The 1st May is? Answer? – by Susan Robertson

Labour Day

Turkish street cleaner’s cart announces May 1st

Today is the 1st of May! So what, you might say, and return to your normal Sunday activities.

Or, perhaps you  caught your breath a bit, and reflected on the fact  that time really does seem to be accelerating and before long we will be confronting the run-up to end of year celebrations.

Or maybe, just maybe,  you remembered that this was May Day,  a day celebrated globally to draw attention to the conditions for workers, work and their labouring – from homes to factories, call centres, schools, hospitals, retail outlines….the list goes on. And perhaps you were struck by the confronting fact that we live in a world whose inequalities grow as the seconds tick by, and where zero hours contracts,  unpaid internships, and state subsidized wages, are viewed as part of the landscape of modern life.

Teachers in schools, university professors, education administrators,  students of all ages, and families, all face ongoing major challenges as a result of excessive commercialisation,  relentless testing, insecure contracts, the ongoing affects of austerity, and most recently – the secret trade negotiations (TTIP, TISA, CETA and TPP)  aimed at locking in the interests of the corporations as education service providers and not the interests of learners and learning in societies, and the necessary conditions for democracy. There’s a lot going on that needs to talked about this May Day!

May Day was launched in the 19th century as the date for International Workers’ Day by  the Second International. It is  a call to make visible the  continuing exploitation of labour as well as a call to solidarity. The image above, taken today in Turkey where May Day marches involved many  thousands across its cities, is a reminder of this inequality and a call to action. Add to the call for solidarity the other meaning of May Day – a call for help in distress and we get something of the urgency we now face as public services are claimed as future profits. .

Let’s see if we can make some progress on these fronts as 2016 whirls by, and  that our collective actions  add up to the kinds of changes that are both fundamental  and urgent so as to make the kind of future our children deserve.


Editor’s Note: Susan L. Robertson is  Professor of Sociology of Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. Her research is concerned with the changing nature of education as a result of transformations in the wider global, regional and local economies and societies, and the changing scales on which ideas, power and politics is negotiated. Contact: S.L.Robertson@bristol.ac.uk