Wednesday, 29 November 2017

I came across this whilst reading an article on the "Word on the Streets" website. Word on the Streets describes itself as "Information for Transformational People".  I think I'm a gatecrasher. Anyway, they had taken the questions below from the Innovation Unit's blog. So shamelessly I'm repeating them here. I like the 10 questions and the way they are challenging so many of our presuppositions about school education.

From a blog by The Innovation Unit

"The Innovation Unit is a social enterprise that grows new solutions to complex social challenges. They use innovation to help create a world where more people belong and contribute to thriving societies.

In a recent blog, they observe that our model of schooling is more than 100 years old and has barely changed in that time, while the rest of society – our industrial practices, technology, the media we use, our leisure activities, the global scope of our world, communication systems – has undergone a revolution.

One example of revolution has been the Open University (OU) through which more than three million people, most failed by their schooling, have passed OU degrees. Although some moves have happened, this revolutionary innovation has not happened in schools where we need 100% of students to be skilled and capable citizens able to contribute positively to both their economic and social world.

To demonstrate, they ask 10 questions:

1. Why do we still have age-cohorting?  It certainly isn’t because we believe that all students mature and progress at the same rates. Watch rehearsals for a school production or a concert if you wonder about mixed-age learning.

2. Why have we retained so exclusively the subject-based curriculum, when no tasks in the real world segregate knowledge or its applications in that way?

3. Why are schools designed into corridors and classroom spaces – such that it makes teaching the most isolated and un-stimulating professional practice?

4. Why do we assess all students at the same time, rather when they are ready to demonstrate mastery (think music grades, or driving test, or sports coaching awards, or Open University modules, or PhD dissertations)?

5. Why do schools set homework, when they already have students in school for 25-30 hours a week – and when the world outside school is rich in opportunities for self-initiated learning?

6. Why do most schools have 25 one-hour lessons – when nobody believes that it is a unit that is enabling of deep or applied learning?

7. Why is the assessment outcome that matters still an exam written on pen and paper and marked by anonymous paid markers – when teachers know students and their capabilities from years of engagement with them?

8. Does speaking matter? Do so-called hard skills matter? Do so-called soft skills? Does making and doing matter?  If so, why are none of these things given high currency?

9. Why do we persist with the corrosive language and practice of ‘ability’ groupings.  Schools are the only places where it is deemed appropriate to name people ‘low ability or ‘less able’.

10. Finally, a contentious one. Given that schools are centres of learning, why are the adult learning norms and practices in most of our schools so abysmally poor?"

Friday, 6 October 2017

Theresa may cough

My goodness - what a storm in a tea cup. She has a number of things go wrong as she makes her speech, and the journalistic pack descend howling upon her as though these are all signs that she needs to go. Whatever you or I may think of her, this is not a good reason to bay for her blood. I hope it all works out well for her as one Tory is as bad as another in my little and limited view of things. Ok, she isn't quite the master of the quick quip, (although she did quite well if only the reporters had not sought to portray such a distorted image). What the media fails to see is that as a nation, we quite like the underdog and if they continue to portray her as they have been doing, she may well get a good deal more public sympathy than she actually deserves. The mistakes are many and deep: Boris unleashed like a disobedient dog, (she should promote Gove back into the cabinet and have him walk behind Boris with a big metaphorical knife...) Brexit jammed and Mrs May telling the Europeans that they have to be creative and flexible. It seems to me that that is like telling a chess player who can mate you in a couple of moves, that they will have to negotiate with you for a draw. Then there's a lack of transparency about what limited funds can achieve and how if you are trying to reduce the national debt, there are some things you can't spend a lot of money on. She needs to make much more public the national balance sheet, along with what it is they will spend money on and how they will save money in other spheres. The public need to be told what can't be achieved in Public Health and Education and Social Services, along with what can. But having said all that, the Tory reign is inevitably slipping, as does the reign of all political parties. The danger is that Labour, with its huge and expensive wish list to be paid for by borrowing, will drag us to the verge of bankruptcy or over the edge of it even. I approve of socialist ideals, but I see also that they can't be arrived at without some more cost to us all, and all the politicians are afraid of raising taxes. In a country as free of bribery and corruption amongst politicians as ours, surely we can risk that?? The socialist agenda won't really work unless we are all prepared to pay a bit more for it. Meanwhile, surely, Theresa may cough.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Las Vegas Massacre

So what do those crazy American gun lobbyists say now? "If this is the price we have to pay for allowing people to own assault rifles capable of discharging multiple rounds in matters of seconds, so be it.That freedom is worth the lives of 50 people." Really? Because there is no other defense. There is nothing else to be said about allowing people to own weapons capable of killing on that kind of scale at that speed. The shame is that there will still be people who make these arguments, people who think that it is morally defensible to allow people to possess that kind of killing power. And even more upsettingly, because the gun lobby is powerful, there will be strong republican voices to influence the legislative process in an obstructive way. If nothing changes after this with regard to ownership of guns in the USA then they have lost all sense, and lose all respect in the eyes of the world, (what shreds are left that is, given Trump's insane outbursts).

The worst of it all is that this was an event just waiting to happen. Those opposing gun ownership on the liberal and permissive scale permitted in some states, could see this. And why is it that we always have to wait until lives are lost before our authorities lift a finger to do anything? It's because money and winning votes still matter more than anything, including human life. But even one life lost to one handgun is too many, is not worth the freedom of being able to easily own a gun. It is bad enough that other methods of slaughtering people are too easily accessed, such as owning a car. And even in this regard there are people who rail at the loss of freedom and invasion of privacy that speed cameras and average time cameras present. I for one welcome their presence on our roads if even one life is saved. That makes them worth it. Freedom to drive as fast as we like, freedom to own guns, is not worth the life on one single person, end of argument. We cannot ban the use of cars, or car ownership, but we are trying to make our roads and  vehicles ever safer, thank goodness.  Unlike car ownership, the owning of guns in the USA could be dealt with by drastically revising the laws, and this would have powerful and positive benefits. Come on America, listen to and act on this wake up scream.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

It is a mad mad world at times

The BBC has just revealed its wages bill for those lucky enough to be live in the canopy of its jungle. Chris Evans who crashed out (nice pun) of Top Gear because he couldn't hack it, on £2 mill.? He is not worth it. Nor are people like John Humphries on 600 grand. The chiefs say it's a competitive market and they have to pay top dollar for talent. Come on. That's what they said about the bankers, remember! These people need to be on  a moderate salary scale that reflects their real and none too exalted abilities. As far as the ladies getting on to an equal footing is concerned - bring it on.

And then there's the retirement age increase row. It will be necessary and anyway, we are living longer. But there should be a caveat. Certain professions and jobs are not kind on the life expectancy of their workers and they should be factored into all this, and their practitioners allowed to retire earlier, not forced to retire later, e.g.teachers. And all the Labout Party can do is growl negatively. Just when I was beginning to like them.

But speaking of the Labout lot, it was when Jeremy Corbyn started hooting at Theresa May's offer of a bit more collaboration that really got me. Here was the one who wanted to change the style of politics and political exchange, playing exactly the same silly game the moment he looked stronger.

Give me strength. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Post UK Election Reflections

This should have been Theresa May's pre-election, pre calling an election, personal manifesto.


1.  Prepare, train, plan and behave as though your opponents are better than you.
A certain amount of dismissiveness towards Labour, the assumption that they were an electoral disaster and a walk over, didn't do the Tories any favours.

2.  Treat opponents and spectators with courtesy and respect.
Jeremy Corbyn didn't go in for dishing his opponents. The same couldn't be said for the other party leaders. Guess who therefore shone out?

3.  Don't try to fix something that ain't broke.
The Tories had a majority, relative popularity and support. Nothing was broken.

4.  Votes of confidence usually backfire.
If you have a vision and a strategy, just do it. Mostly people who run with vision have to deal with a certain amount of unpopularity. Just let your values and vision carry you through. Do not ask for a vote of confidence. These things signal insecurity and weakness.

5. Elections like wars, are unpredictable and costly. To be avoided if at all possible. (The scriptwriters of Elizabeth 1 put these sentiments with regard to war, into her mouth.)

6.  The words of Jesus, "The first shall be last, the last first" could be translated as "The winners shall be the losers, and the losers, winners."

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Trump's latest farrago is a Farage.

Ha ha ha. Trump has begun the trail of international embarrassments with hinting about appointments Theresa May should make. Distance between his mouth/tweet fingers, and brain does not exist. If it weren't potentially so serious, it would be hilarious. One wonders what headlines we will be waking up to during the next four years. Although I can almost imagine May doing something ridiculous like that, like appointing Boris as Foreign Secretary....uh oh. Oh well, why not have someone equally farageous doing the UK Ambassador to the States' job too then? Maybe some of Trump's team could get jobs in May's cabinet, and hers could sit among Trump's people

But honestly, can you even remember the last time you felt apprehensive about switching on the news? It's going to be part of our daily adrenalin rush for years to come now. It's years since I've felt so apprehensive about what the next headline will be. Trump is so good with timing too. He'll upstage the Wimbledon final - just wait. Queen's speech on Christmas Day? - no wait, we're going over to a special announcement from the White House, where we have just heard that President Trump has declared himself Emperor of the Western hemisphere.

There was quite a good article in the Guardian on Saturday, complaining that the yobbish right no longer play by any rules of common decency, and because the more left and centrist parties do, they are being massacred. Lies and superficial solutions impossible to carry out are winning the day. This may be true, but if the others refuse to play by the new rules (no rules), I believe this will be a very short term love affair with the Trumpsters of the world. There may even be a backlash to the polar opposite kind of politics, which would be Jeremy Corbyn's kind. If the unelectable right can win, so I believe can the unelectable left. Once the swinging starts, it takes a while to settle.


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Times I hate being right

So, my last blog was kind of prophetic. I anticipated/feared that America might go exactly the same way as our Brexit vote, and it did. All the pundits are explaining the American vote in precisely the same way as the British vote. That is, it's not about the election issues per se, but about the fact that many people feel they are not heard, not cared about, and their situation, their feeling of impoverishment, their anxieties about jobs, have been chronically ignored by the political elites of all colours. Trump was a different kind of politician and voice. Big, brutal, ugly, non establishment, sound bite solutions to the problems many people felt to be most pressing, an "I hear you" kind of message expressed inarticulately, incoherently as far as the intelligentsia were concerned, but to those who felt left behind it was powerfully articulate and wonderfully direct. America has just heard the voice of the many shout "Up yours", in the same way as happened in the U.K.

So will the clever people wake up? Will there be a greater social concern expressed by them and greater effort made when they are in government to do something which spreads wealth more effectively, makes health care more accessible more quickly, looks after us better in terms of jobs and retirement, makes education more meaningful and more effective for the many and not just the few. In this country, the Labour Party sound as if they would be prepared to give it their best shot. Watch this space! But such policies need money. There are a couple of ways of doing this. Borrow loads or increase taxes. Borrowing is more popular obviously, because there is less short term pain. But paying your way is better.

The electorate are being offered clearer more damaging ways to flex their muscles. The 2 recent votes have more than proved that when the disenfranchised get a real chance through the democratic system to express their opinion, they will.

Let's hope that the disappointment they will feel as their lot does not significantly improve under Trump or Brexit, will not channel into yet greater storms.