Tag Archives: Positivism

Reaching for an “ism”…

Autonomous Mind has an interesting post on taking back the power, which we have all lost. It’s not that long ago that EUreferendum was suggesting “referism” could be a useful mechanism in ensuring voters had a much bigger say than we have now. Referism would require the budget devised by the government of the day, aided and abetted by their civil servants and advisers, to be voted on and agreed by the electorate. I thought this was a pretty damn fine idea. Okay there are issues but there always are. The politicians wouldn’t like it and there you have one of the main drivers to actually adopt it.

Autonomous Mind has suggested that “localism” could also be a tool, which could be employed by voters to gain greater input into local council decision-making. It would require councillors to be far more active, knowledgeable and dynamic which would result in Council Officers being controlled and being required to provide advice, guidance and support.

I’ve touched on this before in a slightly differing sense although the basic principle was the same. My Grandfather was a local councillor and served on various Housing Committees at Town and County levels. People approached fairly often and telephoned him etc. and he always made time for them. They lived in his ward mostly so he had a responsibility to them.

The Council officers were different then too. Most of them lived locally in the community and had done for a few generations at least. This also applied to the vast majority of the Council workforce. Both the officers and the workforce knew their friends and neighbours would judge them if they didn’t vary out their duties as required. It worked well. There was more of a sense of belonging and also appropriateness in the services delivered. A few miles doesn’t make a lot of difference? Well yes it does.

The arrival of regionalisation destroyed the local council. We had a district council which was dominated by the largest town and we had the regional council which was unwieldy. This would seem a reasonable point to identify as the moment when things went down hill. “Localism” was taken out of the equation. Identities lost and communities were no longer able to follow their own appropriate agendas.

We do need to take back control. The reasons for regionalisation were based in cost savings and scalability and they just didn’t work and continue not to work. Community Councils aren’t as good as Town Councils. Town Councils had oomph!

What would we require our local politicians to be like? Politicians would have to be accountable to the voters in their wards. The wards would have to be of a size, which would be manageable for a councillor. The councillor would have to be bright and have the interests of his ward and the greater town area at heart and they would have to live in the ward they represented.

There would be a need to address how councillors worked with the council officers. The relationship would have the officer subservient to the councillor and the councillor would have to knowledgeable about all of the council’s activities and services. The officers would provide facts and figures to help inform the councillors. Governance is key to all of this and yes that requires an element of procedural adherence as that is where the controls which would protect the voters would be defined, monitored and reviewed as needs required. Since these councils would be smaller there would be less of a need for complicated and time consuming administration.

Mainly though, the direct connection between the electorate and the elected would be re-established as would the local identity and needs of the local people voiced directly and without higher levels of government interference.

This wouldn’t go down well with Westminster. They wouldn’t like it. They wouldn’t have as much power. They wouldn’t have as many decisions to make.

Local Councillors would need to be better paid which might help attract good people. Where would the money come from for this? From the savings in the increasingly generous salaries paid to Council Officers. It might also be an opportune moment to provide people employed in the public sector with the same terms and conditions, pension rights etc. No more jobs for life. It would be jobs for as long as you are able to carry out your duties as defined in your roles and responsibilities. Just like the rest of us who aren’t employed by the state.

This could be fun. Although maybe not for everyone.









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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Politics


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Bringing the threads together.

I thought it might be the right time to bring at least two threads together, education and Scottish Independence. There is a genuine link in as much as some of my previous blogs have focussed on the apparent shortcomings of education and some others have lingered on the need to, at least, begin fleshing out how an independent Scotland might be.

A greatly improved education system should, surely, be a high priority, high want and high need objective (pre and post Scottish Independence). Are you listening and agreeing Alex?. To achieve this ALL politics need to be put to one side. Now at this point you’re thinking naive and utopian. You’re thinking politicians would never be able to achieve keeping politics out of this challenge. Well, maybe there is a way.

In order to create an education system, which is acceptable to pupils, educators, parents and taxpayers and which meets appropriate governance, a framework would need to be defined to work within.

Given the present situation, going down the “experimental” route seems to be the most likely way to proceed. So introducing a high level control to keep everyone on board and stop scope creep and, perhaps, restrict personal agendas being pursued. The control would be based on Referism. Involve as many people as want to be involved throughout the whole of Scotland and refer all decision away from centralised high-level authorities and direct them to the people of Scotland

The following is an extract from an earlier blog article

“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 spectre of 1984 examples, which are less than beneficial”.

So we have our high level control. Next, how do we identify and determine the elements required to meet the vision of a modern education system? Well…

Now at this point you’re thinking naive and utopian. Again. Yawn.

Last time I checked, quantum scientists had a theory that we live in a world, which has 14 dimensions, this is just a bit too many for us to make any real sense out of. However, we regularly manage quite nicely within 5 dimensions, which encompass –

Height Width Depth Timing Duration

This 5D-scoping environment provides the framing for topics, which have strategic importance. Now you’re thinking height? Width? Depth? What?

Well how high do you want to set your success parameters? How wide will the scope be? How much depth of detail will be required for the initial framing? What order will things be carried out? How long will it take?  Simple really.  The 5D-scoping environment would be applied to every question, statement and answer as a means of ensuring every possibility is evaluated to identify value.

So far so good. The next stage, following the creation of the framing or scoping, is actually starting to make things happen and for this, another 5D solution, the 5D Methodology would work pretty nicely. Surprisingly, it has five stages all of which start with “D”. How convenient.

Discover Define Design Develop Deliver

Discover what already exists, if anything.

Define what needs to be done.

Design the project plan (based on Prince2 governance).

Develop the project (using an appropriately customised version of Prince2).

Deliver the desired outcome as exactly as intended.

So where to start? What are the main priorities for a modern education system for Scotland post independence? What is the single most important aim?

What’s the first step?

Come on people. What do you think? Collaborate? Share ideas? Leave a comment with your priority for improved education.

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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Sorry it’s another education post

I’d kind of promised myself that I’d have a rest from blogging about education and then along came a link provided by Subrosa and Autonomous Mind for a post by Old Holborn.

Within a very interesting article he says he is not in favour of the state educating any child. This is a lightbulb moment is it not? All the more so as a further commenter again on the Subrosa blog makes the point that education is not compulsory; as in it is not compulsory for children to be educated within the state system albeit with certain legal requirements.

It reminded me, that in my time working with schools and educators I’d come to the conclusion, that things had to change but in order to have them change significantly it would take three cycles of children going through their entire education. Why that length of time? Because following changes, the first batch would still be tainted by the present system, the second batch would be truly the first to go through an improved system and the third batch would go through a completely changed, improved and delivering system. A long time? Well yes, but, of course, not a long time in the great scheme of things.

The answer of course is simpler. Move away from state (and religion but that’s another story) based education. It’s a no brainer. And conveniently, here we are with our good friend, Mr. Michael Gove, trying to facilitate free schools, which are free from local authority control. Of course this policy does not form part of the education strategy for Scotland but let’s hope that it soon will be.

This approach however, has been visited before. You’ll all be familiar with Dunblane and the terrible tragedy, which took place at a primary school there. In fact there was, and still is, a second primary school in Dunblane, St Mary’s Episcopal Primary School. The school was one of only two schools, the other being Dornoch Academy, in Scotland, which opted out from local authority control enabled by a policy, introduced by the Conservative Government in 1988. The school was well run, supported by committed parents and had been recognised as a good school with good results.

Following the election of a Labour Government in London, the opt out choice was removed and a prolonged battle ensued to have the school returned to the “stewardship” of the local council.  The parents, teachers and pupils put up a pretty good fight to keep the school independent and whilst it was subsumed the school still continues to perform well.

Bottom line? Three options.

Firstly set up a free (independent) school from scratch. Lots of money required, but if what is being offered is appealing to enough parents, has credibility and longevity then it’s worth a go. (But only if you are in England).

Secondly, educate at home which is the cheapest, controlled and most flexible option. Gain the necessary permissions etc. (using “home education Scotland” as a search phrase in Google etc. will bring up a wealth of information and organisations who can help). No need to stick to a recognised curriculum although you would have to meet the local authority and EU requirements, which shouldn’t be an issue.

Thirdly. Stick with state education but get involved. Either become a parent helper, get elected as a member of the Parent Council or add value in supporting the delivery of extra curricular activities.

When I worked with schools I started off thinking that if I helped just one pupil move closer to their full potential it would be worthwhile. By the time I stopped I felt I had to help all of the pupils involved to move closer to their full potential.

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 July 6, 2011 in Education


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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.


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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