Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: September 2011

I recycle, therefore I ...

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Listening to a bloke (a friend of the motorist) on Channel 4 News the other night, I came away thinking that the way to finish this sentence is probably:

"... can do any dam'd thing I like."

Well, in a discussion around the government's perplexing proposal to raise the speed limit on motorways to 80 mph, what he actually said was that it wouldn't matter that his fuel consumption would rise because, "I recycle".   There we have it: the barren fruits of 10 years of the sort of ESD that valorises rubbish.   I was close to tears.

Despite the dodgy claims that this shift will benefit (ie, speed up) the economy, and the further damage that it does to the government's tattered green standard, I applaud it for very selfish reasons: I'll increasingly be left alone in the inside lane to pootle along around 65, whilst company cars and sporty types flash past at what I suspect will be near 90 mph.


John F Disinger – an appreciation

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John Disinger was an American environmental educator, and scholar.  His was often a rational and clear voice amid the competing clamour and battle as one disposition or other tried to out-shout another persuasion, particularly in the shameful culture wars that afflicted environmental education in the 1990s.  I came across this quote the other day:

“… though EE is ideally interdisciplinary – an eclectic assemblage of interacting disciplines – its practitioners typically approach it as if it were multidisciplinary – an eclectic assemblage of discrete disciplines.  Because EE’s practitioners typically are grounded in no more than one of the multiplicity of disciplines involved, logic leads them to approach EE through the intellectual filters of their own disciplines.  Thus, practitioners in EE typically continue to talk past one another, rather than with one another”.

Quite so.  It was true then, and remains so now, and even the spluttering rise of ESD, with its seductive appeal to an integrating holism, can do little to change matters.  The lion's lying down with the lamb may be some people's vision of harmony, but mine is where geography and science teachers begin to talk with each other with student learning in mind.


Google's name is mud(flats)

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I see that the near-saintly Google has fallen from grace with at least some of the chattering classes in the USA, if a recent Mudflats blog is anything to go by, and I'm grateful to Paul Vare for bringing this to my attention.  Google stands accused (and is summarily convicted) of giving money to odious organisations – that is, Republican ones – most of which I have never heard.  But, as I've not had a high regard for Google's ethics for a while now, it hasn't fallen all that far in my eyes.

How about you?


Endangered species spotted in Edinburgh

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A curious piece in today’s Telegraph about a speech by the Princess Royal’s being ‘disrupted’ (their emphasis).  She was in town to take over from her dad as Chancellor and was presenting JKR with some award or other for gifting the university 10 million pounds of the book-buying public’s money for a research centre – generosity which I do not disparage.  The paper reports that the protesters held banners stating:

If you can afford a Princess, you can afford my degree


Education, not educatianne

Whilst the second of these is just baffling – particularly the comma – the first is more intriguing.  Presumably there were no Scottish (or EU) students in this protest as they don't have to afford anything so un-cool as tuition fees, so maybe it was the (increasingly) disgruntled English students, who do.   However, given that Edinburgh proposes to charge English students £36000 for its degrees (because they are 4 years long) it will be intriguing to see how many now actually volunteer to be fleeced in this egregiously cynical fashion – particularly as the fees are clearly meant to compensate for the inadequate funding that universities in North Britain receive from the Scottish Executive.   Thus, perhaps the incoherent cry that emanated from round the corner of the university's Old College (the protesters were kept well out of sight) was the death rattle of a very endangered species indeed.  I, for one, rather hope so: it is no more than this shameless nonsense deserves.


Rambling locally – thinking globally?

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Now that Hetan Shah has moved on (and up) to the Royal Statistical Society – and I do wonder what odds you could have got against that a year ago – Think Global has acquired a new CEO: Tom Franklin who has been chief executive of the Ramblers Association for 4 years or so.  He starts in January.  On its latest e-Noticeboard, TG Chair, Roger Clarke, says:

“Think Global selected Tom from a strong field of candidates. The panel was impressed by Tom’s vision for the work of Think Global and expertise as a chief executive of a successful membership body.  We look forward to Tom leading our mission to help people understand global issues such as poverty and climate change and learn how they can help create a more just and sustainable world.”

Whilst it might seem a big step (as it were) from RA to TG, Franklin said:

"I'm really pleased to be joining Think Global, a charity which has done so much to promote global learning, particularly in schools.  So many of the big issues of today – whether climate change, terrorism or poverty – need to be seen from a global perspective.  Through thinking about issues in a global context, people can be empowered to take individual action to help find solutions.  This is an exciting time for Think Global."

Indeed it is.  I wonder if he'll be taking his wire-cutters with him.  I should declare an interest here as I am a paid-up member of the Association, and view its work, both historically and in recent times, very positively – and it clearly is a successful membership organisation.  Whilst the Association clearly has an interest in environmental issues, I'd not seen Tom Franklin's commitment to the global dimension to be particularly influential in what the Ramblers do.  Perhaps I've not been looking carefully enough.


Pestering Parents with Questions

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The Co-op has been researching children's and parents' views on environmental issues and concludes that "pupils want lessons on green issues".  This is good news for them as it fits nicely with their Green Schools Revolution programme.

The Press Association brief that has been sent round notes that

"children are so concerned about the environment that they would rather learn about it than traditional subjects such as science and history"

— thought not than maths or English it seems.  Just how they are going to do that without studying science is not made clear, but perhaps it's a comment on how disengaged school science is from issues in the contemporary world.

Parents come across as a pretty i'll-informed bunch – not much different from the rest of us, it seems.  Actually, I mis-read the report on first reading.  I thought it said that 34% of parents thought that "acid rain has a hole" [in climate change] which makes as much sense as some other things you hear.  However, what it actually said was that 34% of parents thought that "acid rain has a role ..."  which, given the significance (one way or another) of sulphate aerosols, may just be right — but this isn't the interpretation the Co-op wants.

Tricky things, surveys.


Offering bad Advice to Brad

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If you'd like to experience a hapless simulation, waste your time, and be frustrated into the bargain, you need look no further than the Met Office's new game, advising Brad the ice cream man on the weather.   As the Met Office playfully (that is, risibly) puts it:

Play the Met Office Weather Game to help us find the best way of communicating confidence in weather forecasting.

Chance would be a fine thing.  I ploughed my way through all this nonsense and turned out to be "mediocre" at forecasting.

Just like the Met Office, I thought as I reflected on the its latest triumph –  last night's completely egregious forecast on the BBC's Points West.  It was a joke – and I foolishly planned my day around it.  Will there be an apology?   Thought not; where's that seaweed ....


Banned from Blogging

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This is the fate of the LSE's Satoshi Kanazawa, reader in the university's department of management, who has been barred from publishing "in non-peer-reviewed outlets", as the LSE puts it.  Wow.  For the lurid details of his malfeasance, see the latest THE.

In addition to the blogging ban, Kanazawa will not teach any compulsory courses this academic year.  Wow.  Tough Love indeed!  The LSE really knows how to punish its people.


Put out more (Green) Flags

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UnTidy Britain is looking for additional judges for its Eco-schools top award – the green flag – because of the expansion of the scheme.   Its website says:

Judges ensure that the standards the Award sets are high, but fair.  They are independent arbiters of the award scheme, acting as points of contact between the scheme’s management and users of the sites that they judge.

Judges are essential to the effective operation of the scheme. They have a background in nature conservation, ecology, parks and landscape management, community engagement, environmental issues, horticulture or related disciplines.  Judges are all volunteers, giving their time freely to the scheme, though travel expenses are reimbursed.

Odd, I thought, that "Judges ensure that the standards the Award sets are high, but fair".   And, rather than being "independent arbiters", I'd have thought that the role of a judge was to assess the achievements of the school against the standards which are set centrally by Eco-schools.

I'll not be applying.


Brush up your Interviewing

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Even if you're not particularly interested in journalistic ethics (even if you know you should be), if you're a jobbing academic who does a bit of interviewing, the recent Bagehot column in the Economist is well worth a read (as are some of the comments following it).  Ostensibly it is about [ the ought to be but amazingly isn't quite disgraced ] "journalist" Johann Hari, and his apology for an apology in the Indy last week.  Hari blames ignorance for his "mistakes", and is off to journalism school – at his own expense, it seems.  Bagehot writes:

... Mr Hari is ... blaming his interviewees for their lack of verbal polish. It is a nifty defence: there he was, travelling the world to meet all these famous and brilliant people, conducting all these excellent interviews, only to find, on returning to his hotel room to transcribes his tapes, that time and again his subjects had garbled their lines.

I do not recognise the phenomenon Mr Hari is describing. Some interviews go well, others less well. But in the midst of each conversation, as I write my notes, I am aware (sometimes heart-sinkingly aware) whether my subjects are saying interesting things or not. I also know something else: if you go to interview someone who is famous or important or witty or wise (as opposed to a member of the public swept up in a news event) and they say only boring or incoherent things, it is mostly your fault.

Quite so – just as it is for any academic who's seeking after data: the responsibility is ours alone.