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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Response to Education and a blank sheet of paper

It’s a pleasure to welcome a response from Subrosa and if you don’t already follow her blog I’d suggest you should give it a visit everyday.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your post on ‘Education and a blank sheet of paper’.  Although your post concentrates on older pupils, I’d like to go back to basics.  Please note I refer to schoolchildren as pupils not students.

Firstly, we have to address why we have schools for education.  Why do most parents prefer to send their child(ren) to school rather than educate them at home?  I would suggest that many parents don’t feel they have the skills to home education and because the taxpayer pays for the training of teachers – and their salaries – we consider them to be more skilled in imparting information to children.  But that isn’t necessarily the case and, although the article is England-centred, there have been questions recently about the quality of the training of our Scottish teachers.

Schools were originally places for children to receive a formal education in academic subjects which are essential for them to enjoy a full life.  We have many children who are unable to read, write or calculate to an acceptable level yet they fail to understand anything less than a C in their Standard Grades is a fail and will not be an entry to the world of work.  Further education colleges more and more provide school-level subjects when they should be providing subjects not provided in a school environment.  Where has our formal system gone wrong?

Part of the problem is that slowly teachers have been expected to become both parent and teacher and that reduces teaching time. It’s not a school teacher’s job to be teaching young children issues which are firmly a parent’s responsibility, although I would consider it part of their remit is to inform the pupil’s home that there is a problem in a specific area.  Hence my suggestion that there should be some form of daily written communication between school and home.

Scotland is shortly to be introducing new National Qualifications.

Maybe your blank sheet of paper should have some writing Tedious Tantrums.  How about ‘This paper will be a daily record of your achievements while you are a pupil here and it will be shared by your parents/carer/teacher’.  As most children have access to a computer it would be a simple task for each school to set up an account for each pupil and to arrange for parents/carers to have a password.  Today’s children would take this in their stride and the knowledge that their families were so constantly in touch with their teachers just may concentrate the mind a little more.

It would certainly qualify as part of your Positivism definition.

If you enjoyed this blog article please link to me on Twitter account “@TediousTantrums”. I will then tweet you as more political articles in the same vein are published.

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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Education

 

Education, Education, Education…

No academic versions of Phil and Kirstie here although, thinking about it that might be a great idea? I can see it now. Tonight’s show will feature Phil and Kirstie looking for the best possible school and education available for two twelve year olds… It could be fun you know, then again perhaps not.

Before going much further can I implore the non-Scots amongst you to please stick with this? Yes? Thanks.

We are all either in education, have been in education or are waiting to go into education, a no brainer really. We all have differing experiences of the education we got or are getting to some extent or of course, we may get. In Scotland there has long been a belief that our education system is one of the best in the world however, and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to be the case at the moment. It hasn’t always been this way. We did have the best education system in the world but we have to look at history to find it.

The quality of Scottish education began to improve following the enactment of the Scottish parliament 1696 Act for Setting Schools. This required every parish in Scotland to supply a “house for a school” and a “salary for a teacher”. Within a generation nearly every parish had a permanent school with a regular teacher. Although teaching was elementary, most pupils learned to at least read and write and their education was provided free for the most part. By 1750 literacy levels in Scotland had risen to around 75%. Amazing! Incredible! Phenomenal! Scottish education was recognised as one of the best in the world. All the more impressive in that it took England until 1880 to achieve the same literacy level.

It’s obvious that if you can read you will want to have books. In fact, at that time, Scottish people of modest means had their own book collections and what they couldn’t afford was readily available at the local library, which again by 1750 every town of any size enjoyed. The list of “thinking” Scotsmen who owe their success to the improvements in literacy and education in general and then the Scottish Enlightenment in particular is long and contains some of the most distinguished minds in history.

Can we repeat this? Can we find a likely catalyst that could enable us to create a modern Scotland with an appropriately well educated population?

Perhaps Scottish Independence could provide a rare and unique opportunity? Perfect? Okay, maybe not perfect but it could be a potential focal point at least? Perhaps there’s no “could” about it and it has to be a significant prerequisite? Independence will bring a majority together and the time scale is long enough to allow the necessary strategic planning and development which, after all, will form the foundations of Scotland the New.

The present focus is, quite rightly, on winning independence but there is a significant amount of work required to win over the Scottish people. Financial powers, taxation levels, oil exploration and extraction, industrial and commercial development are all critical areas but are only a part of the strategies and policies which will be needed to share the vision of how Scotland will be post Westminster. This will require huge amounts of well thought out detail.  Time, effort, innovation, intellect, pragmatism, appreciation of the differing needs of our geographical population? How long have we got? Well we know the answer to that. Four years probably with the fifth year being set aside for arguing the toss of achieving the separation with the EU and Westminster I’d suspect.

Now for those non-Scots who have stuck with this so far, here is the interesting part for you. This same opportunity is also going to be available to you whether you reside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. The English population in particular must be really ticked off. As you know in Scotland the SNP have been able to get policies through which actually made and continue to make a difference to people’s lives. Dave, on the other hand seems to be playing catch up in the rare moments when he’s not changing his mind. If I were English I would be ticked off.

So maybe the potential of in a modern “Enlightenment” could be UK wide. Maybe it would be an ideal vehicle to drive a better economic future for everyone living in what used to be the UK. I’m certainly not suggesting we sit down and plan it with the other parts of the UK, that would defeat the purpose of independence but surely there would be ways we could work positively together? Surely it’s better to have neighbours who create wealth and trading possibilities and who can take advantage of whatever Scotland can offer?

Maybe in the Scotland Office or St Andrews House or some other such place there’s a detailed plan already worked out. All nice and detailed with diagrams and all the boxes ticked and the questions answered. That would be disappointing since we all want a say? But it could be a useful starting point. If there’s nothing in existence at all then when do we start? Yes WE. You, me, the other visitors to this blog and all the other bloggers, voters, people in the street, politicians, business people…. and the temporarily unconvinced hangers on obviously!

Maybe we could once again have one of the best education systems in the world? Maybe educationalists from much richer and larger countries would visit to Scotland to find out how they could copy the techniques used in our schools, colleges and universities? Now that would be a fabulous recognition of success would it not?

We can do this. We can achieve this. And most of all we HAVE to do it for everyone’s sake.

Today is a good day to start so, as Mrs Merton used to say “let’s have a heated debate”. Let’s throw some ideas around. Blue sky thinking. Clean sheet. Maybe we should hold the puns tho!!!!!!

If you enjoyed this blog article please link to me on Twitter account “@TediousTantrums”. I will then tweet you as more political articles in the same vein are published.

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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Education

 

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Education and a blank sheet of paper

Education used to be a simpler business. It was really a case of do not go near that or it will eat you. Do not eat that or it will kill you. This is how you hunt so you can feed yourself. This is how you light a fire so you’ll be warm. And this is how you use a big stick/spear/sword/axe to protect yourself against enemies/Romans/Vikings/Fifers/bandits/bigger boys and bad boys. Joking apart it was life and death information that you had to have.

When we managed to achieve a degree of progress lessons on sowing seeds, harvesting, ploughing and animal husbandry were more likely to come in handy. Then manufacturing came along and education became a lot more complicated, although the lessons on dealing with bigger boys and bad boys have never really gone out of fashion. Unfortunately.

Now it’s really complicated and we all have opinions on education including what should be taught, for how long and by whom. The curriculum is chockablock and that’s a big problem really. We all have opinions on what should be included and what, in our opinion, is not really necessary. It’s not like it is life or death stuff anymore, although of course we need to eat, have a roof over our heads and be able to stay warm. So we need to have skills, which are employable and provide a salary for the things we need to live our modern lives. We also have ambitions, wants and needs which the curriculum can never address. So the curriculum as it stands cannot ever meet all needs. Perhaps in the future it might be able to?

There are core skills we all need like reading and writing and you could probably argue for computing skills.  Thereafter we’re onto subjects, which provide a basic understanding of things we might face in life or which will form a starting point for serious studying later in our education. The fact that we are living longer also complicates things and means we need to constantly refresh our knowledge and re-invent our employability and ourselves.

Wealth creation is, of course, the main requirement of our economy. If wealth is not created there will be no money, so no taxes and no government spending. Wealth creation relies on a steady flow of new businesses, innovators and existing businesses, which can successfully manage and adapt to change. In Scotland we can do this but we need to be better at doing this. There are some fantastic businesses out there that are Scottish and do fabulous things. But we need more, more diversity and more businesses, which grow substantially and stay Scottish

Education is key to this. We need people and graduates with the right knowledge to be of value to Scottish businesses, which need to grow and compete with China, India, Italy, England, Germany, France, USA etc. etc. etc. But we also need young people who understand how business works and recognise the importance of wealth creation requirements. The curriculum doesn’t provide many opportunities for this to take place.

As I’ve mentioned before I have been involved with schools in the past from a business perspective. I invested a huge amount of my time for free to help senior pupils set up and run a business for a year within the Young Enterprise Scotland structure. It was a great experience for the students and I like to think it helped many of them better understand the workings of a business and of the economy. The school I worked with had a great link teacher. She made the school system work for YES activities and I provided the business input and the pupils participated enthusiastically, once they experienced the benefits. We were very successful. The partnership between the school, the pupils and myself, resulted in a lot of prizes in various business based competitions being won. In fact we started to dominate the schools prize giving which didn’t go down too well.

There were issues however. The senior pupils had classes, homework and exams to manage and the YES stuff would get in the way, even although it was an after school activity. Some departments wouldn’t take part. Business Studies did not, computing was almost hostile to it and in general there was a view that it was not a worthy activity. No matter, we managed. The students involved really enjoyed it although there were lessons to be learnt along the way. The prizes however, allowed them to discover what it was like to be a winner. Now that was a really valuable lesson for many of them. The growing success was also recognised by the younger pupils who then wanted to be involved when they were old enough.

I developed some materials for them of which one was a test to find out who knew about business and who did not. Basically they were provided with a blank sheet of A4 paper and given ten minutes to “add value” or describe how they might “add value” to it. Not many of them managed this first step. Those that did would come up with writing on it, drawing on it, or making a paper airplane. I’d usually demonstrate a few more examples at this point, showing them a ten pound note, a page from the bible and photograph of one of my children After that they were off. We developed it for half an hour and we returned to it along the life of the business they created and operated.

In order to generate enough wealth on Scotland the new we need to consider how we get the running of a business into the curriculum in a meaningful and beneficial way. We need all our young people to understand at least basic economics and be better at managing their own finances. We also need them to be better consumers who make the most of their own wealth.

The blank sheet of A4 paper was a powerful and frightening tool and I don’t mean that you can give yourself a nasty paper cut which will require the attentions of Matron. Oh no. It’s a much bigger fear.

As a pupil/student/learner you are told when to be at school/college/university. You are told when and where to go, what you need to learn, what the right answers are, how to sit an exam, and you are actually told what subjects you take up to a far greater point that is admitted or should be the case.

Then, out of the blue, you are sat down with a blank sheet of paper in front of you and told to do something with it, which would be of interest to someone other than your friends and family. After all those years of being told minutely what to do are we surprised when the majority of pupils find that difficult?

Yet the blank sheet of paper is our greatest opportunity to do something meaningful. Original thought, innovation, creativity achieving the further development of something existing in a meaningful way? The creation of art literature or a business plan for a new venture?

Scotland used to be brilliant at this and there are still examples of this brilliance. The list of Scottish inventions and inventors is incredible. But we need more, a lot more.

We need our new government to refer to us (Referism), include the people of Scotland and value our input. We ALL need to be positive (Positivism) and speak in positive terms and make being positive a habit. We need to recognise the realities of our situation (Realism) but not allow them to stop us delivering as much of our original plan as possible. We also need to be optimistic (Optimism) and believe that our greatest moment is still in future.

History proves that we have done this in the past, can we do it again and again and again?

WE HAVE TO. The “isms” may well help.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Education

 

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With Referism we also need Positivism…

This post was written as a guest post for Subrosa who has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here.

Being positive should be an imperative for us all.

The power of positive thinking.

Think yourself well!

Believe in yourself!!

Believe in your own strengths, capabilities and potential!!!

Easy to say but not so easy to do and even harder to deliver longer-term. Do pessimists outnumber optimists? As an optimist I have to believe that they don’t, but I wonder sometimes and when all is said and done pessimism and negativity have been drilled into us since we were very small children.

That’s a fairly harsh thing to say is it not? Well, I’m not suggesting that our parents are to blame, They should be, and are for the most part, our most vociferous supporters, although there are always exceptions unfortunately.  So no it’s not parents.

It’s school.

Wow. Major accusation. Teachers are now mobilising to find out where I live and come and sort me out. How dare I say such a thing!!! Well, firstly I have friends who are teachers and I know the time, effort and care they put into their classes. Secondly it’s not really teachers either although again there are exceptions. Thirdly, I was a wean/bairn (choose depending on your East/West orientation) for a few years myself and I was no angel and only a very few of my classmates were.

Think back to when you first went to school. How was it for you? How long was it before you didn’t want to go back? How long before you started badmouthing education in general? How long before you and your friends bitched about school whenever you were there or whenever the subject came up?

Weeks or maybe months I’d guess. So say you start school aged 5 and then you leave at 18. That’s 13 years of serious learning to be negative. I’d suggest that after 13 years we all got the hang of it and in fact we would probably have managed a First BA Hons Degree if one had been available and we wouldn’t even have needed to study or read a book or go to a lecture. If only all subjects were so engrossing and easy to comprehend.

The peer system ensures that negativity is maintained. Did you stand there with your friends and wax lyrically about how wonderful school was and how you just couldn’t wait to get back there and get stuck in? No? I thought not.

Of course there’s always an exception. In India, for example it’s different. There’s not the same type of bitching. Education is a prize in itself. The names of students who win scholarships, prizes or any sort of educational recognition have their photograph in the local papers and are revered in their community.  They may also be featured in the Indian version of Heat, appear on I’m a celebrity… or Big Brother. Okay the last bit isn’t true but you knew that. The Indian kids might, at times be negative, but not for long they need  to be positive and reap the rewards of a good education.

I was involved in a school project for five years, which helped me better understand the dynamics of schooling.  Students overcome the negativity but then peer pressure keeps them in it. I wondered how things could change. I didn’t come up with an answer. I did come up with a measurement however, which may be a useful indicator of educational success perhaps.

We would know that education was working and our children had bought in to it if we drove past a school before eight o’clock in the morning and there was a queue of students and teachers waiting to get in. They’d be waiting to get in because in the school they would have access to information, knowledge and resources. They would recognise the value of these and the value of making the most of the time in school to get as much out of it as possible.

So…

We have this unique opportunity in Scotland and a moment to begin to shape a new nation. I’d suggest that our new nation does not have to follow what’s happened in the past or even follow the examples of other countries, which we may or may not admire. Amongst other things I suggest we promote positivism and in particular, helping our children to remain be positive as they can be as they go through their education.

If we could deliver that I am certain we’d have an outcome, which would impact positively on the confidence of the entire population of Scotland the New!

This post was written as a guest post for Subrosa who has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here.

If you enjoyed this blog article please link to me on Twitter account “@TediousTantrums”. I will then tweet you as more political articles in the same vein are published.

Please leave a comment and/or Tweet, email or text the location of this article to people you think would also enjoy it.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Education

 

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Weather we can make it on our own.

Good news, well it might be but that depends on the BBC.

I’ve noticed that the evening news programmes I’ve watched recently have a similar article in them. I’ve been watching the BBC Scotland news which I’d stopped doing because of their advocacy views rather than the impartial delivery they are legally obliged but morally incapable of doing, allegedly m’lud.

The bulletins have covered the Scottish economy. They have talking heads and hand waving reporters as well as Hamilton’s best-known news anchor Jackie Burd (yes I know there is only the one). The report starts off quite positively, house prices are up, employment numbers are down or the economy has grown more than expected. All good so far. Then a talking head gives their opinion and usually finishes with a “but” just to make sure we aren’t getting carried away. The other night we were especially lucky to have someone from one of the big four (or should that be foul?) accountancy firms telling us that our economy won’t grow as much as we were previously told. I don’t remember someone from one of the big foul accountancy firms coming on TV News before the great banking crash and telling us what was about to happen, and how we could avoid it. Do you remember? That’ll be a NO then.

Then we’re passed back to the reporter in the studio who is still waving his hands around, although, to be fair, he does seems to find it awkward and at least he has the decency to look embarrassed. His parting shot is to say that further uncertainties, which homeowners, employers or economists, are facing are due to possible Scottish Independence.

This looks really bad. It looks as if it’s a bit of a “na na na-na na” on the part of the BBC. It looks like they are saying “don’t vote for independence because you’ll be rubbish at it and the bigger boys won’t want to play with you or share their toys with you anymore”. So there!

I’d suggest that the BBC try to stay neutral on this. I know this is far from likely and it would break their current and growing tradition of advocating rather than reporting. The future may not be so rosy for the BBC in Scotland following a successful YES vote although Jackie and her colleagues might be okay, but only if they drop the hand waving. Obviously!

Of course, if they were to bring back Miss Whiplash aka Judith Ralston the weather lady currently away on maternity leave, the number of males in the population of Scotland watching the BBC news would increase dramatically, but tragically, only for a minute or so at the very end. To be fair she is a very, very, very good weather forecaster, although none of the men watching take in anything what so ever about what the weather is going to be doing at all.

Now, all of this BBC news has been delivered to us as we sit with a tray on our laps in front of the 42″ TV eating deep fried food with too much sugar/salt/fat. We weren’t getting carried away with all the positive parts of the news. Oh no. There was no mention of football for a start.

However, we may well get carried away in the future, when we live up to our reputation as being the most worsest, baderer, unhealthiest people on the planet and the ambulance arrives to take us to casualty. (We will have cleverly remembered to get our nearest and dearest to pack a few extra chocolate bars, fags and cans of lager as modern healthcare doesn’t seem to provide those essentials, although it IS happy to provide MRSA free of charge, but I digress. As the pain in our chest intensifies we will ask for the Rennies because after all it’s just a bit of indigestion. And… all will be well in the world again – as long as Judith is doing the weather.

If you enjoyed this blog article please link to me on Twitter account “@TediousTantrums”. I will then tweet you as more political articles in the same vein are published.

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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Politics

 

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Referism…

There’s been a fair bit of discussion and consideration given to “referism”. Many, who think and consider democracy, or what seems to stand for democracy these days, recognise a need for change. It’s obvious that the dialogue between the elected and the electorate isn’t working. The electorate feels disenfranchised and the elected seem to exist in a bubble, which is self-supporting, feeding and congratulatory. This is no way to run a railway.

Referism has been suggested as a potential way forward and why not? EUreferendum defines it as a “political philosophy, which states that, in the relationship between the British people and their governments, the people should be in control”. Dr. Richard North, through the EUreferendum blog, goes on to define further aspects of the term, which are based around the people taking part in yearly referendums to accept the budget on which all government activities are based.

On the face of it this seems like a reasonable and simple way forward. A simple mechanism, control the purse strings, control how much, where and when funds are spent. Politicians will, of course, take a different view. MPs have been voted for by the electorate to represent them, They are likely to cite “voter apathy”, a “lack of understanding by the voters” and any other number of views which in effect talk down the ability of the electorate to take on such responsibilities. The electorate can and does form opinions and can drive change although the present system is being manipulated to reduce the likelihood of that happening

Referism could, perhaps, be extended to directly involve the electorate more often and on a larger number of issues. Technology exists today to ensure that greater communication can take place between Parliament and the electorate. It might be unwieldy to require all the electorate to participate all of the time however, and there’s also the specter of 1984 examples, which are less than beneficial. Perhaps a model based on the current system in place for identifying jurors, may provide a working model. This could be expanded and developed to be electronic and be used to identify a number of people from each constituency for each vote, which would be required. These people would then be “referred” to by the government and the local MP/MSP/MEP and their views and electronic vote taken into account during the decision making process. Each issue would require different people chosen at random from each constituency being involved.

Of course changes would be required to achieve this. MPs would ask what their role would be? How about listening and actioning the views of their constituents?  Their role would be perhaps be diminished, although it could be argued that their role has moved away from the intended model to the detriment of their constituents. Parliamentary debate and voting would have to take place within reasonable working hours and most importantly the “whip” would have to be removed completely.

Control would necessarily move further towards the electorate with the political parties, civil service and lobbyists having to find new ways of doing things.  The media would also have to alter and adapt the way they deliver news.

Revolutionary? Utopian? Naive? Probably, but in Scotland at least, surely we can consider, debate and implement an alternative which may prove to be more inclusive, direct and sustainable for all.

If you enjoyed this blog article please link to me on Twitter account “@TediousTantrums”. I will then tweet you as more political articles in the same vein are published.

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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Politics

 

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Are we looking in the right place?

There are a huge number of blogs, which discuss politics and politicians. Probably far too many. Anyway. I read a few and some are excellent. There seems to be a growing discomfort based on the realisation of the complete disconnect between the political classes (politicians, the Establishment, the media etc.) and the people.

I think it’s safe to say that most people think Health and Safety, political correctness, global warming and the EU are things which need to be reduced in scope, receive far too much attention and waste huge amounts of money. Obviously there are more and feel free to point these out and add to the list. The political blogs do tend to raise these issues.

To me the real problem with the blogs is that whilst they may cover the topic well they don’t actually have any solution, or workable solution. For example I was looking at a blog earlier which said Mr Grey the Scottish Labour Leader enjoyed 7% in a poll which asked who was the best candidate for First Minister in Scotland.(Annabel Goldie scored higher even… although I should say that I am a great admirer of the wisdom of Scottish Grannies). The blog in question then went on to say that perhaps Wendy Alexander would be a better leader? Now how many percentage points or very small fractions of a point would or could she add. Lets start at none and work back from there so again a disconnect between the reality and the politically idealistic solution. Surely the point is that the Labour Party in Scotland has no significant personalities who have First Minister potential. But then again do the Tories? Obviously the Lebdims don’t since Charlie lost the plot. The Greens? Be serious. They live in Wallace and Grommet land where everything is nice and nasty things are dealt with easily and then the sun shines and they get stuck into tea and cakes..

So am I an SNP supporter? Well I will vote SNP at the coming election. I kind of like Wee Eck and Deputy Nippy. I don’t like their anti-nuclear stance, their Green jobs will save us, and their claim we have most of the wind and tides in the world so we can power our economy using them. Get real Alex. (I saw Nippy shopping in the Apple Store in Glasgow a couple of Christmases ago. No protection. No one bothered her. Can you imagine Nick Clegg doing that?)

Anyway to return to the theme of this post. The politicians change. The media changes allegiance depending on what’s in it for the owners or the political direction of the paper or TV station at that point in time. But the Civil Servants don’t. They stay the same.

If we want to affect change we need to change the civil service system.

But before we can do that we have to become more politically savvy, become more involved in trying to achieve a position which provides an opportunity to change the system and we have to stand up and be heard.

Then again we might just stay at home watch Corrie Enders Street and believe every word spoken by the BBC.

If you enjoyed this blog article please link to me on Twitter account “@TediousTantrums”. I will then tweet you as more political articles in the same vein are published.

Please leave a comment and/or Tweet, email or text the location of this article to people you think would also enjoy it.

 

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