Perhaps there is another way

“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”

― Robinson, Ken, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, 2009

I was very sad to learn of Sir Ken Robinson‘s passing.

His 2006 TED Talk and subsequent work had a profound effect on my educational outlook and practice; and featured significantly in my M.Ed.

Schools should be places where young people have room to breathe and grow; able to explore ideas and make mistakes; where creativity is not only encouraged but actively nurtured. Those of us at the chalkface can honour his memory by working every day to “inspire and engage the imagination and creativity of the students” we teach.

If you haven’t read ‘Out of Our Minds‘ or ‘The Element‘, now would be a good time to do so; not least given the disruption that the pandemic has wrought on schools over the past six months.

Perhaps there is another way – free from ‘one size fits all’ and ‘standardised tests’, where children are not “educated out of” creativity.

The Antithesis of Mercy

I have been relatively silent amidst the turmoil that has arisen out of the collective deep-breath forced upon us by the pandemic. Where I initially saw hope for change, it was quickly cancelled by an onslaught of rhetoric on both sides of the aisle that left no room for mercy, compassion and tolerance.

Race, gender, religion, wealth: All topics fraught with difficulty at the best of times and I have struggled to fully form the words I would use to express how I feel about any of these issues in the current climate. However, Nick Cave has come to my rescue responding to questions about ‘mercy’ and ‘cancel culture‘ on his blog…

Mercy is a value that should be at the heart of any functioning and tolerant society. Mercy ultimately acknowledges that we are all imperfect and in doing so allows us the oxygen to breathe — to feel protected within a society, through our mutual fallibility. Without mercy a society loses its soul, and devours itself…

As far as I can see, cancel culture is mercy’s antithesis. Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.

And there it is…

We cannot and should not deny our history, nor should we try to remove it as if it never happened. If society is to be equal, we must work openly to build a wider more honest narrative about our histories – good or bad. We must ensure that education provides the opportunity for people of all cultures and backgrounds to learn and debate ideas free from persecution.

But if we seek to simply cancel out the pieces of our past that we are angry about or not proud of, we will replace one biased view of the world with another. You can only redeem yourself when you are able to acknowledge your mistakes. As humans, we are more likely to do that, in a society that is open and merciful.

N.B. None of this is to say that I don’t appreciate the deeply held anger felt by so many people due to the way their gender, race, religion, sexual preference, et al, has been and continues to be treated. The struggle is real. However, we must strive to be better than those who came before us and not allow our baser instincts to drive our actions and decisions as we seek to make society a more fair and equal place for generations to come.

She Bangs the Drums!

Today, Jennifer and I celebrated 16 years of marriage. I had planned to take her to Copenhagen but alas Covid-19 had other ideas. Instead we took a brief stroll in the sunshine through one of the local parks and spent the rest of the day in our apartment. We cooked together; watched Teen Wolf1 and reflected on the many happy years we have spent together so far.

I love Jennifer just as much today as the day I first laid eyes on her. She was a sophomore at College of Charleston, South Carolina; I was participating in an overseas placement as part of my American Studies degree. It was love at first sight. There were butterflies; nervous dates; and many long conversations sharing our passions and interests with each other.

While we have a few songs that we call our own, the one that most reminds me of Jennifer is ‘She Bangs the Drums’ by The Stone Roses. It perfectly captures how I felt every time I saw her back in Charleston when we started dating; and it continues to capture how I feel now, 20 years later. I’ll let Ian Brown and John Squire take it from here:

I don’t feel too steady on my feet
I feel hollow, I feel weak
Passion fruit and holy bread
Fill my guts and ease my head
Through the early morning sun
I can see her here she comes

She bangs the drums

Have you seen her have you heard
The way she plays there are no words
To describe the way I feel

How could it ever come to pass

She’ll be the first she’ll be the last
To describe the way I feel
The way I feel

I look forward to the next sixteen years of marriage, knowing she will be the first and last to describe the way I feel!


  1. Teen Wolf was on the TV the night we got married. We have watched it on our anniversary every year since. Perfect for a couple who love all things 80s.  ↩

Quote

Ron Computer

I’ve been saving this one. Feels appropriate following yesterday’s optimistic post

“As an eternal optimist… my hope is that something might come out of this time of reflection, where we’re all being made to hold still for a while. Perhaps when it’s over, we will walk outside and look at a tree, or reacquaint ourselves with squirrels and birds in our neighbourhood, and say, ‘Oh, there is beauty, there is worth, there is incredible value to the world and to life. And it doesn’t come through my phone, it doesn’t come through consumerism, it doesn’t come from capitalism’.”

~ Offerman, Nick, The Guardian, 2020.