Saturday, November 13, 2010

Layer 378 . . . Remembrance Day, the Value of Silence, Meditation, Spiritual Intelligence, Real Education, Free Schools, Wrecking Balls, Arts Education, Creativity and a Pavement Picasso

I meant to mention yesterday the 2 minute silence for Remembrance Day.

I recall being quite affected last year by this annual event. [See Layers 216, 218 and 226, which also contained stuff on spiritual intelligence and on education that's still relevant today.] Remember the beating up that Cameron and Brown got in the press last year for using this day for personal photo ops? Remember the hoo-ha about Cameron taking his 'personal photographer' into the 'Field of Remembrance' outside the Abbey?

Libby Brooks wrote an interesting piece for the Guardian this week.

The transfiguring qualities of silence and solitude

In today's clamouring climate, two minutes' remembrance can feel awkward. But the ability to be quiet is vital to our wellbeing

For [John] Cage, the imposition of silence on an audience was an act of subversion: 4'33", which premiered in 1952, was his response to the aural bombardment of postwar urban America. More than half a century on, the daily soundscape for the majority of city dwellers and techno-adherents is more cluttered than ever. The call to collective silence at times of national tragedy or remembrance has become a familiar convention but, in practice, can feel as awkward or contrived as it does reverent.

Oxzen posted this:

Why do we so often have our best and most productive thoughts when we're alone and walking, cycling, showering, etc? The ability to pay attention to our internal feedback systems and allow intuitive thoughts to surface is crucial for wellbeing. For thousands of years Taoists, Hindus and Buddhists have stressed the importance of "just sitting, doing nothing". Why do we allow so many of our young people to go through our school system and remain ignorant of the true value of meditation? Levels of creativity, intelligence, academic performance, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse can all be affected by training in meditation. The David Lynch Foundation even advocates the use of meditation techniques in bringing peace to the world.

Bamboo13 posted this -

Even in the densest city a quiet place can be found. The noise of the mind is far more disturbing. It is such noise, that brings many to India. Osho said to his followers,"The only time your mind is quiet, is when you are listening to me"
The mind cannot be tamed. Disturbing thoughts, fear, anger blaming, can rise at any time, and often do. The therapists will analyze them, forming conclusions. Many spiritual teachers, reject therapy out of hand, and teach that IDENTIFYING with them is the trap, and to let them rise and float away, don't follow them.
The key is always awareness. When the mind hooks to some unwelcome thoughts, simply return to here and now. When the mind is pleasantly day dreaming, return to the present moment. This repeated thousands of times will sharpen awareness.
The benefit, is that this moment, is the ONLY reality in it's unfolding. Leave it, and you suffer for it. This moment is lived without blaming, judging, comparing, projecting and belittling. This is our true nature, and you either realise it, or you don't

Osho, or 'the Bhagwan' as we used to know him, was a weird guy in many ways, but you can't really argue with this - "He was an Indian mystic and spiritual teacher who garnered an international following. His syncretic teachings emphasise the importance of meditation, awareness, love, celebration, creativity and humour – qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation." - Wikipedia

It must be a zeitgeist thing - Ian McMillan chose John Cage's 4'33" as his Desert Island disc on Radio 4 this week.

Other good tracks chosen by him -
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band — Moonlight on Vermont
Love — Alone Again Or
Leonard Bernstein — Rhapsody in Blue

The rest of his discs were complete rubbish. Another strange guy, Mr McMillan, though in a different league to the Bhagwan.


Education Oxzen

Peter Mortimore
- yet another strange guy. As an ex-senior academic, a former director of the Institute of Education, no less, you'd expect him to have some original insights to share with us in his regular column in Education Guardian. But you'd be wrong - he never does. After all, he's only an academic - not a philosopher, or an iconoclast, or an original thinker.

More opportunity in education still does not make it fair

Can the education playing field be levelled to make it fairer, asks Peter Mortimore

Yawn. To be fair, this is just a load of waffle. We know it all already.

Mortimore confines himself to thinking inside the boxes of finance, resources and attainment.

Will there ever come a day when Mr M and his ilk address the bloody unfairness of forcing all children into the same old education factories where cramming for tests and exams is the predominant activity, regardless of children's broader educational needs, and regardless of their human right to develop ALL of their intelligences and not just the academic/intellectual?

Methinks not.

If you want ALL children to be successful at school, and to grow up as positive, rounded human beings who are lifelong learners, then you MUST train teachers to use various teaching styles that cater for the various learning styles of children, and train them to develop ALL of the intelligences, as well as bring out children's  creativity and their innate love of learning for its own sake. A tall order? Maybe. But nothing else will really do if we really want to be fair to all children, even those who are the most and the least 'academic'.

What's more it's actually doable. As I never get tired of saying, these things are already happening in good schools here and especially in places like Denmark and Finland, where the emphasis is on teacher training to Masters level in pedagogy and philosophy of education, and empowering teachers to work for the long-term benefit of the pupils and not the league tables.


Free Schools?

With reference to Oxzen's piece earlier this week [Layer 375] about the Bromley school that was reported in the Standard as fighting to keep its current status as a mainstream comp, well done to Phil Beadle for getting this piece in Education Guardian:

Are free schools a disaster?

Free schools are a wrecking ball that will destroy other schools and local authorities, says Phil Beadle
The sad fact is, there is little new in the way schools are run. The innovations claimed by one provider are rarely in any way new, and have probably been in place at your local school for decades. What is new is the way in which free schools are used to overcome legal obstacles. Simon Jenkins has written in this paper that they are a "madcap" idea. There is nothing mad about them. They are an entirely calculated wrecking ball, intended to break up local families of schools and destroy local education authorities. Where the legal status of these schools prevents them from being given to private individuals or organisations to do with what they will, the free school is riding roughshod and forcing a new school on them, whether or not there is any real case for one. The market, as Ted Wragg appositely put it in 2005, is a "useful servant".


Here's another excellent article from Education Guardian:

 School arts to be hit by cuts

The government's axe on arts spending will have a devastating effect on culture and creativity in schools

by Janet Murray

By the time Dan Evans started secondary school, he had already been in trouble with the police for arson. For him, school was a "boring place where you sat down and looked at boring textbooks", and his attendance suffered as a result. "I didn't think I'd amount to much," he says.

Ten years on, he works part-time as a dance instructor, has an offer of a place at university, and dreams of starting his own performing arts company. Discovering a passion for the arts changed everything, says Evans, who is now 20. While he displayed a natural aptitude for dance, until he started at Brockhill Park school, in Hythe, Kent, he had never had the opportunity to explore that interest.

The previously school-shy 13-year-old began to spring out of bed in the mornings, anxious not to miss a dance class or rehearsal. He even started pining for school in the holidays, he says.

Evans is one of thousands of young people to have benefited from Creative Partnerships, set up in 2002 by Arts Council England (Ace) following an inquiry into creativity, education and the economy led by the arts education expert Sir Ken Robinson, which argued that creativity should be embedded within the school curriculum.

However, in the recent spending review the axe fell hard on the arts, with a 30% cut for Ace, which distributes funding to arts venues, galleries, theatre groups and other arts organisations. It was also announced that Ace would no longer fund Creative Partnerships. This followed news in June that funding was to be withdrawn for Find Your Talent, another arts programme managed by CCE, which gives young people opportunities to learn to play musical instruments, perform on stage and go to concerts.

Critics say the least well-off have been hit hardest by the spending review. "The more affluent middle classes will always provide opportunities for children to take part in the arts and will continue to do so," says CCE's chief executive, Paul Collard, "but there is a real shortage of opportunities for disadvantaged young people."

He cites the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study on the economic and social impact of Creative Partnerships, which found that for every £1 invested, the programme delivers £15.30 of benefits to the national economy, generating around £4bn. Previous research from the National Foundation for Educational Research found that young people involved in Creative Partnerships' activities were making, on average, the equivalent of 2.5 grades better progress in GCSE.

The end of Creative Partnerships is "devastating news" for schools, says Evans, who has worked with around 40 primary schools on dance and other projects. The programme is not just about bringing in professionals to work on one-off projects that are forgotten the minute the artist leaves the school, he says. Rather it is about rethinking teaching and learning right across the curriculum, so that creativity is the heart of everything the school does.

Martin Waller, teacher and creative learning co-ordinator at Holy Trinity Rosehill primary school in Stockton-on-Tees, says being involved in the programme – in his case, a project based around building a "greener" school – has helped pupils to broaden their horizons. "Now a lot of our children want to be architects, landscape gardeners or web designers, jobs they'd never have thought about before."

Mark Reid, acting head of education at the British Film Institute, says it is "very sad" that programmes such as Creative Partnerships and Find Your Talent have come to a close. He argues that public subsidies for art "should be about engaging people who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to do so". Reid fears that local authority cuts, particularly to youth services, may mean that opportunities to experience art and culture will become few and far between, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The £40m that Creative Partnerships received from the Arts Council represented just 10% of the council's government funding – so does the coalition government think arts education is not important? Not at all, says Collard, but neither the Department for Education nor the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (which previously provided funding for Creative Partnerships) "want to take responsibility" for footing the bill.

CCE will continue in its mission to promote the value of the arts, creative learning and cultural opportunities for young people, but Collard believes the fallout from the end of Creative Partnerships could be felt for many years. "The real tragedy is that until the economy recovers, we are faced with the prospect of a whole generation of young people growing up without experience of and access to art and culture."


The Pavement Picasso

And another strange guy, but in a good way - is Julian Beever. On Sky Arts 1 there were two programmes about him making his trompe d'oeil pavement art.


The first programme showed him creating what looked like an enormous series of earthquake cracks in a pavement in California, with some unfortunate soul apparently trying to climb out of one of the crevaces.  The second showed him using just chalks to create what looked like an Eiffel Tower made of rock and earth, on a pavement in Paris, standing next to what looks like a massive hole from which the building materials had been excavated. Remarkable stuff.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment