Monday, February 22, 2010

Music and (Hidden) Education

Found ourselves reading this comment in the papers: Schools are churning out the unemployable and nodding our heads in agreement.

Husband gets sent lots of CVs whether or not he is recruiting. Most of these go straight into the bin. If it's not Oxford, Cambridge or one or two from London University, he does not even bother to look.

This article tells us how schools or rather teachers seem fearful to teach. They "facilitate". This morning I heard a trailer on radio of how a young man believes that while in the past teachers were respected purely because they were teachers, these days teachers have to "earn their respect".

I'm afraid the schools must have had the management consultants in, paid them a lot of dosh, and then decided to "facilitate". As a former management consultant, I can tell you we are very good at teaching clients how to "facilitate" in the work environment.

Assuming that grown-up workers have a basic knowledge, we teach them how to, within a work context, "facilitate" the learning of specific work-related skills.

Pupils in school need proper teaching so that they can get on with proper learning. If they do not already have the basic knowledge, what good is facilitating?

In elementary sociology we also talk about the "hidden curriculum" in education: how the need to be punctual, the need to be courteous, civil, communicate clearly, work as a team, respect the teacher/authority, et cetera were part of the learning/education process to prepare a person for the adult working world.

All that seems to have gone from our schools. Most of our schools, any way. What a sorry state the British economy is in, and not having the intellectual/work/business skills to pull us of this quagmire is not helping.

I once led a group of young people at church. It was impossible to "teach". Everyone was talking to someone else all the time.

I could not say my bit, the young people would not listen, they could not understand the gist of my question/dilemma/problem, and it was impossible for them to have a sensible debate/discussion on the subject.

It seems this is how they behave at schools.

They showed no respect for me. They did not respect other people's opinions. And by the same token they never got any respect for their own opinion. It is a vicious circle. But they were too infantile to see it.

I sit at home these days working on my crafts, my writing, etc. and once in a while someone (usually the husband) would ask, "Why don't you go back to teaching at university?" Or "Why don't you work on your teaching diploma?"

This is why: I don't want to teach people who are neither keen nor able to learn.

Why sweat the small stuff, earn a pittance and only to have it taken away by the taxman?

Music? Music has the power to shape a child's mind

If I had my way, music will be a compulsory subject for all pupils up to the age of at least 15. They will take exams and be rewarded accordingly.

They will play concerts, they will work in teams, sing, play the drums, the recorder, pots and pans, stomp on wooden planks and/or wash buckets, whatever. But they will make music.

My parents could not afford to give me lessons in music or ballet, two things I wanted very much to do. When I got to secondary school I "fought" tooth-and-nail to get into the school band so that I could learn to read and play music.

I was disadvantaged in that I did not belong to the two priority groups (those girls who were in primary school bands and those who had private piano lessons).

I remember being always put into the "last" and least favourable groups at every assessment. But I kept at it. I practised my music reading, the treble clef, the bass clef, and kept at it some more. The day that I saw my name on the notice-board as one of those who made it to the Band list was a very happy day. I can still picture it.

Most of my spare time at secondary school was spent playing trombone (with a brief distraction in air rifle shooting). I played it as part of a marching band, a concert band, a stage band (playing mostly Herb Alpert) and then auditioned and joined the National Schools Orchestra.

Playing music in a group has taught me so much: the camaraderie (spelling?), the joy, the sense of achievement, and not least of all the hard grind and discipline required. The same hard grind and discipline that were needed to learn those subjects that I had little interest in, but I needed those grades to get on to the next level of education.

(Or as sociologists would say a "middle-class" attitude that supports undergoing current pain to attain future gain, ie deferred or delayed gratification.)

Music on its own will not resolve some of the more profound issues that young men and women from disadvantaged families face when they arrive at school. They also need, as in the first article, to have a chance to engage with the real adult working world.

With so many of our young people growing up in families where their parents have never worked, where do they find this opportunity? Little wonder that so many of our young girls aspire to be glamour models, WAGs and talentless "celebrities". And boys aspire only to be footballers and rappers.

Perhaps free education should not be free any more. (Oo-uh, stepping onto sacred ground here.) Perhaps when parents start having to pay something towards education they would be less likely to leave it all to the teachers.

As often is the case, anything that is "free" is seldom appreciated. Just as many people do not care about missing doctor's appointments because they are "free".

Fail to make the grade? Let the school levy a charge.

Just blue-sky thinking, OK?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Lord, don't make me a bunion!

Yesterday my son was chuffed to be playing his first rugby match for the school in the afternoon. If you've seen his 'sporting skills', you would understand why this is such a big deal in our household.

At breakfast I had to remind him of three things. Can't remember the first two, but the third was about teamwork.

Then we moved on to Paul's analogy of the church as the body.

Which part do you play? If everyone is an eye, what good is it? Or if everyone was a hand, not any good either.

Later on that morning I had the reason to think about this analogy again and almost prayed "Lord, don't make me a bunion."!

When I made this remark after dinner, husband laughed and said, "Or verrucca!"

Everyone in a church body has a part to play. But sometimes we get to a point when God allows us to go through the darkest of sorrows and deepest of pain. We are tired, we are worn. Everything around us seems to have caved in on us.

We cannot take it any more.

Instead of remaining a functioning part in the body of Christ, it is so easy to retreat and blame everyone else.

What about me? What about my role?

O, please Lord, don't make me a bunion. Or verrucca.

And if I, for whatever reason, should become a verrucca, say, are we not the person who has to do something about it first?

God, please help those church ministers and leaders who have to deal with church members who do not know which part of the body they should play.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Good soil, good food

I am often not sure whether to worry about climate change given all the conflicting evidence, lobbying and mud-slinging. (See earlier post.) But I believe that doing something positive for the earth, to preserve its fertility cannot be bad. After all, the earth "belongs to the Lord".

As my son once said when he was six: "There is no right in doing wrong and there is no wrong in doing right."

So these two Telegraph articles are interesting: Britain facing food crisis as world's soil 'vanishes in 60 years' and Spend more on food rather than holidays, says organic lobby.

When it's gone, it's gone. No soil to farm with. No water to irrigate. No food is to be grown.

What good is the ability to buy cheap clothes when you cannot farm food to eat? Can you eat your cheap clothes?

We are looking forward to our "holiday" (aka visit to my home country) which we try to do once in two years. My son knows no other "foreign holidays" apart from visiting family and friends in Singapore (and lolling about the Presidential grounds when it's open to the public, and meeting the President -- twice).

We eat very well, however. We do not stint on buying organic food. But we also do not spend a lot of money on crisps and sweet fizzy drinks, etc.

Every time I remark -- usually after a very nice meal at home and spending time together as a family -- on how blessed we are to be able to eat so well my husband says, well, he says exactly what Patrick Holden says in the second article: This country used to spend so much more of their disposable income on food. We appreciated the food. We didn't waste it. We used up every bit of food we had.

These days, we spend much less, and instead people spend more on clothes, etc.

Yet, I doubt if all that spending on clothes and shoes and holidays, phones, gadgets and such-like has made any one any happier than their forefathers.

I might be completely wrong, of course.