Teaching Labour Unionism in Schools

Towards Economic and Social Justice


  • Sam Oldham Melbourne Graduate School of Education The University of Melbourne Parkville, Melbourne VIC AUSTRALIA




Labour Unions, Social Justice, Economic Justice, Social Change


Despite efforts, education has failed to provide solutions to wicked economic problems. In particular, efforts to mitigate the global crisis in wealth and income inequality through education have been amiss. This paper offers a critical policy analysis of prospects for the teaching of labour unionism in schools as a crucial step towards genuine economic and social justice. Drawing on existing research, policy texts, media sources and public data, it broadly analyses existing paradigms for policy in the relationship between education systems and economic affairs, including aspects of human capital theory, new growth theories, the promises of the global ‘knowledge economy’, and fields of entrepreneurship and enterprise education. Rather than serving to mitigate wicked economic problems, the paper argues that these policy paradigms serve to promote confusion around the relationship between education and economic growth, or to perpetuate inequality. In contrast to the lack of evidence supporting these paradigms, evidence for a positive correlation between labour union membership and greater equality in wealth and incomes is conclusive. The paper surveys a range of existing programs for teaching about labour unionism in schools, advocating for their proliferation. Rather than focused on a single context, transnational patterns and commonalities are addressed.