27 December 2006

On Christmas messages

I have not posted over the holidays themselves, because I have stayed away from this machine (under threat of dire consequences). You could say I went "cold turkey". Or perhaps not... :-)

If you are interested in a couple of fun Christmas messages, check out;

or for something a little funkier;
Or if you are into something a little darker (although I am sure it is unintentionally so), consider this message, which was passed on to me via email as these things are. I have extracted some of the text only from a very slick PowerPoint slideshow;
  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep... You are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place ... You are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy
  • [...]
  • Have a good day, count your blessings, and pass this along to remind everyone else how blessed we all are.
  • You are wished a Merry Christmas
(There are ten slides in all, with cosy images as backgrounds; the whole thing is seductive enough for me to make a deliberate effort not to become part of a viral campaign). My brother commented; "it reminds me a bit of those shopping malls where they introduce a fragrance into the plenum system to evoke misty eyed memories of long ago seasons so you will go into the stores and spend more money than you planned to. Or am I getting more and more cynical?"

No! I don't think that reaction is cynical enough. These po-faced "messages" embody a really miserable double message (technically a "double-bind", following Bateson and Watzlawick...)
  1. You are so much better off than practically everyone else, you have an obligation to be happy
  2. How can you possible be happy when the rest of the world is in such a mess?
...and to foist that on us in the guise of a "Merry Christmas" greeting is a little disingenuous? hypocritical?

There is no way one can emerge from such a message feeling "merry". (Although I concede that despite the ubiquity of the injunction, it is not indeed the "point" of the season.)

Indeed the final paragraph; "You are wished a Merry Christmas" is really insidious, carrying as it does the sub-text, "...but you don't deserve to be!"

Some day I may start a theological blog, but this is not it; this one is about learning. But these messages carry messages in turn about learning...
  • about the levels of messages carried by our material
  • and particularly for adult learners--what messages do they imply about the learners themselves?
(Plonking comments on something very subtle and quite powerful. Revisit later?)

05 December 2006

On standards

The new professional standards for teacher/ tutor/ trainer education in the lifelong learning sector have finally been published! Deep joy!

Great news, particularly for people like me who make a living from squeezing really good teacher education programmes into these artificial shells. It's a bit like pre-revolutionary China, and binding girls' feet...

Seriously: where is the evidence that conformity to these specifications makes any difference to students' learning? What research underpins this speculative exercise? Where is the evidence that "trained" teachers are better than "untrained" ones in vocational education? Are we sure what "better" means, here?