural or physical difficulties) get left behind - I know; I've had to pick up the pieces when young men were eventually referred to us, having been placed in unsuitable schools for some years. The ultimate problem, as in so many of our social services, is always money; nobody seems to be anxious to pay more tax.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ian – I know … but how much worse must have it been decades ago than now … as you mention. I didn’t have a particularly good educational schooling, though the school was very good – I just needed help …but it wasn’t til I started blogging that I realised I was ok: strange but true …

@ EC – yes I’m sure it does … and your ‘ouch’ sounds like a plea from the past. If we consider how we’ve kept people down for various reasons – it’s horrible to think about. For some reason we cannot open our eyes to others’ ideas and ways in the world … we scorn so many. Thankfully many parents realise their children have opportunities and push them – also there’s more information now to help …

@ Anabel – I never came across the term ‘educationally sub-normal’ … but probably because I was in private schooling and then didn’t have the reason or the knowledge to find out more. As you mention terminology has improved and there are more doors open to assist … and we can be more informed … particularly the public need to understand and learn about some of these terms …

@ John – our parents too here in the UK are given more choice … but as you mention there’s discrimination in all quarters about knowledge – and success is envied, rather than admired … which is what we should be acknowledging. We should be striving to be better, not falling into the below average category …

Absolutely I’ll agree with you re anger – it’s so unnecessary to be one-sided in one’s thought processes – and agree with you re educating us all more …

@ Inger – you’re right about the same applying, or perhaps more so, sadly, in the States … anyone who works hard, knuckles under, gets on with their way of life, and helping others … are all the backbone of our societies …

@ Janie – yes children can all be helped with their lives – whatever their abilities … as we hear about occasionally … probably not enough.

@ Susan – fortunately ‘Kingsley’ was rescued and guided through … reading and writing are so important for education – as you say they are history changers. We should all help and encourage youngsters to give them something to strive for and thus a passion for living …

@ Liz – yes … we hope things will improve – and yes things are happening …

@ Erica – thank you … the films are exceptional and I’m glad I’ve sort of provided ‘cliff notes’ – as I’ve struggled to understand the stories, but with reading other reviews I’ve been able to put my spin on the blog posts, after watching each film. I’ve learnt a great deal … with more to learn … now that ‘those (my) eyes’ have been opened a little …

@ Hels – it’s sad … but it’s disgraceful people who are better off and have been trained as teachers didn’t help these kids. We should all be like kids – love all, or dogs and cats … who trust and love … at least give people time … especially those who are relying on us adults or people in charge and have responsibility for their care …

@ John – so good to have your knowledgeable comment – I’m certain things have improved … I can see it, and hear about it on occasions … as I also note your occasional note on your blog.

Yes – I’m glad diagnoses are improving for some of the conditions … and understand your comment about children in their various ‘categories’ …

It’s good to know people like you are there to help those who fall out of the system … and yes that lack of money, or I’m sure waste of money too in the social services system. It seems very bureaucratic … but having never been in it – I cannot comment, nor understand properly …

Thanks so much to you all for commenting … it’s been an interesting experience for me … I’ve learnt a lot – and have much more to learn. If only we could all help each other … something we need today. Stay safe and all the best - Hilary

David M. Gascoigne, said...

As John say above, the issue often comes down to money. I think we would be willing to pay for the society we wish for, but so many of our tax dollars seem to get squandered. The issue of teaching is also critical. I have the greatest respect for those who educate our children, and especially for those who are able to recognize the kids that are "different", for whom a little extra attention could make the difference. Sometimes, however, we expect too much of our teachers. Often parents don't understand their own children and provide little stimulus and help to them, yet we expect teachers to. These problems are no doubt accentuated in an immigrant community where language, culture and lack of acceptance into mainstream society may be additional hurdles to overcome. We can only rejoice in the successes and do our best to ensure that there are more of them.

Sandra Cox said...

Sad. Children shouldn't have to deal with that.
Kudos to the parents that put together the special Saturday school.
Take special care.

Jacqui Murray said...

The more I read about education--in your country and mine--the more I believe I'd homeschool and then encourage my kids to go to a tradeschool. Too much proselytizing going on.

Pradeep Nair said...

Hi Hilary - It's very heartrending to read this. It's too sad to see that a young life has been put to so much trouble in the school which is supposed to show the right path ahead so that a fruitful life can be built.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I am glad I readl the post even if it's a sad and maddening such things shouldn't happen but still they do

D.G. Kaye said...

A moving and poignant share Hilary. Thanks for keeping the importance of choice in eduction in the forefront. Happy and safe holidays to you Hilary. <3

bazza said...

I have twin grandsons, one of whom was diagnosed with mild, high-functioning autism. Despite many promises the school did nothing to help. He left and went to college as soon as he could and he does really well now. He took a part-time job in retail and they love him there and offered him a full-time position. But he is aiming higher and is very self-motivated.
He has taught himself how to behave socially even if he's not quite sure what's happening and is a volunteer youth leader now (at 17).
We just have heard that he has been offered three conditional university places. One of those has a special autism unit.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s hopelessly habit-forming Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

retirementreflections said...

Hi, Hilary - 'Kinglsey's' story is very painful to read about -- and all too real. I have greatly enjoyed following this series and look forward to your wrap up post this coming week.
Wishing you a happy holiday and a peaceful new year!

Joanne said...

I look forward to watching this episode despite the difficult subject matter. Education, as we all know, is just not one formula. Every kid is different and can't be shoved into a slot. Some of the most brilliant people have had to overcome challenges to make their skills known. It's difficult for "the system" and the "money" to work together, and I truly do not have answers. But it seems folks like this director are asking the right questions.
Stay safe in your new lockdown world and good luck. Merry Christmas?!!
I look forward to your posts as we end this year and head into 2021 - thanks for being a positive influence in these crazy times.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ David – yes … money is always the issue – but it could be spent more fairly and then there’d be more for Government to spend because they’d be supporting those that shop, and those who will not need so much government support. Also as you mention parents – many could do more to stimulate their kids, and as you note to keep up and understand them. Parenting starts early … setting those examples for their children to follow …

Immigration is wonderful … but as you say – there’s additional help needed with language, culture, acceptance into society and other hurdles …

Thankfully those who do succeed and who are generous in thought do go out and encourage others to emulate them – noting the opportunities are there if they’re taken up and we can all rejoice in their successes despite the hurdles of life …

@ Sandra – I so agree … adults need to set examples … for their children. Those women really bucked the trend at that time to help the kids get over the hurdles … and excel at what they do …

@ Jacqui – home-schooling is an interesting one – I’m not sure what I’d do … but I agree with you about trying not to convert people. Kids should be allowed to progress into whichever area of career future they feel like … trade school would be good for many – others the academic side, or creative arts would prevail … we need to be more flexible and help everyone move forward …

@ Pradeep – thank you … sadly it’s the way of the colonizing world – but it’s amazing to see what Steve McQueen has achieved so far – and what he’ll achieve in the future.

@ Jo-Anne – sadly it’s too true still …

@ Debby – thank you … these films have been so enlightening – especially as they take me back to ‘my youth’ … those memories – and what I can appreciate or understand more about now …

@ Bazza – thanks for your insight re autism … it was the thing that floored me in Canada – I learnt more about it then. That’s brilliant about your grand-son … I bet he’s helped with having a twin without autism.

What an excellent read – and as you note he’s highly motivated and is aiming very high – that’s so good about his offers of university places, where they have special autism units … he’ll be invaluable to society through his life, as will his twin. No wonder you’re so proud of them both …

@ Donna – thank you … the films are worth watching – and ‘Kingsley’s’ in particular re his personal education … dreadful our system allowed those schools to prevail.

I wrote the post – using your recent book post about Trevor Noah’s early autobiography ‘Born A Crime’ … as my prompt to wrap these up … yet, of course, open more doors … as is the way my brain works …

@ Joanne – thank you … you will enjoy it – though it is a difficult watch. Yes, you’re so right about many brilliant people overcoming challenges in their early days – but education is about everyone and helping them be happy and satisfied with their lives as they grow. Being able to read and write are critical to improvement in our lives – as we continue to find out at whatever age we are. McQueen is definitely pushing at the boundaries of educating whomever he touches with his works …
Thank you for your Christmas wishes – we will be thoroughly locked down on Boxing Day … but all well – I’ve been fairly insular for most of the year already … and I’m coping with my hermit life.

I so appreciate your interest in the blog and for helping with my positivity …

Thanks so much to you all for being here – have peaceful Christmases and into the New Year – 2021 has to be better doesn’t it?? Take care and stay safe - Hilary