Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Just how sustainable will Sustainability prove to be?

📥  Comment

Last week's THE announced the resignation of the University of Gloucestershire's Vice Chancellor (Professor Patricia Broadfoot) amid what the THE called "conflicting views on financial health".   The THE reports that the University's 2008/09 financial statement showed a deficit of £6.3m from a turn-over of £67.4m.  There was no mention in the article of the University's strong focus on environmental and social sustainability, but let's hope that this is not something that gets played down as the institution rights itself.  I'll be watching out for the job advert – but only to see what this says!


Divisions of labour to be?

📥  Comment

I've been reading the Embercombe Centre's website with the details of their two wildcraft programmes:  One for young men:

You could find yourself building a coracle and sailing on the lake; climbing trees; constructing shelters; whittling around the camp fire; strumming a guitar; skinning and gutting a wild animal; cooking outdoors; bivouacking overnight; hiking across Dartmoor; learning the art of stalking; sailing a boat; starting a fire without matches; making new friends; navigating with a map and compass; talking about issues important to you; creating your own tools; working with wood and clay; making and playing a drum; discovering new gifts and strengths within yourself; making a leather scabbard or eating raw honey. Each weekend is unique, shaping itself around the interests, needs, ages and impulses of the group. Many regular Embercombe facilitators, highly skilled in their own fields, give their time for free to these weekends to support the growth of a strong group and offer role models to the participants.

... and one for young women:

Weekends will all be unique, responding to the group that forms, but the sort of activities you may find yourself enjoying include harvesting organic fruit and veg from Embercombe's market garden to cook over the camp-fire; learning techniques to expand your awareness so that you become less of a threat to the wildlife around you; making new friends; taking night walks in the woods and under the stars; chopping fire wood; storytelling – discussing ancient wisdom from old tales and telling your own stories; fire-side conversations; games at dusk; swimming in the lake; felting; weaving; gathering a wild food feast; expeditions, laughter, challenges, reflections ....

These experiences seem unusually gendered for these emancipated, equal opportunity days, and I wonder why young women can't get to skin and gut a wild animal, or do any of these other things that the young men get to do (and vice versa, of course).

I wonder if these skill sets, and this division of labour, represent the Centre's views of what a sustainable future will need?  I have asked.


Just something to pass the time ...

📥  Comment

I experienced some development education the other day.  It with the presenter saying "I like doing things" and that this was to be a "hands-on" session.  We looked at bits of photos of India, putting them together, jig-saw like and then talking about what they showed.  Ours was of a city scape, a dual carriageway road with moving traffic: from gleaming 4x4s, to (equally polished)  three-wheel taxis, and the odd récherche Austin/Morris saloon.  I suggested that the photograph illustrated prosperity: wrong answer, it seemed.  We moved on to a variety of other activities: I to looking at an informative, but dated, banana industry resource pack that showed the evils of global capitalism (which I knew about anyway), and the woman next to me to making "Ghanian" beads out of strips of wallpaper.  I wasn't sure what this was supposed to show; something about the Ghanian economy, I think, where there must be surplus wallpaper if the activity was to make sense.  There was no grounding of any of this in curriculum, pedagogy or learning.  It was just – in Jeremy Clarkson's words about Sudoko – something to pass the time – before we die.


Low Marks for re-writing of Nursery Rhymes

📥  News and Updates

As the Times and Telegraph have reported today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that government adverts based on Jack and Jill and Rub-A-Dub-Dub make exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from global warming, going farther than the scientific consensus warrants.  The ASA compared the text of the adverts with the reports of the IPCC, and has ruled that the advertising code of practice has been broken on three counts: substantiation, truthfulness, and environmental claims.

The conclusion has to be: "Must try harder".  It if wants people to take its case seriously (as it does), then integrity and honesty need to be at the heart of every government message, just as they need to be there in every lesson taught.


Environmental Learning

📥  New Publications

It was good to attend the launch of the new book by Mark Rickinson, Cecilia Lundholm and Nick Hopwood – and to be asked to say a few words.  What a pleasure: such an interesting book, and so beautifully written.

Environmental Learning – insights from research into the student experience brings 3 doctoral theses together and lifts the lid on ESD with perspectives from those on the receiving end.  It is written with wit and style, and has extensive and revealing student commentaries.  It deserves a very wide readership – especially by those who continue to think that ESD is mostly about what curriculum planners and teachers get to do.  No one, for example, will be able to think of "relevance" in the same way again after reading this book.

A pity about the price (Amazon will sell it to you for about £75), so get your local library to buy it so you can read it soon.


What must a conscientious teacher of climate change do?

📥  Comment

I ask this because I've a session coming up on our PGCE course with climate change as its focus.  One answer, of course, is to keep an eye on what the IPCC is itself saying – as opposed, perhaps, to what is being said about it by others.  Their Google search engine gets you access to the wealth of its detail and reports.  For example, if you wanted data on glaciers and which are melting (and which not), and the effects this might have on fresh water availability, you might find your way to this page.  Here, you'd read:

Glaciers in the Himayala are receding faster than in any other part of the world ... if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them (sic) disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate ... (WWF, 2005).

You might wonder, of course, what WWF knows about glaciers, but you'd probably not pursue this because the whole point of the IPCC is (isn't it?)  that only kosha research gets through its processes and scrutiny by experts.

Well, apparently not.  The Times has a story today which did chase up the WWF reference – and found it wanting.   Oh Dear!  More to worry about than just what to teach – but I think I knew that.


A great dilemma as Australian fireworks lead the way

📥  Comment

The Sydney New Year Celebrations were as colourful (and over-the-top fabulous) as ever this (ie, last) year, and their bridge always seems to outdo our wheel as a framing for activity.  If you missed them, you can have a look here.  And this year, despite using 5000 kg of fireworks, they were even carbon neutral, it seems.  I found this claim rather unlikely, but it seems to be the case, at least in the sense that buying carbon credits allows you to carry on doing what you like doing – you just pay a bit more for it.   This must be a great dilemma for local environmental educators to use, whether they like fireworks or not.


If pester power is good enough for McDonald's, then it's ...

📥  Comment

I overheard a conversation a while back about the use of young people to persuade their parents through targeted pester power to change their bad social-living habits.  It struck me as odd to invoke McDonald's values to justify this rather shameless exploitation of children, especially when such values are so widely deprecated in the education world in other contexts.  But then, ends justifying means is hardly a new phenomenon.  I was reminded of all this when reading Frank Furedi's recent piece, 'Turning children into Orwellian eco-spies' in Spiked.  Although slightly dated in some of the examples, the article raises issues that ought to concern anyone who puts education ahead of social engineering when thinnking about the purpose of schools.  Furedi's final paragraph is:

In previous times, it was only totalitarian societies that mobilised children to police their parents’ behaviour. It was Orwellian, Big Brother-style states that tried to harness youngsters’ simplistic views of good and evil to reshape the outlook of adults. But who needs Big Brother when the former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, can openly assert that ‘on climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children’? It appears that preying on children’s fears and exploiting their anxiety is now considered to be a form of enlightened education. Yet the future of our children demands that we provide them with existential and moral security. Instead of feeding them on a steady diet of scaremongering, we need to inspire them about our potential to improve the future of our world.