Thursday, 23 September 2010

Ricky Hatton Floored Diamond

I feel very sorry for Ricky Hatton after news that the British Boxing Board of Control have revoked his boxing license. The psychological impact of this decision must be devastating for him. His sense of identity and purpose taken away. What choice did they have. Ricky exposed himself to choices and temptations that risked this outcome. It is almost bordering on self destructiveness. It is difficult for any of us with more conventional lifestyles to imagine the curious and high pressure world he lived in. Periods of intense focus followed by periods of care free relaxation. When the genie is out of the bottle (sic) psychologists are aware of the destructive consequences that arise from extreme sensation seeking. Shifting contexts from high risk high discipline environments to high arousal no limits environments can lead to the type of behaviour shown by Ricky Hatton.

Technically he has allegedly behaved illegally, and his transgressed the rules of the BBBC. Let's hope that a more holistic and understanding approach is taken to helping and supporting this great sportsman rebuild his life.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Is A Student A Customer?

Andrew Croskery, from County Down, has applied for a judicial review of the university grade he received from Queen's University in Belfast. His basic claim is that he reckons he would have got a better grade if he had received better tutoring. His attitude seems belie some telling assumptions about what he thinks university education and being a student entails.

Obviously disappointed at his performance is he seeking to displace the blame elsewhere? Let's begin with some basic facts. University education is not School education. A student is an adult learner who takes responsibility for their own learning. The tutors research, design and deliver lectures and provide seminar activities as platforms to help the student develop their understanding. If they have puzzles and need clarification then pondering on them and proactively seeking guidance is what they need to do. If we look at the term 'Student' it has specific connotations. Notice university students are not called pupils. The etymology of the word comes from the latin 'studere' which means to direct ones zeal at something. Notice there is no reference to being spoon fed and taught as a pupil might be. Students are provided with a 'field of study' into which they must immerse themselves taking responsibility for engaging with the subject. Tutors cannot do the learning for the student. Andrew Croskery seems to have decided that he is a customer rather than a student.

This is a hot topic in higher education. It is a misguided and mischievous metaphor.  Using the term 'customer' for everyone from patients, passengers, to to pupils has a managerialst genealogy. It is to some extent a helpful metaphor in helping universities think about the service they deliver, and it should also be connected with 'customers' thinking about their responsibilities too. Mr Croskery was awarded a 2:2 because that was standard of the work he submitted it was not awarded to him because he wasn't a very good customer. There are issues with student as customer metaphor. and interesting unexpected side effects form the culture of student experience too.

In a recent Times Higher Article it was noted by Paul Ramsden that universities were not responsible for satisfying students. At first blush this might seem ridiculous and arrogant however the point is well made in the sense there is often a difference between what a students feels they 'want' and educationally what they need. Higher education is transformative process that confronts people with challenging and demanding situations which by 'choice' they would not necessarily put themselves through. To whinge about not receiving tutorship is immature. The opportunity to seek out additional guidance is available to every student. It may not be given with the speed of a fast food restaurant (realising you are not the only student in the world is also part of growing up!) It may not be at the drop of hat at a time and place of your choosing and it will be there if it is sought.

Paul Ramsden is a noted and informed writer in this area. Paul was a prime mover in the 1990s of introducing the notion of 'student experience'. Something that like many sophisticated concepts has been hijacked and misrepresented since. A notion that has been adopted by managerialst conceptions of customer centricity. His fascinating article in the August edition Times Higher is titled No Thinkable Alternative
and he finished the article with the following quote:
"The rationale for university teaching is not satisfying students, distrubuting information to them nor changing them, as some condescendingly say. Rather, it is enabling students to change for themselves...What will inspire our students and our colleagues is the belief that reasoning out problems for yourself is the greatest gift that higher education can offer"

Lets hope the judicial review sends Andrew Croskery back with some simple facts of adult life, and a reminder of the value that the gift of his 2:2 experience has given him for the rest of his life. I say this a former 'desmond' student myself.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Russell Brand Protects His Brand

I don't usually have too much sympathy with celebrities when they whinge about the attention they get. It strikes me as sort of hypocritical that people who depend on generating self publicity have a problem when it gets out of control. People should always be careful what they wish for because they might just 'get it'.

Today's news that Russell Brand has got into lumber because of alleged assault of a photographer in Los Angeles has me feeling differently this time. Whether or not Russell Brand is your sort of guy or not I can imagine that pushy press photographers are a real pain in the backside. Surely there has to be a time when even a celebrity is 'off duty'. Why don't these people leave it to press conferences and other public appearances?

 Of course they 'rationalize' their behaviour as perversely providing a 'service' for the celebrity. Keeping the celebrity engine going in order that the brand of Brand doesn't stall they would say. So by the same reasoning that they apply  when they say celebrities are never off duty, they should be regarded as never being off duty too!  They should also realise that their chosen profession involves risks and hassles as well. That means they should expect to get confronted, pushed and shoved because that comes with the territory of their profession. Russell Brand didn't ask them to become a 'Pap'. Celebrity photographers are self interested. They want to run with the foxes and chase with the hounds. If they get whacked in the process that seems fair game to me.

Here's what Katy Perry tweeted. Can't say I disagree!
If you cross the line & try an put a lens up my dress, my fiancé will do his job & protect me. #standbyyourman #don'tfuckwiththeBrands.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Why Ofsted Downplays Special Needs In The Classroom

UK education watch dog Ofsted  claims that the term special needs is used too widely. Clearly this is highly charged issue involving the usual suspects of ego involvement and reactance all founded on your position based on your world view. This is an interesting classroom battle over the details of classroom management and the use of the label Special Needs.

What I find really interesting is the fact that what we are really witnessing is a battle of educational philosophy. If you ask yourself 'where does educational policy come from?' you are inexorably led to a philosophy that drives some beliefs and some actions.

Contemporary educational policy is based on the assumptions of Post Modernism. The relativist philosophy that on a good day encourages us to appreciate diversity and on a bad day mires us in hand wringing over what to do about 'all those differences' because there are no absolute standards that can be applied to anything. It also influences how problems are characterized and how solutions are formed. So.

Problem = children have challenges learning. Solution = provide customised education to the level of bespoke delivery because everyone has 'special needs'. The issue of course is connotation. Any label used to defined a so called real world phenomenon is open to alternative meanings. I think what Ofsted are saying is that the prevailing meaning is too sloppy, and the overuse of the term special needs characterizes the 'problem' of challenging situations in the classroom as 'the child with special needs' rather the dynamic capability of the teacher. I can hear howls of insult already. After all haven't teaching professionals been 'Kolb'd' up to the eyeballs (if we are lucky they might have been Mezirowed too!) They know all about 'learning styles' their text books describe the 'types' and these difficult children don't fit.

Teaching isn't easy (as a colleague of mine once said to me when I was whinging about the challenges of the job - that's why they pay you! - ouch) Like many 'managers' and executives, teachers are possibly prey to lacking a degree of critical self awareness of the founding philosophies that underpin their world views. Possibly unaware of their Post Modernist credentials, having been steeped in them through teacher training and pgce's, they will also be unaware of the emergence of philosophies such as Critical Realism that at one level reject the so called 'realities' of post modernism's linguistic turn. Maybe Ofsted aren't explicitly aware of the philosophy that under-girds their approach either.On their view the reality is a problem of dynamic teaching capability. It could very well be real too, and no doubt it hurts to hear it.

The special needs zealots also need to be mindful of labels too. Social psychologists call this altercasting. Label someone 'as if ' they have special needs and guess what they behave 'as if ' they have special needs. I'm not suggesting for a minute the issue is easy to resolve, I'm simply making the point that people with alternatives argue their differences on emotive issues rather than unpacking the underpinning points of philosophy. If this is the case then Ofsted and The Teaching Profession will simply play out a grotesque caricature of an unruly classroom! Then what? does that mean Teachers have 'special needs'too?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Is Koran Burning Pastor The New John Brown?

As Protests against US Koran-burning sweep Afghanistan we are witnessing the practical consequences of the politically inpet utterings of Pastor Terry Jones. Whilst the cause is different the political assessement  of Terry Jones echoes that of abolitionist John Brown and the part he played in starting the American Civil War. "President Abraham Lincoln said he was a "misguided fanatic" and Brown has been called "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans."

Like Brown, Terry Jones may have set in train violent consequences that he has no way of controlling. Already 3 people have been shot dead because of his idiocy. He may yet lay claim to being the most controversial of all 21st century Americans. President Obama is trying to glue the US nation together by a bout of international condemnation. President Obama says the US is not going to be divided by religion or ethnicity. The problem is huge and the solution complex. Millions of people are only too happy to run with simplistic and polarised opinions. There is potential for a perfect storm. Instantaneous global communication, high power weaponary within the reach of millions, religious fundamentalism on both sides. This could really 'kick off'. Historians agree John Brown played a major role in starting the Civil War. Maybe they will attribute Terry Jones with starting World War Three.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Burning The Koran Is Wrong

Terry Jones of the The Dove World Outreach Center provides clear evidence of the dangers of muddled logic and belief. The idea of Koran burning is an ill conceived idea. Putting aside the serious real world consequences of his ill informed decision to burn a copy of the holy book of the Islamic faith, his chopped logic is depressing. Let's have a look at how his approach can only be believed by the gullible.

The 'brand' of his church includes the word 'Dove' which is regarded as a symbol of peace. His actions are designed to stir trouble.

Similarly the name of the church includes the word 'outreach' which has the common meaning of, surprise, surprise, reaching out, which in turn implies building bridges and meeting people not alienating them. It also implies trying to understand the world view of another to find common ground.

The act of burning a copy of a religious text is deeply offensive to those people who have a faith regardless of their faith. On a direct personal level it is ignorant and rude whether you are religious, agnostic or atheist.

He conflates a world religion with terrorism. This is a gross error of understanding.

He has a supernatural (child like) belief in the material effects of book burning. That somehow this will affect (like sticking pins in a voodoo doll) the attitude and behavior of terrorists. This is merely an example of his dependence on faith rather than practical reality.

He apparently lacks any rhetorical and communication skills because he misunderstands that the meaning of communication is the way it is perceived. If he believes that burning a copy of the Koran will send a message to radical Islam, he overlooks the fact that is also sends a message to moderate Muslims too.

His faux religious zeal and simplistic grasp of realpolitik actually betray his real credentials as a despotic attention seeking trouble maker, with no real concern for others. He doesn't care about our troops in the field, he doesn't care about innocent civilians who will be used as scape goats by his mirrors in terrorist groups, he doesn't care about the beliefs and faiths of other people, he doesn't care about anything except his own opinion and status.

Maybe he should rename his church The Hawk World Polarisation Center instead?
Obama response: