‘Working for the Clampdown’ – seeing the politics in our practice
This blog is a reflection about how I managed to re-enter my teenage years during training and how I now find myself on the precipice that is adult life i.e. fully qualified Educational Psychologist status, with adult questions to ask myself, such as what kind of EP do I want to be?
Teenage politics reborn…in my Renault Clio
I have always had a passion for the music of The Clash. Something about the heady mix of punk rock, reggae, ska and their rebellious attitude appealed to my middle class teenage sensibilities when I first discovered them. Erikson would likely explain this within the context of my adolescent search for identity amidst struggling and negotiating within my social world.
When faced with the tedious task of spending several hours a day in my car on placement during the second year of my Educational Psychology (EP) training I happily rediscovered my London Calling album. These tracks stand the test of time with their status at number eight in Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Over the past two years on placement, pootling around the local authority in my Renault Clio, one song in particular has become over-warn on the disk. After a tricky consultation, frustrating review meeting or extensive battery of cognitive assessment I have enjoyed nothing more than blasting track 9; Clampdown, at full volume along the M25.
You grow up and you calm down and you’re working for the clampdown.
You start wearing blue and brown and you’re working for the clampdown.
A little over dramatic, I know, but extremely cathartic. In those moments I can easily position the local authority as ‘The Man’ and myself as an idealised version of my seventeen-year-old self, determined to do everything differently to those who have come before me.
Kick over the wall, cause governments to fall.
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour, anger can be power.
D’you know that you can use it?
A slave to the system?
Now in the summer before I take up my first position as a qualified educational and child psychologist I wonder if I have let Joe and Mick (lead vocalists of The Clash) down? The short answer, of course, is yes! Clampdown is an ode to socialism, berating the ideology of the slavish structures and false promises of capitalism. Whilst I may frequently espouse socialist principles at the varying middle class dinner parties which I find myself attending these days there can be no avoiding the comfortable position I find myself in, about to take up a job in local government; the very epitome of everything that punk rock rallied against.
But hang on a minute, perhaps I’m forgetting my university training. I’ve just spent the last three years studying on a doctoral course that frequently advocates for social justice, sensitivity to power dynamics, use of an ethical framework and championing marginalised voices. Yes, it may not always be clear as to how to apply these principles in practice, in part due to consumer driven demands of traded services, but the ideas are certainly there somewhere. And yes, Educational Psychology is often berated for its apolitical stance but perhaps I should take a closer look.
Uncovering the politics in our practice
After all, surely a cognitive assessment is a political statement. By conducting one don’t we say, “there is this mystical construct which we can call intelligence, which I can attribute a number to and this should then impact on your schooling.” And don’t we also demarcate between children, subtlety (or not so subtlety) suggesting at which school they may be better off being bused to? And do we occasionally buy into narratives around ‘certain sorts’ of parents? And don’t we accept what works within the system rather than constructing alternative systems? It’s a political attitude of sorts, but perhaps not the one that Joe and Mick were talking about.
I say all this with tongue in cheek, of course, I do genuinely believe in the ability of EPs to affect positive change for children, young people, schools and families.
However, I still can’t quite shake that feeling that I’m working for the clampdown.