I am pondering the vileness of my former job at College Left-Wanting and Our Great Leaderene’s contribution to it. I decide she and her vaulting ambition have a lot to answer for. This is especially true if you believe an organisational culture is determined by the top dog (I use this term advisedly); as the Turkish proverb says, ‘The fish begins to stink at the head’.  To illustrate this I need to do the wobbly screen thing and take you back in time to 1991 and a fresh-faced stand up comedian (if that’s not an oxymoron) who needs to teach part-time to offset a month in Edinburgh getting pissed…
I arrive at an old Victorian school somewhere in southLondonclutching my press-cuttings, some ideas for entertaining lessons and a list of books which local people might actually enjoy: some are even written by women and black people.  A nice motherly woman, who runs the Evening Classes (as part-time non-accredited self-development learning modules were then known), makes me a coffee and talks about literature, teaching and the community. Not a mention of recording differentiated learning outcomes or calculating Full Time Learning Equivalents, though I believe we had a chocolate digestive.  She likes my ideas, signs me up and within a few weeks I am teaching a wonderful group of new mums, octogenarian ‘blue stockings’, an ancient film buff, who sports big whiskers and a bow tie, and a young Pakistani guy who is waiting for the Met Police to vet him and give him a job (he has a long wait).  After a year, we have produced a book of poems and prose writing, had tea at the old ladies’ houses, and drunk large gins with the film buff; the young Pakistani guy is still waiting on the Met but he supplies samosas from his mum.
My boss loves me and tirelessly explains teachy-type things to me. My eclectic bunch of part-time colleagues – artists, sculptors, dress designers, yogis and flower-arrangers – bake cakes for meetings, send Get Well cards to ailing students and have really serious talks about how we can teach better.  The smiling, efficient admin, finance, facilities, caretaking, car-parking, canteen staff nurture and serve us as the deliverers of the core function of college business. Apart from draughty classrooms with little chairs and miserable school-keepers, all is well in adult academia.
This halcyon period is, however, about to end.  A merger with a large FE college is mooted; a cultural shift from feminine to masculine,  altruistic to expedient, caring to corrosive, is about to take place the like of which has not been witnessed since rapacious Barbarian hordes turfed the aesthetically-minded sibyls  out of their Grecian temples, ravishing them in the process,  several millennia ago….