Friday, October 28, 2011

Layer 486 . . . Literacy Crisis, Education, Dyslexia, Vulgar TV, China, Frozen Planet, Peaceful Protest and Resignation

Thinking about the times we live in -
Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.
All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.
Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education.
It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.
The little people must be sacred to the big ones, and it is from the rights of the weak that the duty of the strong is comprised.
The degree of civilisation is reflected by the quantity of the imagination.
An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.
The three great problems of this century; the degradation of man in the proletariat, the subjection of women through hunger, the atrophy of the child by darkness.
The ox suffers, the cart complains
 - Victor Hugo


I love this story -
Reality bites: China orders crackdown on 'vulgar' TV shows
State broadcasting watchdog orders curb on dating shows and talent contests in favour 
of 'morality building' output
Sick of tacky reality shows with egotistic wannabes? Tired of formulaic talent contests for shameless show-offs? If you feel the prime time schedules are packed with lowest common denominator viewing, you are not alone.
Chinese officials share your pain and have ordered a curb on popular entertainment shows. Out go sexy dating shows and lurid programmes on crime. In come art appreciation, astronomy and weekly "morality building shows".
The new edict from the state broadcasting watchdog is expected to come into force on 1 January. Provincial channels will be allowed to show no more than two entertainment shows in the "golden time" between 7.30pm and 10pm, according to a report on the Chinese NetEase website. Particular types of programmes, such as dating shows, will be strictly limited; no more than 10 talent contests will be permitted nationwide per year, and each must be of a different kind.
"The State Administration of Radio Film and Television also encourages [broadcasters] to produce harmonious, healthy and mainstream programmes, such as culture and art appreciation, history, geography and astronomy, and [those addressing] public welfare," the report added.
We can all benefit from more enlightening and more enriching programmes on television. But what's this about being 'sick of tacky TV shows'? How can you get sick of something you can easily switch off? Maybe. But you can be sick of your family or your friends watching crap, and your TV at home being dominated by the choices 'voted' for by the majority.


Frozen Planet

Fabulous David Attenborough programme on TV this week - Frozen Planet. Stunning photography - take a look at these photos on Yahoo:

We need many more intelligent, enjoyable and accessible documentaries - at the cinema as well as on TV.

Read all about it: Britain's shameful literacy crisis
So rioters shunned bookshops because they didn't offer anything they wanted? That points to a debilitating exclusion from a civilised culture

Deborah Orr's final 'column' in G2 made me sit up and . . . despair. "Shameful". "Crisis"?

Test and exam scores are demonstrably better than they've ever been - and yet we have a shameful crisis on our hands, according to La Orr. Shock fucking horror.

You then take a look at the 8 pages of feedback on the website (by 6.00pm - 328 comments on this article on CiF. 370 this morning) . . . and despair.

Yes - we have a problem with literacy in this country. Since the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy test scores have gone up, and enthusiasm for reading and writing has gone down. Any connection there?, we ask ourselves. More and more literacy exercises and drills, more and more didactic teaching, more and more 'booster classes' . . . and fewer children reading for pleasure; fewer children writing for their own purposes and pleasure.

Yes - there are thousands of children eagerly consuming Harry Potter, but so what? It's what the less technically able and fluent readers are reading, if anything, that we need to be concerned about. Voracious readers - those who find the passing of tests a doddle in any case - will always find books they want to read. But how do we get the less able to become 'hooked on books'?

Not by giving them more of the same drills and tests, that's for sure. Not by failing to understand the psycho-linguistics of reading, the importance of all the cueing systems and not just 'synthetic' phonics, the importance of onset and rime, etc, that's for sure. We learn to read by reading - the same as we learn to ride a bike by riding it. But first of all we have to want to read, or ride the bike.

Still, we can all have an opinion, can't we? No matter never having tried to teach literacy to a group of thirty very needy 4, 5 and 6 year olds, or a reluctant 14 year old. No matter never having studied psycholinguistics. No matter never having worked with pupils with severe learning difficulties of various sorts. Let's all just jump up and down and shout "Crisis! Shameful!" - shall we?

Of course there are teachers who are poorly trained, poorly prepared, and even some who are poorly motivated and clearly inadequate in all sorts of ways. Add to the mix a 'literacy strategy' which is no more than a return to skilling and drilling . . . and we have a big problem.

The good news is that the profession as a whole is capable of working this out for themselves and doing something about it - should the politicians and the pundits care to piss off and allow good schools and those who know what they're talking about to spread best practice, instead of having tinpot 'solutions' rammed down their throats by bureaucrats. Take a look at Finland, Canada and Denmark if you don't believe me. Learn how an education system ought to be run - for the real benefit of pupils and teachers.

Incidentally - there was an interesting programme on the radio this week that said very positive things about so-called dyslexics, who are normally seen as kids and adults with grave disabilities. It seems those with difficulties with literacy are often excellent communicators, often talented and creative in other ways, and often strong in '3D spatial reasoning ability'. Often these 'dyslexics' become brilliant in their own field, once they've discovered their true strengths and passions.

The question is - do schools enable these pupils to discover their other gifts and talents, and enable them to unleash their energy and creativity? Indeed, do schools do so for ANY of their pupils?

Canon of St Paul's: church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence
In his first interview since his resignation, the Reverend Giles Fraser says he was unable to reconcile his conscience with the breakup of the Occupy London camp
Fraser said he decided to resign on Wednesday when he realised he could not reconcile his conscience with the possibility of the church and the Corporation of London combining to evict the protesters from the land outside the cathedral, some of which is jointly owned with the City.
"The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence," said Fraser, adding that it was apparent that the Corporation of London was clearer than the cathedral authorities about its desire to see the protesters moved on.
"I cannot countenance the idea that this would be about [the eviction of] Dale Farm on the steps of St Paul's.
"I would want to have negotiated down the size of the camp and appeal to those there to help us keep the cathedral going, and if that mean that I was thereby granting them some legal right to stay then that is the position I would have had to wear."

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