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Natalie Bennett: Colleges, jail, welfare: they’re nonetheless Victorian in fashion

Queen Victoria died 123 years in the past, come January 22. At one degree, have been the late Queen to be transported into her personal world, it might be unrecognisable. No less than by way of know-how.

When she died Mercedes was about to make what’s considered the primary trendy motor automobile, the 35HP, named after its energy capability, the primary to not be modelled on a stagecoach. As we speak Teslas generate 283 horse energy, and are slightly extra snug.

The primary municipal telephone exchange can be opened in Glasgow a number of months after the empress departed this life. Now there are greater than 15 billion cellular telephones, in impact cellular computer systems, worldwide.

In drugs, when the Queen died bloodletting as a medical remedy had solely simply gone out of trend. Now we’ve got simply seen the primary profitable face and complete eye transplant.

Technical innovation has come a great distance in these 123 years.

But there’s a lot concerning the social preparations of the UK that the lady or man on the street of 1901 would instantly recognise.

Take into account faculties, in case you put aside the know-how of white boards and private tablets. The construction, system and perceived goal of colleges is basically unchanged.

The topics taught and favoured, the exterior exams, the courses of a number of dozen all pupils of the identical age all continuing collectively, the concept that that is to organize pupils for the office, the give attention to self-discipline, on uniform, on conformity. They might be completely acquainted to the Victorian scholar.

Sure there’s progress within the abolition of corporal punishment, however far too many colleges nonetheless search to drive compliance, or pressured out, pupils who don’t match the usual mannequin.

Take into account prisons. Right here even a whole lot of the bodily constructions are precisely the identical. Thirty-two Victorian prisons are still in use today, housing 1 / 4 of the jail inhabitants.

The Victorians have been scrambling to construct extra prisons to accommodate increasingly inmates, as we are today.  The coverage that criminals “needed to be scared sufficient by jail never to offend again” remains to be widespread, and nonetheless ineffective.  

And in welfare, little has modified. The Victorians have been massive, because the Georgians and Tudors earlier than them had been, on separating the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor.

You don’t want analysis – though there’s plenty of it – to know that such attitudes persist at this time; the entire focus of the conditionality of even primary advantages, with swingeing sanctions for individuals who fail to leap via hoops, can be completely acquainted to a Victorian workshouse keeper.

A lot of the world has moved on from these Victorian approaches.

The Finnish faculty system, typically championed as the very best on the earth, prioritises learning over testing.

There’s a decade-long development of falling prison populations throughout Europe. Whereas the UK has the best incarceration price throughout Europe (159 individuals per 100,000), the determine within the Netherlands is 54 and it has been turning previous prisons into faculties and refugee centres.

In 2019, a German courtroom dominated that it was unconstitutional to disclaim primary subsistence to an unemployed particular person. “Housing First” is a fast-spreading coverage that calls for the necessity for shelter is met impartial of different social calls for.

Social innovation is feasible. It’s taking place in a fast-changing, multi-challenge world of environmental and social disaster. Simply not within the UK.

That has to vary. Or a minimum of in 2024 we have to transfer the political debate on to speaking about these points, as an alternative of clinging on to failed century-old, punitive prescriptions which are making our society significantly unwell.

Natalie’s e-book Change Every little thing: How we will rethink, restore and rebuild society shall be out in March, and might be pre-ordered through Unbound. It focuses on social improvements from a common primary earnings to a four-day week, to training for all times slightly than exams.

The submit Natalie Bennett: Schools, prison, welfare: they’re still Victorian in style appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK's progressive debate.