It’s hardly surprising that as many as ”one in six adults struggles to read”. Despite all the government rhetoric about the improving standards of education, I and many others continually question that claim. In fact, some even think that we’re actually getting thicker (see below)…
Previous visitors to my blog will have noticed how often I’ve commented about the poor state of our education system. Any claims suggesting a ’dumbing-down’ of that system are usually vehemently countered by our government.
Michael Gove MP may have argued recently that exam success makes children happy however; is all that ’happiness’ based upon falacy? A false sense of achievement delivered without any real substance or foundation to back it up? One “apolitical retired teacher of the old school” summed up the news well.
…what is really needed in this country is for education to be taken out of the political sphere completely…(see here)
Obviously education is an emotive subject to all those impacted by it; students, parents, employers and politicians alike continually toss the education hot potato about. Consequently, it also follows that the subject of education is usually the source of good copy for our media machinery. Another commentator to the news, this time from Sweden pointed out;
PISA, the international inspectorate showed UK’s poor standards were caused by excessive state intervention, obsession with targets, exams. In successful countries politicians accept they’re amateurs, and let professionals, not tabloids, run education…(see here)
Irrespective of all the political and media wranglings; when you consider that students are buying essays online, many teachers have admitted “fiddling” exam grades and the latest GCSE results are likely to spark a Judicial Review, surly you have to start wondering, what the hell do we do to resolve it all? It ain’t getting any better…
Thousands of UK teenagers cannot read well enough to understand their GCSE exam papers, a large-scale analysis of pupils’ reading ability suggests…(bbc.co.uk)
Something that kind of supports my arguments surrounding certification of academic ability, that and seemingly endless love affair with educating to the lowest level of ability. Simply ensuring that all are awarded for their efforts, irrespective of actual ability or considering realistic standards of quality (see here).
What are GCSE results supposed to say about a pupil? – We have to decide whether GCSE grades represent a concrete indication of knowledge, or where a student lies in that year’s league table..(guardian.co.uk)
All that said, and irrespective of (anticipated) improvements resulting from the proposed EBacc; it amazes me that in these days of so-called education for all, there are still so many people that simply can’t read or write by the time they leave school. The fact educationalists can’t agree on the best way to teach our children to read (see here) is probably a compounding issue however; as a society we should still hang our bloody heads in shame!
Recently The Reading Agency launched their Six Book Challenge in an attempt to help those who have been failed by our education system. It’s aim is to improve the life of people who find reading difficult, by building their reading confidence and motivation. Because, as they say and most would agree, “everything changes when we read.”
It’s right, reading can change your life; the award-winning author Andy McNab is happy to attest to that fact. Andy is also happy to admit that he could hardly read when he joined the infantry as a boy soldier in 1976.
I’m a perfect example of how reading became so important in my life and really changed my life because when I was 17 I’d never read a book…(Andy McNab)
McNab subsequently joined 22 SAS Regiment and after his highly decorated and exemplary military service, he left the army and began a very succesful writing career. He has now written several best-selling and award-winning books about his experiences.
Despite reading being of benefit educationally, the debacle surrounding the quality of our education system (or the lack of it) will continue to rumble on. Perhaps now there is actually a scientific argument to justify some (if not all) of that decline?
The controversial hypothesis of a leading geneticist suggests that, despite the immense capacity of the human brain to learn new tricks, it is under attack from an array of genetic mutations. Ones that have accumulated since people started living in cities a few thousand years ago…
Human intelligence peaked thousands of years ago: Is the human species doomed to intellectual decline? Will our intelligence ebb away in centuries to come leaving our descendants incapable of using the technology their ancestors invented? In short: will Homo be left without his sapiens? (independent.co.uk)
Gerald Crabtree, Professor of Developmental Biology at Stanford University‘s School of Medicne in California, has put forward the iconoclastic idea that rather than getting cleverer, human intelligence peaked several thousand years ago. Our levels of intelligence are actually in decline.
THE DESCENT OF MAN
- Hunter-gatherer man: The human brain and its immense capacity for knowledge evolved during this long period of prehistory when we battled against the elements
- Athenian man: The invention of agriculture less than 10,000 years ago and the subsequent rise of cities such as Athens relaxed the intensive natural selection of our “intelligence genes”.
- Couch-potato man: As genetic mutations increase over future generations, are we doomed to watching soap-opera repeats without knowing how to use the TV remote control?
- iPad man: The fruits of science and technology enabled humans to rise above the constraints of nature and cushioned our fragile intellect from genetic mutations.
Whatever your personal views on education and intelligence, reading is always a very good starting point if you’re trying to improve your academic ability. It’s also enlightening and can often be fun too. If you’re thinking about improving your reading, would like to read more or even volunteer to help others with their reading, then perhaps the Six Book Challenge is a good option for you!
- The descent of man (independent.co.uk)
- Civilisation is making humanity less intelligent, study claims (telegraph.co.uk)
- GCSE scandal has damaged my students’ views of education (guardian.co.uk)
- What is the EBacc all about? (schoolsimprovement.net)
The decision to wear a tie (or not) can be a “sartorial minefield” for politicians and the public alike; so says historian David Cannadine in his BBC article The language of ties and many would tend to agree.
I wonder if the ‘problem’ is born out of our inherent desire to ‘fit in’ which, as a consequence, also drives our perceptions of acceptability?
Considering the fact, as individuals (and as a society), we have a tendency to judge people simply by their appearance, I’ve always been one of those who is more interested in substance and functionality, rather than form or appearance, be it actual or contrived.
What someone is wearing or how they appear, rarely replicates who they are in reality or indeed, how they actually perform. My friend and social sparing partner Rab is a fine example in point however; these factors can also be used to create a false image; the image we, or our employer and/or society, are seeking to portray.
The tie is just one part of the often elaborate rouse we employ to portray an initial image. But this little strip of cloth also serves to create an almost constant “should I, shouldn’t I” dressing conundrum, even more so for those in particular roles or positions within society it would seem. The tie was once de rigueur however today, actually not wearing one can also be just as important, apparently.
To press the flesh and get yourself elected, it seems essential to dress down and appear casual, like ordinary voters, rather than be buttoned up or formal…(David Cannadine)
But the humble tie is not just another one of those shocking fashion failures of history,it’s also indicative of uniformity. Mostly due to the symbolism associated with ties, dependant upon design, wearing a tie in Britain might imply you are a humble office worker, or that you belonged to one of the closed academic or organisational worlds that form part of our establishment.
There was some justification for this view, well summed up in the phrase “the old school tie“, which was – and in some quarters still is – redolent of snobbery, elitism, connection and privilege…(David Cannadine)
The term old school tie is often used as a derogatory metaphor by the media for old-boy social networks, nepotism, and the relatively disproportionate success of former pupils of major public schools, especially in politics and business. For example, after the 2010 General Election, The Times noted that 6% of the parliamentary Conservative Party were Old Etonians, under the headline “Tories’ old school tie still rules” (source wikipedia.org).
Those with liberal views (a friend who fits this category knows who he is), along with those who hold somewhat more radical anti-establishment desires, see the tie as an aspect of enforced uniformity. The way in which it’s worn can also be used a symbol of rebellion. By refusing to wear one at all, or by wearing it in a non conformist manner, as with the youth of today where “the British school tie has gone rogue” (see here).
When free to choose, deciding whether or not you wear a tie can be difficult, it’s a choice not helped by the now common place dress down ethic. A trait designed to imply a more touchy feely and approachable type of persona. But being encouraged to ‘dress down’ for your role or by your employer doesn’t always achieve the desired result.
It has to be said that many of the advantages of a uniform or dress code (actual or perceived) are often negated by the wearer in any case. After all, so many people have the inbuilt ability to resemble a bag of shit, no matter what they wear!
There is a school of thought which suggests; we’re unlikely to have any success in planning for the future, especially when we’re so preoccupied with the thoughts and processes involved with living in the here and now.
In addition, because most of our actions and decisions are often formulated upon historical events, or our own personal past experiences, how can we logically expect to succeed with our aims or plans for the future?
I’ve partly alluded to this issue before (see here) however; most of the real problems we face today are simply born out of the way in which we are educated. That and the way in which we often measure personal ability solely by bits of paper outlining someones academic achievements.
Sir Ken Robinson has said that “schools kill creativity” and the lack of creativity is the root cause of so many of our current educational (or social and business) problems.Whilst delivering his entertaining and intellectual case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity, Robinson also suggests that being wrong isn’t always necessarily wrong per se.
But despite all the educational failings highlighted by Robinson, we are also living in a society that thrives upon the blame culture. We are usually far too quick to search for scapegoats, especially when things don’t necessarily go the way we planned or hoped they would.
I’ve often thought we are all too quick to castigate others for their actions or the decisions they make. But, if those decisions were correctly formulated, within all current guidelines and protocols that were in place at the time, and based upon all the information that was available to the ‘decision maker’ at the time that decision was made, shouldn’t we be more prepared to accept the outcomes, irrespective of whether or not they subsequently turn out to be personally acceptable?
Those that know me will confirm, I’ve never considered myself as an academic, in fact I would hurriedly shy away from such a description. No, I’m more of a realist, all be it a thinking one. I’ve always believed in the phrase; there are no such things as problems, they are simply solutions yet to be found. But finding solutions to problems also usually requires a level of creative thinking, that and some belief in your own ability.
Recently I came across a blog called Written by Erada, in it the author explains her raison d’être for blogging and perhaps even for life itself. She points out that her blog is a “story of someone battling” with intentions and “fearless (or perhaps naive) conviction” to get what she wants from life.
I am therefore I am: …You have to take your knowledge and your strengths and focus on them. Yes, weaknesses should be worked on but most of us, including myself, have been trained to put too much emphasis on our weaknesses rather than the other…(Erada)
Rightly, Erada possesses that healthy trait of self-belief, one that we all need a modicum of. Self-belief is often instrumental in our ultimate success however; when we lack a reasonable level of belief in ourself, can we honestly expect others to believe us? But self-belief is also a whole different ball game to those distasteful elements of self-importance and self-promotion, so prevalent in today’s society.
Erada’s philosophy about education vs. experience is also broadly similar to mine (and that of many others, not least Robinson) in that; college does not necessarily equal education, it is merely the initial process or conduit that assists us in our quest for knowledge. “For any person, regardless of age or sex, if you are thirsty for acquiring an education it is entirely at your discretion how you should acquire said knowledge.”
Being a leader or manager isn’t always the easiest of tasks. It’s also one of those roles that requires far more than academic ability alone. Sometimes decisions have to be made which won’t always be wholly acceptable to all those required to deal with their subsequent outcomes and aftermath.
As the person responsible for making those difficult decisions you have to ensure you make them correctly. They must be timely, informed and based upon all facts available to you at the time and be made for the greater good of all those concerned.
Remember and note well; it’s not just your career prospects at stake, they usually impact upon many more people than just you. Some of the current thought processes and decisions around Government austerity measures and the reforms and/or cuts to public services are a clear case in point.
It is never acceptable to go back on your word or totally change tack at the eleventh hour. Being in denial about past comments or previous statements of intent doesn’t change the facts about your original plans, especially if they were in the public domain. All these poor attempts to save face, or to perpetuate political self-preservation will come back to haunt you.
In short, it’s not always wrong to be wrong, just so long as you were wrong for the right reasons, and you are big enough to admit to it. If you’re eventually found to be lacking in any of your decision-making processes beware the baying hounds of public discontent, they will eventually hunt you down!