Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Bill Bailey's about FACE

📥  News and Updates

If you're still not sure where your food comes from, FACE and Bill Bailey have got together to put you straight – sort of.  Satire, I think.   Enjoy, just don't think about the ethics too much.


LSIS, NIACE and McDonald's

📥  News and Updates

On behalf of the Learning & Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), NIACE (with others) have developed Sustaining Our Future which is a "draft framework for moving towards a sustainable learning and skills sector", and there's an online consultation on all this.  I spend more time than I intended filling this in yesterday and was nearly driven to drink it was so dispiriting.   As I am loath to spend even more time thinking about this, I'll only give one example of the problem.  This, is the draft vision:

"A learning and skills sector which maximises and mainstreams environmental, economic and social sustainability"

I was underwhelmed and commented that McDonald's would probably do as well / badly as this.  Actually, they do. McDonald's says:

"Our vision for a sustainable supply chain links responsibility for ethical, environmental and economic outcomes"

It is as though drafting team know which words to use, but cannot communicate what they mean by them.  In Alan Hansen's oft-repeated words: grit and determination, there may be, but there's little sign of flair and imagination.  When the essence is to communicate to people who do not habitually think about such matters, this is crucial.

I wish I could recommend it to you, but when you're only as good as McDonalds,  ...


The soft bigotry of low expectations

📥  Comment

This, rather un-Gove, phrase stood out me as I read his speech at the Education World Forum last week in London.  Mr Gove did not attribute it, but as it seems firmly associated with one of George Bush Jnr's speechwriters (Michael Gerson), that is understandable.  An informative speech, all in all, about the government's position and policy, the English Baccalaureat, and its determination to address and undo the bigotry (as I see it of parents / teachers / governors / unions – and probably caretakers and cleaners as well).  But it was all very dull.  A pity, then, about all the cuts, as, otherwise, Gerson might be on the team full time.


World Rankings for Green Universities

📥  News and Updates

Just when you thought it was safe not to think about league tables of universities for a while, up pops another green ranking – this time an international one.  Whilst the UK has 6 out of the top 25 places, these institutions are not the obvious ones, or those that feature strongly in the UK's People & Planet tables – other than Bangor which is 17th (=) in the UK, and 11th in the world.  Meanwhile, Nottingham comes 2nd in the world but is only 53rd (=) in the UK, which is rather like Charlton Athletic's being ranked second to Barcelona in a FIFA league table, which is something that's only remotely possible if the quality of the gravy in the meat pies is highly weighted.  Something methodologically dubious in all this, of course, but if I'd any responsibility at Plymouth, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Central Lancashire, Aston, Nottingham Trent, Bradford, ... I'd be looking to my laurels (or lawyers).


More on the Academy's linguistic contortions

📥  Comment

I wrote the other day [ 22 December ] about the Higher Education Academy's revision of its professional standards framework, and its attempts to add a reference to sustainability within these as a new professional value.  I noted the difficulties it ran into in relation to the use of  jargon-ridden language that will not be clear to anyone not already steeped in thinking about HE and sustainability.   The Academy has drafted the new value as:

“a commitment to the sustainability of higher education and the concept of global citizenship”

... which illustrates something of the problem: why should anyone commit to a concept – and a vague one at that; and to the endurance of HE (did they really mean that)?

All this is now out for consultation, and the ever-dependable EAUC has a draft response on which it has asked for feedback.  EAUC is also critical of the language, but is more polite than I have been.  The ways in which the new value is to be demonstrated by academics includes:

"Knowledge of sustainable curriculum approaches, and an understanding of its implications for personal, professional practice"

EAUC notes that "sustainable curriculum approaches" suffers from the same problem as "the sustainability of HE", and has suggested:

"Knowledge of sustainability curriculum approaches and an understanding of ..."

... instead.  This is obviously better, but I think that a clearer way to help people think about this (if they've not thought about it before) might be:

In relation to both what is taught, and how, a nuanced understanding of how higher education students can, most appropriately, be helped to engage critically with the theory and practice of sustainability.

More words, sadly, but more meaning?  We'll see.  ...


Let's hear it for SusEd

📥  Comment

I've reviewing what I think has evolved into a rather good paper for EER.  In it, the author uses (following Stephen Sterling's lead) the phrase sustainability education as a "generic and inclusive term that can accommodate different interpretations".   Well, I wonder about that.  It has, of course, the considerable merit of not involving prepositions (no:  for / in / about / by / under / etc) and therefore affords less scope for tendentious pedants everywhere to find a determinism where none may exist.  However, it does not, I think, absolve the user from explaining what they mean – a discipline we all might benefit from.

But why stop there?  At the end of the day, sustainability education is still a mouthful: a whole 10 syllables and 23 characters.  Think of how much ink, time and finger strain could be saved  if it were abbreviated.  So, what about SusEd – as green a term as you'd wish to find – and in these austere times this could be a major  contribution to getting the world out of its economic difficulties.  Maybe ...

Sadly, but for the neologistic record, 'sused' is already a Slovak word for neighbour.


Carbon Neutralism

📥  Comment

Happy New Year.  I've been reading one of my Christmas presents: The Economist's Book of Isms by John Andrews.  From Abolutionism to Zoomorphism, and beyond, this casts an informative eye on 400+ of these constructs.  Carbon neutralism isn't in the book, but perhaps it should have been.  It might be defined as a tendency to think that if you spend a small bit of extra money, giving it to some pious-sounding outfit that promises the Earth,  you can pretend that you never really generated all that CO2 in the first place, and carry on regardless.

Actually, I thought I'd made carbon neutralism up, but this isn't so.  Damn – a bad start to 2011!   I was moved to this (would-be) neologism by looking at the Sydney New Year Fireworks website which is full of direct moral instruction about travel, drinking, smoking, eating, etc.  The company that makes the fireworks (Foti – is also CN, it seems, although their website keeps pretty quiet about this).  Director, Fortunato Foti even claims that they use biodegradable paper.  Well, there you go.  As I said: Happy New Year.


The Academy Revises its Professional Standards

📥  Comment

The Higher Education Academy has embarked on a process to revise its professional standards framework, last agreed in 2006.   The Academy notes:

Over the past four years, in addition to an emphasis on initial professional development, there have been calls for a stronger focus on continuing professional development and the place of teaching in institutional reward and recognition procedures and structures.  In light of these calls, and following the Browne Report (2010) which confirmed the continuing role of the UKPSF in ensuring that institutional provision "meets a nationally recognised minimum standard" (pg 48), we are undertaking a review of the UKPSF.

The aims of the review are to strengthen the framework ensuring it remains fit for purpose, and to develop appropriate enhancements to the framework (eg. links with reward and recognition processes)

I'm writing about this because sustainability gets a mention.  Actually, rather a significant one as it has been included as one of the 4 professional values.  The details are set out in the UKPSF_Consultation_document_Nov10, and my response to the consultation is here: HEA UKPSF CONSULTATION

The problem is, however, that this has been done in such a jargon-ridden, insider fashion that it can hardly achieve its objective of reaching and influencing all those members of universities who know little (and do less) about sustainability.  Where are the Plain English folk when you need them?


DfE Statement

📥  News and Updates

I'm pleased to see that the DfE's position statement on sustainable schools is now published online.

A personal disappointment is that the work that we did for the DCSF on the evidence for the benefits to young people of sustainable schools, and for EE/ESD more generally, hasn't yet been flagged up alongside the emphasis on energy and water reduction, and somewhat bizarrely, on Tropical Yorkshire.  I understand that this will happen in the New Year.


Watching the Swirling Snow ...

📥  News and Updates

... from the 12th floor of Centre Point on Friday afternoon was only one of the pleasures afforded those of us lucky enough to be at the latest meeting of HEFCE's sustainable development steering group.  This was a workshop rather than a normal committee meeting – and much the better for it.  I can only hope that it was as useful to the Council as it was stimulating.  I obviously speak personally , but feel it is a sentiment shared by others who were there.  This is a forum that brings together HEFCE officers, vice chancellors, estates directors, the NUS, members of university Councils, academics, the business sector, government, and NGOs. The focus was how to renew HEFCE's current SD strategy (running from 2005 – 2015).  The structure and formal of the day helped us release and share creative ideas.  It was certainly good to hear from the Council of its own determination to renew the strategy and give it greater bite, and to work with the sector to help institutions to do what universities are well (and perhaps still uniquely) placed to do – to help society decide how to evolve when faced with existential challenges.