Tag Archives: education

Building a nation of automatons


Nothing to see here, move along – Dad rant about education.
I read this letter to our Prime Minister, David Cameron, from a worried mum and it struck a chord with me.
 My gripe is not with my daughters’ school, nor their teachers, but with the with the government curriculum.
 I have the utmost respect for my daughters’ school, their teachers and the way they try to teach them.
I went to my kids’ bookshare this week. My eldest had four maths exercise books packed full. And half of one art book. Half. For almost a whole academic year.
I am not advocating that they spend all their time painting pretty pictures rather than doing maths. I am advocating that they learn creative thinking. How to solve problems laterally and creatively. To come up with solutions that they might not hitherto have dared to express, rather than regurgitate the obvious answers to facts such as 2+2=
There’s creativity in maths. Just look at fractals or architecture. Perspective/angles, shapes, fractions (composition).
Instead of asking kids what the speed of light is, (after the fact has been taught them), ask them how do they think they could travel as fast as the speed of light. I bet you’d get some fantastic answers. (Incorrect though, obviously.)
I want my children to question. And to offer up ideas as to the solution. This is how we will create the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
But perhaps we won’t. Because they probably won’t pass their sats.
Both of my children are creative. Both take singing lessons. One takes clarinet lessons and writes stories and makes her own books at home. They love reading and don’t have to be asked to do so. They both have a passion for animals and conservation. They both love to express themselves through art and sculpture. They love nature and history. And they both just got a distinction in their Musical Theatre grade 2 exam.
And they both love exploring what our wonderful world has to offer.
What they hate is: maths and English (yes, even though they love writing).
You know what I tell my daughter when she’s writing a story at home? Forget spelling, grammar and punctuation. Just get your thoughts and ideas down. We’ll get some gubbins [me] to put the apostrophes in later.
The first thing the government axes when times are tough are the arts. They are narrow-minded idiots. In my view, the arts are more important than maths. For those who haven’t seen it before, this is my mantra:
Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.
Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.
Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?
The government pontificates about building a nation of leaders through education. But, in reality, all they are creating are automatons who only know how to regurgitate answers to known facts. What they aren’t doing is educating children not just to answer questions, but to ask them.
This is the original letter from Beth Beynon courtesy of Andy White.
Dear Prime Minister,
Today my daughter got her Year 6 SATS results. Level 4 across the board which, my years of teaching experience tell me, is absolutely spot on for Year 6.
So can you tell me why she has spent today in tears? Why she’s lying on her bed sobbing, because she knows she’s not good enough?
There’s a part of me that barely has the energy to write this. To ask you why you insist on putting 10 and 11 year olds through a system that takes nothing of child development or good pedagogy in to account, or why you put relentless pressure on schools to up their expectations, so what was once seen as good progress is suddenly a failure. But why bother? Why bore you with analogies of weighing pigs that nobody fed? You won’t listen to highly qualified education experts, or even people who, you know, actually teach. So I’m under no illusion that you will listen to me.
I do however want to tell you what is happening in my house tonight.
My funny, intelligent, artistic daughter has received a message today.
She’s average.
The government has told her so.
And that’s not good enough.
The fact that she has rhythm in her soul, a stunning singing voice and takes people’s breath away when she dances, the fact that she thinks about the meaning of life and loves to ponder the great questions like why are we here and what our purpose could be, or the way she cared for her dying Grandmother – painting her toe nails and singing to her, the way she puts her younger sister into her own bed because she woke with a bad dream. These things that make the whole person that my daughter is. It’s all irrelevant.
She’s just average. And that’s not good enough. You’ve told her so.
Another one bites the dust.
Thing is Mr. Cameron, my daughter is wise to you. At eleven she has learned that SATS are just a game.
“I’ve not learnt anything this year Mummy,” she told me during the harrowing and stressful weeks leading up to the SATS “Just how to pass some stupid test for the stupid government”.
From the mouths of babes, Mr. Cameron, from the mouths of babes.
And so here we are. Your SATS results are in. You can number crunch to your heart’s content. You can order schools from best to worst, rank them, categorise them and make them work for you. Numbers are clever , aren’t they? Look what they did for bringing all those children out of poverty! Clever old you.
And meanwhile my daughter will go to sleep tonight despising a government that has squandered a year of her education so they can tell her she’s no more than average. And that it’s not good enough.
Oh, one more thing. She brought home her Grade Three ballet certificate today. She got a distinction.
But I don’t suppose you’re the slightest bit interested in that.
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Filed under Art, Children, community, Creativity, Education, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Philosophy, Politics, Writing

An impartial guide to the 2015 election.


If you live in Blighty you’ve probably been bombarded by Party Political Broadcasts and news media about the various main players in the upcoming General Election.

Blogs are a great way to get one’s personal views across, but rather than expound my own views, I thought I’d give you lucky readers an impartial look at what these nefarious Tory miscreants have achieved thus far. (Told you it would be impartial.)

FOODBANKS

The number of people using food banks has gone from circa 40,000 under Labour in 2010 to one million under the Tories, in just five years. (This graph is about a year out of date. Figures have now surpassed one million.)

foodbanks, election 2015

DEBT

Our National Debt has not reduced as the Tory charlatans claim but has, in fact, tripled under the Tories.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 20.50.08

 

IMMIGRATION

Britain has one of the lowest immigrant populations in Europe. The more the merrier I say. We’re all from Africa anyway.

Brits living abroad

Brits living abroad

Foreigners living in the UK

Foreigners living in the UK

BENEFITS

I’m sick to death of that maleficent rapscallion, Iain Duncan Smith referring to people on benefits as scroungers.

Benefit cheats account for £2 billion whilst tax avoiders account for £32 billion.

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And let’s not forget, for most people claiming benefits, they are just claiming back a fraction of what they have put into it in the first place.

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LABOUR AND BIG BUSINESS

Read ’em and weep.

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THE GREAT DEPRESSION

The current economic catastrophe was not caused by the last Labour government. It was caused by the banks. Admittedly, Labour deregulated the banks more than they should have. But financial deregulation began in 1986 under, guess who… Thatcher.

econ-lies

 

THE NHS

Don’t get me started… 70% of NHS contracts have been awarded to private sector companies since 2013. (Most of them with connections to ConDem politicians.)

NHS-privatisation-300x245

EDUCATION

Did you know, as part of the government curriculum, primary school kids do maths every day but art only once every two weeks?

Obviously, there’s no value in the arts.

No value in creativity.

No value in imagination.

No value in self-expression.

And there’s certainly no maths in art… no fractals, no Fibonacci sequence, no Golden Ratio, no geometry, no equations, no dimensions, no fractions, no angles or shapes…

That’s not a criticism of my daughters’ school, in fact, it recently got an outstanding from OFSTED, it’s merely a criticism of the curriculum handed down by the government.

I’d also have free tertiary education for all too. (Something which Labour have not put in their manifesto.)

wd950112

So, dear readers, as you can see, I have no personal axe to grind and have been as unbiased as I possibly can.

To recap:

Under the coalition the economy has stagnated,

the national debt has tripled,

the NHS is in meltdown,

1 million people rely on food banks,

3.5 million children live in poverty (that’s a staggering third of all children in the UK),

The Tories believe the people who should pay for our country’s debts are the poor rather than their rich benefactors to whom they give tax breaks and government contracts.

All-in-all, a successful term of office, don’t you think?

All you can do is evaluate the facts laid before you and then decide who to vote for. After all, that’s why we live in a democracy.

Just remember, a vote for the Tories is a vote for the Dark Lord. And a vote for UKIP is a vote for the Dark Lord’s imbecile sibling with xenophobic tendencies.

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I must give a shout-out to a few blogs from where I’ve filched most of the above stats, graphs and images. Although, I can’t remember what I’ve nicked from where.

So thank you to:

Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge.

Kitty S. Jones at Politics and Insights.

David Hencke at David Hencke.

Mike Sivier at Vox Political.

Thomas G. Clark at Another Angry Voice.

The Guardian.

The Independent.

Channel 4.

 

If you see something of yours that I have not credited just drop me a line and I’ll amend the post and give you the credit you deserve.

 

 

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Filed under Children, community, Disability, Economy, Education, Ideas, Inspiration, Politics