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robertogreco : johnruskin   5

Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page: http://www.philip-pullman.com/writings

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."



"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."



"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Poly-Technic
[via: https://twitter.com/KatePahl/status/518992037740568576 ]

"The Poly-Technic is the collaborative arts practice of Steve Pool and Kate Genever. It is grown from a set of key principles, is not buildings based, geographically specific or funding reliant. It aims to provide a melting pot for ideas, exploring how knowledge is found in places and people as well as books and the internet. The ambition is to bring people together to think around the intersection between art, places, research and in doing so build what we call a “Generative Space”.

Our Manifesto includes ideas such as: Conflict can be generative, Stuff comes from stuff, Abandon what you think you know and It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes. The Poly-Technic is an idea which can change shape while maintaining it’s form and works across disciplines with the aim of developing and promoting the idea of Wider World Artists [WWA]. We offer a mentoring service and have to date offered opportunities such as bursaries, a summer school, residencies and a commissions scheme."

[See also: http://kategenever-stevepool.blogspot.co.uk/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/news/
http://poly-technic.co.uk/publications/ ]

["How to learn from people"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-R_S83EY84 ]

[Manifesto
http://poly-technic.co.uk/manifesto-2/ ]

"Abandon what you think you know: It’s not easy to gradually let go of well developed expertise, at the Poly-Technic we suggest that it’s best to abandon it all in one go. Disciplinary boundaries can only be collapsed when we stop holding onto disciplinary knowledge.

It starts when it starts and finishes when it finishes: We are not afraid to part with or transform ideas into something new. Polytechnic projects are always “In-Process”.

Trust in the process: Trust yourself and trust in others, trust you will be surprised, trust you will be interested, trust in the future. Trust and belief depend on optimism; without which we are lost.

Meaning is negotiated: The author died in 1967, his children carry on trying to make sense of just about everything.

Conflict can be generative: Work hard to learn the difference between good conflict and bad conflict. But like cholesterol its difficult to know the difference between the good and the bad until it’s too late.

Stuff comes from stuff: trying, helping, working, making, talking – new ideas come from doing.

Make through thinking: the opposite of ‘stuff comes from stuff’, but its still active, its rigorous thinking

Be playful – improvise: Play games, play serious games – Nabeel Hamdi

Craft your practice: We could have said follow your line. The line is not to be broken, it is not marked on a short or long term strategic plan it flows from your feet and hands and entwines us with the world.

Feel your way: The artist’s business is to feel, although he may think a little sometimes… when he has nothing better to do. (John Ruskin)

Question everything: through deep reflection.

It is ambition enough to be employed as an under labourer in clearing ground a little, and removing some rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge. [John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 1689.] As such we hope to beat a path through the nettles to a light dappled clearing in the woods and have a nice cup of tea.

Kate Genever and Steve Pool. 2012"
poly-technic  art  stevepool  kategenever  glvo  rolisoen  learning  howwelearn  trickster  knowledge  conflict  manifestos  play  unknowing  notknowing  interdisciplinary  antdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  cv  lcproject  openstudioproject  process  meaning  making  howwework  thinking  ideas  practice  johnruskin  feeling  reflection  questioning  questionasking  skepticism  ambition  johnlocke  optimism  askingquestions 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Power « Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
"To me, power is…

- an ability expressed within an immanent grid of relations superimposed on the phenomenal world, from which it’s effectively impossible to escape;

- the ability to shape flows of matter, energy and information through that grid of relations, and most particularly through bodies situated in space and time (including one’s own);

- the ability to determine outcomes where such bodies are concerned;

- this ability consciously recognized and understood.

By this definition, power can be exerted locally or globally, at microscale or macro-."

[See also the comments, including further reading and a definition of lines by Fred Scharmen.]
power  adamgreenfield  definitions  richarddawkins  buddhism  feminism  anarchism  deleuze  guattari  davidharvey  gayatrispivak  naomiklein  antonionegri  michaelhardt  matter  energy  relationships  body  space  time  spacetime  scale  fredscharmen  lines  adamkahane  paultillich  foucault  zygmuntbauman  modernism  johnruskin  gillesdeleuze  michelfoucault  félixguattari  bodies 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Unto This Last (9781420925968): John Ruskin: Books
"Originally published in "Cornhill" magazine, "Unto This Last" is a series of four essays on the politics of economics. Considered by Ruskin as one of his most important works, "Unto This Last" argues that economics, art and science must have a foundation in morality. Ruskin, who cannot be strictly labeled as a liberal or conservative in his political ideology, crafts a thought-provoking exposition of prevailing economic theories that is as relevant today as when first written."
johnruskin  books  untothislast  morality  science  art  economics  toread 
august 2010 by robertogreco
The Long Now Blog » Blog Archive » Bruce Sterling’s Sharp Warning, 8 years later
"Eight years ago Long Now had a conference...how to build a 10,000 year library....Bruce Sterling delivered....rant...hilarious and biting. It holds up amazingly well" "main benefit I derive from reading Ruskin is the spectacle of someone very bright, very dedicated, very perceptive, very historically aware, a prophet really, a futurist seer == who is mired armpit deep in his own parochiality. And so are we...I want to describe how we might succeed where John Ruskin failed"
brucesterling  longnow  history  future  culture  2000  productivity  thinking  posterity  johnruskin 
august 2008 by robertogreco

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