Mama was a rolling stone

I just counted up.  I have moved home ten times in the last two months. Even when I have been at my own place, I’ve had four different people to stay during this time period.

Luggage, Packed, Travel, Trip, SuitcaseNow I know that, I don’t feel quite so stupid for waking at 2am, trying to figure out where I was and who my coughing fit might be disturbing in the next room.  (No one, luckily – I was having one of the rare nights alone in my own home.)

For a mildly sociable but relatively reclusive sole dweller such as myself, the varied company and changes of routines, diets and house rules has been bewildering and exhausting.  Seeing friends and family, visiting and checking on those I’ve been forced to ignore during the hardest parts of 2018 has been a pleasure, but one muted by the confusion and aching throat that is the lot of the soliatry being suddenly thrust into day-long chatter.

As well as covering a geographical area that stretches from London to Liverpool and Wessex to Essex, the family and friends I have visited espoused, between them, a political spectrum ranging between socialist and fundamentalist Conservative-with-a-big-C, with greens, centrist small-c-conservatives and rampant liberals scattered around.  I mention this because, within these past two months, there has not been a dinner table or sofa in Britain where politics has not been at the heart of almost every discussion.

Normally, such conversations can be difficult. Suddenly, though, I find them all of one voice.  From the most ardently politically correct Liberal Democrat to the high Tory, the words have been the same.  All of them despise and reject the politicians – every single one.  They are united in disgust and fury at the farce that is Brexit.  They are bemused and horrified at the prospect of a new election, since there is no one they can countenance voting for, despite wanting earnestly to exercise their right to do so.  They are stunned by the ludicrous, self-serving, power-hungry bunch of clowns who slump around Westminster, on huge salaries and expense-accounts, jeering and jibing at each other like a gang of school bullies, but without a single useful idea in their heads.

London, Uk, Westminster, EnglandI found myself wondering why we, as an entire nation, have so abruptly woken up to this.  We voted for these – our leaders – and heaped power, prestige and money upon them.  Now, quite suddenly, it has become glaringly obvious that they possess no skills,  no specialist knowledge, no creative thinking, no debating skills, no charisma, no wisdom beyond that of any Tom, Dick or Harriet in the street.  The message is clear:

They are no better than us.  They have lost all credibility with the people and they do not, in any meaningful way, represent us.

I feel unqualified to broaden this to the political situation in other countries but my limited knowledge does suggest that the UK may not be altogether alone in this…

So why?  I kept pondering.  Why would all these politicians suddenly be engaging in such a public display of self-destruction?  Why are they metaphorically leaping, lemming-like, over the White Cliffs of Dover?

If we broaden our perspective and take a more metaphysical view of this situation it becomes clearer.  We have outgrown them.  We have, and this is quite a scary thought, reached a point where such a system of leaders and mute followers is no longer necessary.  We have learned a valuable lesson.

A few years ago, the politicians decided to let the people – all of us – make a choice.  They made it sound simple.  They told us they trusted us to vote on whether or not to leave Europe.  They’d done it to the Scots just before, in an independence referendum, and the people of Scotland had voted to stick with the status quo.  They assumed that, when we stopped and thought about it, we would do the same.

Flag, United Kingdom, England, LondonSome of the politicians, though, expertly exploited the racial prejudice and economic concerns of certain down-trodden and less-educated members of society.  Others created bogus claims of assumed huge financial benefits of leaving, painted these in catchy slogans on the sides of a bus and travelled around the nation lying to the populace in honeyed tones.  The rest of the politicians did very little.  They mumbled vaguely about uncertainty and hidden costs and trusted to the natural conservatism of the people to leave things as they were.

It all, of course, went horribly wrong.  No one knows what to do.  They have revealed themselves – what passes for both government and opposition parties – to be entirely unfit to govern and we the people have proved ourselves unfit to make such far-reaching choices without being fully and honestly informed of the implications of each option.

Perhaps we need and deserve a country run by a council of wise and experienced elders – the kind of people from industry, health care, diplomacy, education, the emergency and military services, banking, social work, conservation and the like who currently get given CBEs and OBEs for their services to the nation.  Perhaps we need to vote for such people to hold office, based on their record of expertise and success – in terms of wide benefit and happiness – in their specialist fields.  Perhaps we are ready to dispense with the bickering and taunting and arguing that plagues our political system and allow free debate amongst those who know what they are talking about.  Perhaps party politics has had its day.

In any case, I’m glad now to finally be settled at home, and looking ahead to a new year of musing on whatever comes my way.

I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, safe and joyous 2019.

 

 

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If The Elf Hat Fits

There’s a lot she doesn’t know. Of course there is. But plenty she does.

She knows that, just as her daddy was reading her bedtime stories, the evening after her third birthday, there was a ring at the door. She knows her daddy carried her downstairs and opened the door. She knows three men were there and one of them hit her daddy in the face.

Later, her six year old brother told her the bad men were angry because Daddy had stolen things and hidden them in the house. She didn’t say much about that, because it wasn’t something she could understand.

When the men had come back, even more angry, her mummy said it wasn’t safe at home and they had to go. They left Daddy and left their house. Her brother said Daddy had been naughty.

She was sad and angry and scared and very good at expressing her feelings. She talked a great deal about the bad men but not much about her daddy, and none of us could figure out how to explain in words that would be meaningful to her.

Sometimes, when she saw her daddy she would say, “You stealed things,” and he would agree, sadly, that he had. But that was all that was said.

She spent a lot of time thinking over the spring and summer and autumn.

By the winter, she had a new home and new friends and was going to preschool. The staff there had a funny joke for Christmas time. They said there was a naughty elf who stole things and hid them. She watched as the ladies searched for the items the elf was supposed to have stolen and listened when they told the children how cross they were with him.

She carried on thinking.

As Christmas grew nearer, her mummy asked her what she wanted to buy Daddy for Christmas. “A elf hat,” she announced, solemnly.

So that is what her daddy will get for Christmas. No doubt he’ll think it’s a cute and funny gift. No doubt he will wear it, to please her.

And she has, in her pragmatic and very literal way, found a cap to fit him… for now, at least.

An Open Letter to The Universe

Dear Universe,

Here we are then – another morning, another day in the Life.  Let’s decide how this one is going to go.

I have to give you credit.  I opted into this particular Lifetime in order to expand and learn through experiences and requested from you that I should have some, er, interesting scenarios to work through in order to achieve that.  You, dear Universe, certainly delivered.

Here I am in the middle of one of them.  It’s arguably the most complex, challenging and painful of the lot.  Am I learning from it?  Certainly.  Is it allowing me to expand my consciousness and understanding?  I suppose it must be.  Am I flailing about, totally out of my depth and panicking for much of the time?  Definitely.

So back to basics for a moment.  Life does not happen to me; I happen to Life.  It’s very easy to forget that when I’m in the middle of a Life drama.  It’s easy to sink into victimhood and wallow about there yelling, “This isn’t fair!  This isn’t my fault!  Someone else caused all these problems.  I didn’t choose them.”

Woman Desperate Sad Tears Cry Depression MWell no, in everyday terms I would never have chosen to have people I love suffer what they are going through.  It is all too easy to blame the perpetrators.  If those people hadn’t done those things, Life wouldn’t be this way.  If those people hadn’t done those things, I wouldn’t be here, having to deal with the fallout, day after day.  If those people hadn’t done those things… something else would have shown up in my Life to allow me to learn and expand and find ways of dealing with the issues here, because that’s what I asked for when I began this Lifetime, and that is true for everyone involved.

So let’s dispense with all the victimhood and blame and anger – the easy stuff – and move on to happening to my Life.

This is what I’m learning, you see, Universe.  You’ve given me some real humdingers to deal with in the past and I’ve often seen myself or – worse yet – people I care about, suffering, and been willing to blame others for that.  It is hugely difficult to see that every single individual concerned acted from what he or she considered to be a reasonable or practical perspective.  They each carried out what they considered to be the best or most expedient response to a difficult situation.  It’s not my task to question their actions or to blame them.  It’s my task to take steps forward and move myself and my loved ones into a safer, more secure and comfortable situation.

My little family – the woman, the child and the toddler – are in a safe, though temporary, home.  We are making plans to move them into a relatively safe and secure permanent home.  We are taking steps to make that permanent home safer and more secure, but that is still not reaching to the nub of it.  Security devices, high fences and locked gates may help to protect against physical intruders, may help to make people whose previous home has been violated, whose lives have been threatened, whose trust has been destroyed feel slightly better, but the real work is to build up inner protection.

Tunnel, LightEach of them is traumatised.
The smallest is terrified by loud noises, raised voices or passers by who remind her in some way of the ‘bad men’.
The child has just built himself a dreamcatcher – a wooden pop gun beside his bed that ‘shoots’ nightmares into a hoop, from which they are projected into a baked bean tin across the room.  For him this is serious work – serious self preservation.
For the mother, who seeks to protect and nurture the little ones while dealing with her own loss, grief and traumatic stress, there is a long, slow and painful journey.  I can see the glimmerings of a stronger, wiser, truer woman emerging.  I can see tiny steps towards the rebuilding of shattered self confidence.  I can see a brighter, clearer future that far surpasses the web of lies and deceit that were lurking and waiting to sabotage the past.

My task is to hold that image and project it to you, Universe, because then you will mirror it back to us.

Yours in love and gratitude,

Jan

 

 

Lost in Conurbation

“Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage.”

wrote Richard Lovelace, back in the 1600s.

I’d sometimes wondered, passingly, how true that was.  Could the human spirit rise above physical incarceration and fly free, despite all?

Life – considerate as ever – has given me the opportunity to find out.  Not, I hasten to add, that I have been walled up in some dreadful prison cell.  I’m free to come and go as I wish and my surroundings are clean, dry and comfortable.  It is, nonetheless, a cell.

I will be living, through the rest of spring and summer and well into autumn, in a square white room.  There is a tiny shower room, but all other aspects of life must be accomplished here.  Where once I had rooms, now I have corners – one for cooking, another for sleeping, an eating, relaxing and working area.  Where once I had a garden to tend, stuffed with nodding daffodils, bluebells and tulips, I now have a single pot of hyacinths on a white windowsill.   Where once I watched the sun set amidst distant hills across the Somerset Levels, now it drops below a tower block across the car park from the one I live in.

My windows look out on to other blocks of flats.  A hollow-eyed woman with dark hair sometimes peers out from the one opposite.  A gaunt man coughs and gasps in the window as he drags at a cigarette from the room below hers.  Beyond the blocks are housing estates on two sides and roads on the others.

Yes, it would be easy to sink into self pity in this sterile, soulless, monotone place.  On my first night here, I lay in bed listening to the sound of traffic, far below, on the dual carriageway that leads to London – a soft, irregular swishing sound that rose to a crescendo and fell away again.  It could almost have been taken for waves, breaking on a pebble beach, I decided, before noticing that this gave me no comfort at all.  I’ve never much enjoyed the sea – too wide, too cold, too unpredictable.

I have with me the few comforts and essentials I was able to cram into a relative’s small hatchback and a few sticks of furniture I’ve borrowed, or bought from local second-hand shops.  It’s a world away from my lovely cottage, my dear friends and my contented life over in the west.

So is my spirit broken by this cruel exile?

Slightly battered, perhaps, in these early days of readjustment, but far from broken.  This has become an exercise in actively seeking out the positive.  Since my arrival two weeks ago, a froth of may blossom has covered the narrow strip of wilderness – a haven for dog-walkers and fly-tippers – that separates the estate from the trunk road, so that I now barely see the lorries and vans hurtling towards the city.  Tiny bluetits cling impossibly to vertical brick walls outside my window as they gather some form of sustenance from them.  Beyond the flyover, a single green field can be glimpsed obliquely from one window, if I position my chair carefully.

The greatest help, though, has come from the two little children I have come here to be with.  They and their mother have been permanently uprooted from their home, in the most traumatic of circumstances.  They, too, are living in temporary accomodation nearby, but with no hope of returning to their home and friends.  They have lost so much, yet they teach me, each day, about positivity and optimism.

“Grandma has a lake in her garden,” the six-year-old informed his mother, referring to the drainage ditch that crosses the small piece of grassland beside the flats.
Scale is unimportant. For us, now, it is a river, with meanders and tiny waterfalls created by twigs and leaf litter.

His three-year-old sister can easily spend ten minutes peering with total delight into a patch of wild violets she found there, stroking its petals reverently, or having earnest conversations with a passing beetle.

Even in my room, their imagination and creativity fills the space with magic. Image may contain: indoor A side table became an enchanted forest home for the fairies for a while.

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A garden, bath and sofa were created in a box for their toys.

For all of us, now, Life insists that we build our own joys and delights and that we trust to its bounty and goodness to allow my little family to heal and rebuild their lives, so that I can ultimately return to mine.

I won’t be the same person who left, though.  There is richness in this experience that will stay with me forever and I am deeply grateful for it.

 

 

Always will.

Glass, Shattered, Window, DestructionTen years ago, I was just finishing the most terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting and arguably the most successful year of my life as an educator.

I’ve spoken about it before, but not for a while, and a few things have happened this week (like the message from D) to make me want to look back at it.

Briefly:  I worked in a primary school at a time when everything was controlled by THEM – the curriculum, the standards, the targets, the methods.  As educators we were under stupid amounts of pressure to conform and jump through all THEIR hoops.  The alternative was Special Measures.

Ours was a smallish school and – as sometimes happens – in that particular year, we were struggling with an above average number of, um, challenging pupils.  The reasons for the challenges weren’t hard to fathom – parents in prison, parents who had died or were seriously ill, parents with substance abuse issues, violent and abusive siblings and step-parents, family break-ups, history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.  Those are just the bits I can remember.  There was also peer influence and imitation; children would pick up on the behaviour of others and copy it.

Run Riot, Anarchy, City, Urban, GraffitiEvery class in the 7-11 age group had a few hard-core rebels and several who copied their behaviour.  Teachers felt their standards slipping as they struggled to deal with daily disruption.  Some were refusing to teach certain children or to have X and Y in the same class.  Exclusion of these youngsters wasn’t an option.  It was frowned upon by THEM, and anyway, we wanted to help these kids.

As a senior management team, we pondered long and hard on how we could organise classes for the next academic year.  No combinations worked.

Until I had my crazy/wonderful idea.

I opted to teach a mixed-age class of just 16 pupils, containing every one of the challenging children and a few others who had their own issues and difficulties, despite not being disruptive.  My conditions were that the National Curriculum would not be followed, testing would be optional – and then only at the very end of the year, targets would be replaced by frequent ‘look how far you’ve come’ reviews, the education would be holistic, with a different programme of study for each individual based on their personal circumstances and emotional needs as well as the educational ones.

Luckily, I had a brave, supportive head teacher and some brilliant, visionary and courageous support staff.  I was also able to buy in help from a very talented play therapist/counsellor.  Annoyingly, the local authority insisted on adding in its Behaviour Support Team, who tried to get me to run the class along the lines of Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s rats.  Not helpful.

My curriculum was, very broadly:  Term 1 – learn to tolerate and begin to like yourself.   Term 2 – like and take some responsibility for yourself and begin to tolerate one or two others, so you can manage to work in a very small group.  Term 3 – take responsibility for your own behaviour and actions and begin to tolerate and work with larger groups and the whole class.

Girl, Boys, Children, DevelopmentEach of the 16 who stayed at the school (such families travel around a fair bit, so some moved away) went on to rejoin a normal mainstream class the next year.  All of them opted to take part in the end of year tests and did as well or better than expected.  In the final term they did a whole class project and cooperated as well as any group I’ve ever taught.

Obviously the hardest bit – so hard I still have to fight back tears as I remember – was to get these lovely young people to tolerate and, later, like themselves.  Once that was achieved, the rest flowed relatively easily.

As I mentioned earlier, several synchronicities have turned up recently, drawing me back to 2007.  Some will have to wait for another post, but I will mention D.

He was one of the oldest in that class – an intelligent, painfully sensitive, deeply troubled young lad who somehow transformed during the year from having always been the class weirdo to becoming an excellent and much admired role model for the younger boys in our group.

Last night – as he does from time to time – he messaged me.  Said he hoped I was doing OK.  We chatted briefly.  I told him what was happening in my life; he told me a little about his.  Then we signed off.

“Thanks for remembering me,” I said.

“Always will,” came the reply.

I’ll always remember him, too, and the rest of the class who taught me that once you can like yourself, there are no limits to what you can do.

 

 

 

 

Being Grommit

Image result for wallace and gromit imagesI hesitate to write this, because there are so many people out there much better qualified to talk about it.  Still, it’s come into my head and it’s lodged there like an ear worm and won’t go away until I write it, So I suppose I’d better write…

There’s a huge amount of non-sense spoken about sensitivity and highly sensitive people, so perhaps I can add a modicum of sense, or maybe just more nonsense.

I wouldn’t generally count myself among these people (which is why I don’t feel particularly qualified to write about them) but I seem to have some kind of magnetic attraction to them.  They keep showing up in my life.  Once they are there, they tend to stick around.  Whenever that happens with people in our lives, it means we have something to teach or learn from each other – probably both.

So let me give you a very personal, no-holds-barred snapshot of how it feels to be a neuro-typical individual, living and working amongst highly-sensitive people.

They’d like to fit in with the rest of us.  They really would.  It would make their lives so much easier and they know this.  Some of them elect to go down the route of medication aimed at suppressing their sensitivity, dulling their responses and turning them into rather sad but apparently average people.  Many, many more prefer to self-medicate, using recreational drugs and/or a mixture of caffeine and alcohol to render their daily lives (or at least parts of them) more manageable.  Both of these seem to me a tragic waste – partly because of the unpleasant side-effects and partly because all these substances mask the true essence of who they really are.  Nevertheless, I understand the reasons behind the choices.  For those of us living and interacting with these people, we’re faced with a double problem of trying to understand their innate differences from our way of being and to deal with the challenges faced when dealing with anyone who is drugged up.

I frequently feel hurt, offended, rejected and dismissed by those I care about and love who live within this spectrum of being.  As a ‘typical’ person I crave affection – and some occasional expression of this, attention – such as responses to messages or to be looked at once in a while, reassurance that I’m getting things right, and trust.  I’ve discovered, slowly and painfully, that I will only get any of these by explaining my needs very carefully, providing detailed instructions on how I would like the person to react and then being satisfied with what they are able to provide, even if it does feel more like a rehearsed trick than a genuine, spontaneous action on their part.

Does that sound terribly harsh?

If we look at it from their perspective, they do NOT lack emotions and feelings.  They have them in such abundance that their fragile human bodies are just about incapable of containing them.  They probably dealt with this as newborns by screaming endlessly, as children by throwing tantrums or head-banging, as adolescents by almost total withdrawal from society and family and immersion in music, video games or self-harm.  During that long, painful process, they have learned to suppress almost all emotion, except fear and anxiety, which just won’t go away.  They care and want to please as much as anyone, but it’s deeply scary for them, and any tiny steps they can take should be welcomed with deep gratitude by those of us who can’t even imagine what it is costing them.

They know and feel and see things we don’t.  They’ve learned that in our society, people who know more than others are usually considered clever, so they can easily become so supercilious and self-opinionated that I want to punch them.  They’re frustrated when we don’t get what seems ludicrously obvious to them.  I find myself thinking, ‘Good grief, here you are, treating me like a five year old, when you can’t even walk into a shop and buy a pack of underwear.’

So why is it like this?

In my opinion, all of us are – first and foremost – pure consciousness.  You can call it soul or spirit if that works for you.  We have all chosen to bring a portion of this pure, rarefied consciousness into physical bodies – to be born as humans.  It involves a fair bit of give and take to do that.  If you think of the consciousness as Light, there is only so much we can squeeze into a human body.  Most of us have been happy with that trade-off as it means we can experience physical existence and use this unique way of (human) being to grow in a way that can’t be achieved otherwise.  Image result for wallace and gromit images

Now think of the way consciousness works.  There is an innate wish to push the boundaries – to go farther, faster, higher than anyone else has done.  Consequently, ever-growing numbers of conscious beings are trying to squeeze more and more Light into the frail, delicate human bodies they are being born into.

It means the fit is not great.  They can’t bed down into their bodies so easily and some of the Light isn’t properly held in.  I keep getting this mental image of Wallace frantically screaming, “Grommit – these are the Wrong Trousers!” in the wonderful Aardman animated film!

Image result for wallace and gromit imagesAnd I often feel like poor old Grommit, frantically trying to avert disasters and melt-downs, and help my enLightened friends, students, relatives and acquaintances to fit into the crazy trousers-of-life they’ve entered, while assisting them to understand that yes, the world DOES need the Light they’ve brought with them and that their brilliance is an absolute gift to all of us.

So stay with us, all you wonderful Wallaces.  Try your best to function in those trousers.  We Grommits will keep trying to help you in every way we can – because that’s why WE incarnated.

 

 

Inspired to see

Not for the first time, I find myself inspired by a post from Cheryl and the wonderfully wise Higgins.

Their short yet profound post can be found here: https://askhiggins.com/2017/02/15/tell-me-my-future/  and is well worth reading.

One sentence particularly drew my attention:

Everything you see around you is a metaphor for your own expectations about your life and this is how the Universe notifies you continually about what’s coming.

In a sense, it’s the usual Law of Attraction stuff – you get whatever you give your attention to – but it goes further, and it has the deepest of messages for us in these times of news, fake news and confusion.

It made me stop in my tracks and think hard about what I give my attention to – what I ‘see around’ me.

Crowd Of People, Crowd, People, BlurYou could place one hundred people in the same department store, mosque, sports centre or field, but they’d all ‘see’ something different around them.  What we see is far more than the built or natural structures. We interpret them, and the people, objects and creatures within them, the temperature and light levels, the humidity, sounds and smells through the screen of our own – very personal – expectations.

Do we feel comfortable and at ease here, or threatened and anxious?  Do we feel excited or bored?  Are we filled with awe or revulsion?  None of that (or the myriad possibilities between those extremes) is a product of the location itself; it is a product of each person’s way of viewing it.

Digital, Zeros, Ones, Woman, StylishSome people are particularly sensitive to the feelings and thoughts of others.  They can ‘catch’ fear or anger.  As it grows stronger and passes from person to person in this subliminal way, such a feeling can grow in intensity, so that even the least sensitive individuals begin to pick it up.  We’ve all seen examples of how terror, fury or hostility can spread through a mob.  I suspect that is as true for social media as for people in a physical location.

In these times of high density living and high impact digital interaction, it seems to me, it’s doubly important to step back and to take a careful look at everything we see around us, and HOW we see it.  If we can view it as a metaphor for our expectations about life – and consequently what we are about to create as our ‘future’ – we may want to think about altering our perspective somewhat, both as individuals and en masse.

 

The Blame Game

Sorry for another political rant.

It started with a phone call from my youngest, and the subject – as it inevitably does in the UK at the moment – drifted into politics.  It shouldn’t have been a problem.  We both, for the record, voted to remain in the EU; we were both dismayed at the result.  There, though, the similarities end.  For me, a slightly grim pragmatism has taken over – a kind of ‘Well, OK, we’re in this mess, so what can we do to make the best of it?’ attitude.  His disappointment, however, has taken him in a different direction.

“Not wanting to cause offence or anything,” he said, “but you know it was mainly the older people who voted for Brexit.”

I pointed out that two thirds of young people hadn’t even bothered to use their votes.

Old Man, Man, Face, Senior, Older, Weathered, Age“Well, yes, maybe,” he continued, “but it isn’t fair that these people, who won’t even be around to deal with the consequences, should have decided our future.  A group of us were saying, the other night, that – just as there’s a lower cut-off point for voting of 18 – there should maybe be a cut-off at the other end and people over 70…”

“When I reach 70,” I told him, icily, “I expect to last for approximately another 30 years.  That’s longer than you’ve been alive.”

“Well yes,” (he knows as well as I do the genetic predisposition of women in our family to last well into their nineties and often beyond) “perhaps 70 is a bit harsh.  Maybe it should be more like…”

He didn’t get to finish that sentence.

There was me thinking the ‘Remain’ camp had the higher moral ground.  We were the ones who had said, ‘Well admittedly all is not as we’d like it, but let’s stay in the Union and change things from within, rather than throwing babies out with the bathwater and putting the blame for all our ills on others – immigrants, economic migrants, European bureaucracy, Greece, Germany or whatever.’

Seems I was wrong.

As soon as the Remainers have reason to feel miffed, what do they do?  They begin flailing around looking for someone to blame.  The Scots blame the English.  The educated blame the ignorant.  My son and his mates would happily disenfranchise their parents and grandparents, just as surely as the Brexiteers would gleefully repatriate the European workers who are propping up our health service.

Why?

Index, Finger, Pointing, You, Hand, MeBecause BLAME is endemic in our culture.  We have grown up believing that everything we dislike is someone else’s fault.  All we need to do is find that someone, punish or denounce or harass them and things will start to get better.

Such an attitude is the stuff of life to our media; they thrive on fuelling the ‘righteous’ indignation of the many against the few.

It is the modus vivendi of politics.  We look on miserably while the two sides slug it out in parliament, endlessly blaming each other for whatever mess we’re in.

The trouble is, there are no winners in the Blame Game – just losers.

So how would it look, I’m wondering, if we stopped blaming?

Just simply stopped.

How would it look if each one of us took responsibility for the way things are now?

What if we calmly considered what we’re happy with and what could do with changing?

What if we then set about entering into a blame-free dialogue with others to find ways of improving matters?

What if the media observed and reported on what is happening in the country and beyond, without apportioning blame or inciting revenge?

What if politicians didn’t square up to each other across a divided room and hurl insults and recrimination?  What if they formed into all-party special interest groups – individuals with particular levels of experience and expertise in particular areas of government – and became groups of ‘elders’ who sat around a table and worked together to forge a way forward for the benefit of all?

It couldn’t be a lot worse, could it?  Maybe it could be a great deal better…

It all starts with us, though – us not blaming anyone.

Positive steps

darkmarked: ”Down with this sort of thing!” ”Careful now!” Father Ted This feels much better!

I’ve been moaning on about the state of things in education for weeks now and doing my own Father Ted-type protest.  (You’d have to have seen the sitcom to know what I’m talking about, but some will know and love it as I do…)

That kind of negativity didn’t sit well with me, though.  It got even worse when the TES published a short article I’d written some weeks ago and still more people started wringing their hands and demanding to know what could be done to stem the flow of cramming-junk-education-into-small-kids-for-political-purposes.  That, of course, is the important question.

So now I’ve stopped protesting and done something positive instead.

Taking my WordPressing skills to their limits, I’ve create a new blog to provide free – and freeing – resources to stressed teachers, disillusioned and worried parents and, of course, home educators.

I only started it last night and already have my first follower!

If you’re interested in ‘this sort of thing’, do head over and take a look.  It’s very small and modest so far, but I’m hoping to grow something lovely, as well as keeping the metafizzing going over on this site, of course!

Here’s the link.

 

 

Down with Education: Bring Back Educetion

No, it isn’t a typo.  There’s a subtle but world-changing difference, you see, in the vowel.

Education comes from the Latin educare – to bring up or train.

Educetion (which I’ve just invented, of course) is derived from the Latin educere – to lead out, to draw from.

See the difference?  In the first, we have malleable individuals who can be trained in whatever way those in authority prefer.  In the second we have innately wise people who, with a sufficiently nurturing environment, can develop and hone their own skills, perhaps in entirely new ways.

Let me give an example of educetion from my own childhood.

Long, long ago, I sat in in a grammar school classroom ready for the first art class of the year with Mr Sutcliffe.  Our group was studying art as a ‘relaxation subject’, timetabled in as a break from the many hours working towards academic A-levels.

Bob Dylan, Musician, Joan Baez, Singer, 1960S, ComposerMy classmates and I had, for the past couple of months, been vicariously enjoying the Summer of Love, via our transistor radios and magazines.  The times, as Dylan had foretold a few years before, were a-changin’.  We were sixth formers now.  We felt ourselves to be groovy and trendy and hip – yet Mr Sutcliffe was about to do something so shocking, so daring, so different, that we would walk out of that room as changed people.

No paints.  No pencils or pastels even.  Just Mr S at the front of the class, holding up a magazine advert for washing powder.

“Persil Washes Whiter!” he boomed.
We stared in confused silence.
“Than WHAT?” he demanded.
He seemed to require a response. We glanced at one another.
“Than – other brands, sir?” one boy suggested, nervously.
“Does it say that?” Sutcliffe snapped back. “Is there proof?”
“No,” we mumbled.
“No,” he agreed, his voice returning to its usual friendly, comfortable tone.
“No.” He sighed sadly. “And yet – just because of things like THIS,” (shaking the magazine page accusingly) “millions of people spend their money on this product rather than another.”

We sat, mesmerised, while Mr Sutcliffe went on to demonstrate, clearly and convincingly, how we – the unsuspecting public – were constantly duped by advertisers, politicians, the media and anyone else with a vested interest in manipulating our minds.  He showed us how colour, design and typefaces created a desired attitude.  He showed us how empty words and clever phrases would place ideas in our minds.  He entreated us to stop and think and avoid being led blindly into behaving as They wanted us to.

“You are wise, intelligent young people,” he said, his voice almost cracking with emotion.  “You have the wit and the ability to make your own choices, to decide whether or not you believe what you are being told.  Be critical.  Be wary.  Be sceptical.  No one has the right – or the ability – to tell YOU what to think!”

Mr Sutcliffe had put his job on the line – even back in those liberal, relatively unmonitored times.  He had not given us an art lesson.  He’d given us educetion.  He’d shown us that we were not empty vessels to be filled with facts and instructions, but autonomous people with the ability to make our own choices.  Such behaviour was unheard of in those days.  We were being trained to be obedient little consumers; that was how capitalism worked.  We were being trained to believe those in authority; that was how politics worked.

Today, of course, things are very different.  Advertising is (somewhat) regulated.  Conspiracy theories and debunking explode from the internet in every direction.  Students in schools are taught critical thinking skills and encouraged to form their own opinions… aren’t they?

Call me sceptical and cynical and so forth if you like, but I was taught by Mr Sutcliffe.  I’ve learned to smell a rat.

Exam, College Students, Library, ReadingThe tide is turning.  Times are a-changin’ again.  Our leaders – fearful that their authority, and even their purpose, are being eroded – are fighting back.  They are being very clever about it, too.

The British education system is being overwhelmed by Junk Learning.  It is imposed by the government.  It isn’t in the National Curriculum – that would be too obvious.  It’s in the tests they are imposing on our children.  If schools want to survive, they need good test scores.  To get good test scores, the teachers must teach what will be tested.  It’s no accident that there has been a sudden leap in the amount of difficult, obscure and downright pointless material primary school children – as young as six – are required to learn and regurgitate on cue.

A recent study found – unsurprisingly – that a group of university academics, even when they were allowed to confer, were unable to complete the tests being given to 10 and 11-year-olds this year.  Needless to say, the stress caused to teachers, parents and children is utterly unacceptable.  Thousands of English parents are planning to ‘strike’ and keep their 6 and 7-year-olds out of school next Tuesday to show their displeasure at the test system.

Man, Suit, Leave, Marker, Text, FontSo why is it there?  Well, I venture to suggest, there are a finite number of hours in the school day.  The more of those hours that are devoted to the rote learning of pointless grammar and complex arithmetic, the less are available for educetion.  Children who are not given the chance to develop their innate talents and creativity, not encouraged to consider alternative viewpoints, not allowed to have any choice in what they study or how they study it will grow up believing themselves to be successes or failures, based on their ability (at the age of eleven) to identify a prepositional phrase or a modal verb or to multiply a fraction by another fraction.

How much easier will it be to manipulate such citizens, broken by a harsh, unreasonable and destructive system, than those who have been empowered to think and reason for themselves?