Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Experts or crackpots?

The Daily Telegraph no less
A group of 110 experts (sic) have, via that most progressive of newspapers - The Telegraph, sent a letter to the government. In an astounding act of arrogance the opening paragraph blames US and our elected representatives for destroying our children's lives “largely due to a lack of understanding, on the part of both politicians and the general public”. They, of course, are blameless. There are no substantive arguments or data offered in the letter therefore its worth comes down to the credentials of the signatories as 'experts'.

So who are these experts?
The lead signatory is the reactionary Sue Palmer who turns out to be the author of 'Toxic Childhood', basically an ex-teacher, luddite rant against computers and modernism. Palmer would love us to crawl back into some golden age of Enid Blyton and Narnia. What she fails to reveal is that she’s also been involved in the design of educational software to which she gets royalties!

Then there’s the hordes of teacher and psychotherapist signatories. Since when does merely being a teacher or psychotherapist make you an expert? Psychotherapy is famously awash with unregulated experts. In the rant for 'real food (as opposed to processed “junk”) the teachers and educational experts should remember that it wasn’t the expert headmasters, teachers, educational academics, LEAs, DfES or NUT that brought this issue to the fore, but a young TV cook using the very 'screen-based media' they hate.

Writers or hypocrites?
As for the children’s writers, I’m sure they’d like everyone to spend their days reading their books, not watching TV, movies and these pesky computer games. Get real, or better still, state that you will not allow any of your works to be used in "sedentary, screen-based entertainment” (their term) i.e. TV, movies and games. Or how about donating those millions to charities?

Crackpots like Jacqueline Wilson then have a go at kids being forced "to act and dress like mini-adults". Have you read her books? They’re packed with this stuff. Her titles include Bad Girls, Girls in Love, Girls in Tears. Give us a break Jacqueline, you’ve made millions from this teenage angst stuff. And what about the 7 TV series and films you’ve made? What a hypocrite.

Philip Pullman has also signed a mega-deal on films of His Dark Materials books. Some of the signatories make money from their web sites and lots have been involved in ‘screen-based’ content – when it means bucks in their own pockets.

Then there are the oddball academics – a Dr Richard House, senior lecturer at the Research Centre for Therapeutic Education (aaaagh) at Roehampton University. How many of you have heard of this esteemed centre of educational excellence?

Loads of educational consultants, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, play therapists etc, none, of course, who take any responsibility for the dire state of literacy teaching in our schools over the last couple of decades.

Joke professionals
Some sound like joke professionals:

Virginia Ironside Author (You must read her bestseller - Goodbye, Dear Friend: Coming to terms with the death of a Pet - I kid ye not!)

David Brazier Author, abbot (actually a Zen Therapist)

Hilary Wilce, Play Therapist (oh dear)

Sylvie Hétu, International trainer for International Association of Infant Massage (Infant Massage?)

Virginia Beardshaw CEO, I CAN (not the same I CAN who have teamed up with BT to use screen-based technology for communications and producer of websites!)

Dr Christopher Houghton Budd Economic historian (expert on auditing and Banking!)

Pie Corbett Author and literacy consultant (own up Pie - you've also had a slice of the computer games Pie)

Helen Freeman Director of Publications, Scholastic Magazines (have alook at the dozens of computer games and videos they sell on their web-site)

Diana Goodey Educational author (not the same Diane that makes all that money from CD-ROMs!)

Haya Oakley Hon Sec of The College of Psychoanalysts (one of the many institutions that are banned from using the 'ac' in their web address)

Denis Postle Psychotherapist and author of The Mind Gymnasium (that's an expensive CD-ROM!)

Pippa Smith and Miranda Suit Co-founders of Media March UK (odd consortium of right-wing and religious nutcases)

Nick Totton Editor, Psychotherapy and Politics journal (readeship of 110 - all signatories to this letter)

Who's really to blame?
No fewer than 3 ex-education secretaries and numerous luminaries from the educational establishment are also on the list. Despite having received billions in funding they’ve managed and maintained a system that is the very straightjacket they rant and rail against.

There is a serious debate beneath this oddball crowing and the serious minds with serious academic pedigrees in the list should have jettisoned the hypocrites and weirdos.

I’m with the kids – they’re a lot smarter than the professionals who profess to know what’s good for them.


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Blogger Karyn Romeis said...

And these 110 experts are then neither politicians nor general public themselves, I take it? Aren't we all "general public"? In which case, if blame has to be apportioned, I guess it must lie with the general public since, quite simply, there isn't anyone else!

9:53 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Like the logic Karyn - and love the slightly 'gangsta' sunglasses look!

The difference is that the general public have a chance to vote the politicians in (or out), on the back of policies - that's democracy. Many of these people are 'self-appointed' experts with dubious levels of 'expertise' and large doses of hypocricy.

The public include the youngsters themselves, who have voted with their feet and minds - they no longer want these dull, slow, old ideas. They live in an exciting era and are participating in a renaissance of creation and communication. They want their personality to be reflected on MySpace, love creating stuff on the web, love messenger, love texting, love games. They hate the classroom, don't have much time for teachers, hate media in whch they can't create and participate. They're smart.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Karyn Romeis said...

I agree that it is high time that the education system was revamped to reflect the needs of the people it serves. Of course that's easy for me to say from the outside, but I know many, many teachers are trying to achieve that from the inside, and I admire their perseverance.

One of the things I struggle with is the artificial divide between education and learning; between those who are school teachers and those who are post-compulsory learning professionals. That wall needs to come down. The way people learn doesn't suddenly change when they graduate from high school, but post compulsory (non-institutional) learning looks so different from education. Why? Maybe because our learners can vote with their feet (and their money).

I chose to work with adults because I didn't want a room full of conscripts and prisoners of war. I prefer to have volunteers - not that I've always had that, mind, but the odds have been more in my favour than that of the teachers trying to engage the very kids you describe.

Plus the fact that I have never been bound by curriculum, but have had the flexibility to teach people what they wanted and/or needed to know.

I have enjoyed freedoms the average teacher has never had. Why should this be the case? We pursue the same ultimate goal.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Ian Ritchie said...

Susan Greenfield sponsored a debate on this topic earlier this year at the House of Lords and I commented on it in my June Business Insider article. My views are similar to yours.
See:- http://www.coppertop.co.uk/Insider/InsJun06.htm

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a sad individual you are... - and one of a tiny minority, of course, who distort, and are fundamentally incapable of comprehending, the message of the 'Toxic Childhood' letter. Hence your resorting to personal, virulent abuse about people you've never met - a sure-fire sign of an 'argument' that is pathetically barren and self-evidently vacuous. The Zeitgeist is moving inexorably towards us and away from you… – thank God…

3:11 AM  

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