I wasn’t sure how to kick this one off today. The weekend was a great example of the high and lows of being a dad, with my son being a nightmare about his homework and being far too excited to get to sleep Saturday night; then he is a complete angel on the Sunday and storms through the homework. And I got a wicked rugby shirt 🙂

Then yesterday I attended a symposium on Education and the Gypsy/Traveller/Romany community. Obviously this was going to be a rather one sided view on things, but within that view were several competing aspects too.  Now I carry as much baggage about various issues as many in the UK; I grew up as a working class child in a very middle class and almost totally white, sedentary population in Surrey. I was a long time retail manager. These situations can breed a certain…. perspective on things. Yet I am not a person who embraces the idea of mass ideals and community constructed values. While I am happy to live within the boundaries of the community I live in, I feel that values are something I have to agree with to adopt; wholesale catergorisation of a people is not something I agree with. Therefore I challenge those perspectives and the baggagse within myself at every opportunity.

One of the things that interested me is the application of a word that I have already used several times – community. Private Eye ran a small window on the use of this word and its over use. From the little I understand the Gypsy/Traveller/Romany (GTR) part of our country truly is a community in very, very strong terms. While diverse within themselves, to those outside this appears as a very tight and distinct community. Inside and outside are very, very critical terms within community, as are safety, belonging, security and value.

One of the issues is how the GTR community is percieved, and how non-GTR communities interact with them. However while listening to these very eminent academics and experienced praticioners it became quite apparent that as much as the GTR community feels rejected it is rejecting some communities that are trying to support them. In particular the education establishment which in some parts tries very hard to be open to the needs of GTR families and children.

Now some will point to a history of GTR communities being victimised and hounded by the sedentary communities is the UK. Others will point to the converse, that sedentary communities are constantly on the defence when visited by GTR communities. I believe that both of these are true and have historical precedents. Its seems to me that the obvious answer lies in compromise – what should be done and what must be done. In some schools GTR children are offered the chance to reduce their academic learning to attend more vocational course, yet this isn’t an offer for all the puils in the school. This cannot be right, but we can we force a community, with genuine concerns about the children’s exposure to more liberal western attitudes in secondary schools, to make their children attend an education that infringes on their beliefs? This can’t be right either. To me the answer is obvious, but I am a nobody.

I think the word community is now being used as an aggressive, protectionist and isolationist tool. Its creating ownership for various people, some of which have no right to that ownership. It allows leverage to people for personal gain instead of allowing more integration. I feel that there is one community, a British community which is replete with values and responsibilities. It has had its triumphs and failures. Most importantly it is stuffed full of cultures that at various points interact and resist allowing a dynamic and progressive British community to adapt, evolve and improve.

Lets stop putting people into pidgeon holes and condemning them to values and expectations they didn’t even set for themselves.

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