Thursday, 16 May 2013

A Parallel Edu Universe? Or a Future Possibility?

Well this sure has been a weird week... or was it all just a weird dream! I appear to have had the ability to time travel and visit some sort of parallel edu universe? 

I'm not too sure what was real and what was imagined, because I found myself agreeing with all the groups I admire and would normally agree with but, the next minute, I would find myself disagreeing with some comments... I even found myself agreeing with some groups that I don't usually have a great deal of time for.

Maybe I've been watching too much Dr Who with my kids? Or maybe it was something to do with a weird encounter I had with an imaginary police station... confused? I sure was!

Little Miss Educated Vs Mr Policy

The first sign of it being a weird week started when I logged on to Twitter and found that all the educators had disappeared? But where to? To a galaxy far, far away? Down a Rabbit hole? Game hopping with Wreck It Ralph?

It would appear that, like Toy Story, a children's character had come to life and transported them all to Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men land... which took me on a trip down memory lane.

In what appears to have been dubbed "The Anti-Mr Men Speech" a policy maker criticised the content on one educators website, and educators demonstrated their support by changing their online profiles to Miss/Mrs/Mr Men characters.

An interesting outcome of this has been some increased support for policy makers  to spend a term teaching, which is what Teacherpreuers also suggest.    

Policy makers and education criticising each other, the usual employer/employee cohesion and culture... a surreal setting for sure, but the context was unchanged from the world I was more familiar with.

Although, I couldn't help noticing that while this argument was taking place I wondered who was being taught in the land of Mr Men? There were lots of Mr, Miss, Mrs and other honourable people... but there were no children, no Master Pupil, no Mr Student or Little Miss Studious? 

I noticed a police box and reported this with the officer, who logged the case as  "The Curious Incident of the Student in the Policy Argument" and promised to investigate.

Back to the Future - Yes Minister?
After a trip down memory lane I found myself back in 2013, but I must have hitched a lift with Marty McFly as the present had been altered... I agreed with what the politicians had to say.

I listened to a speech by a policy maker who was responsible for post 16 education, and found myself agreeing with a lot of what they were saying with regard to the kind of changes that might have a positive impact, it seemed in this altered reality that policy makers listened to what the issues were... and were talking a lot of sense. 

I also agreed with a policy maker who was responsible for younger students too, who said;

"You are free to teach as you wish - the only thing that matters is that students learn" 

Autonomy and trust? I thought maybe this isn't a parallel universe but I was in present day Finland and I had some kind of English translator, but all the shops and newspapers suggested that it was Great Britain. 

No Thought Control? Banging Your Head with a Brick in a Wall! Another reason I was sure that this was some kind of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy experience was because, as well as being pleasantly surprised with the policy makers, I found myself agreeing with some people who were being critical of post 16 educations' record of engaging with key stakeholders. Among the comments that stood out were;

"If I were to go back in time 5, 10 or even 15 years ago and was parachuted into a discussion about education... the main issue that would be discussed would be about the same thing as today - Employability"

Other comments that I found myself wondering at included;
  • There are some colleges that don't know who the top 100 companies are in their area
I found this difficult to believe, which helped me to confirm that this is definitely a bizarre dream, this surely wouldn't, couldn't and doesn't happen in my world.
  • A major multinational was invited to the opening of a new build and said "It's great that you've invited me to the opening, but... I'm one of the major employers in the area and we're a multinational company, why did no one contact us to ask us for input when the building was designed?
This was followed with some impressive 4D holographic images of how different the workplace designs were from the school designs.

The speaker went on to highlight that one of the main differences was the amount of thought that their organisation put into creating work environments that allows for "unforced communal interaction" which helps with the organisational culture - the cross pollination of ideas, unexpected collaboration and helps keep office politics to a minimum.
  • There is a lot of discussion about mentors with large companies, what about input from smaller ones?
The speaker here highlighted that many of the more established companies would struggle if they were to follow the model they used 10-20 years ago, and that newer companies noticed gaps and fulfilled a need. An example was used where an established leisure chain had opened 2 new centres in the last few years compared to a newer smaller organisation that opened 60.

I recalled the differences in requirements for start ups and large corporate organisations from an article that I read about the differences between two prestigious universites Harvard Vs Stanford
  • It can be difficult for Employers and Education to work together 
This was something that both employers and education raised and, the advice that was put forward was to "Start discussions with a broad dialogue and see what collaboration evolves as a result of these discussions"

This comment reminded me of the reason that this report was written
 "Business Development Ideas for FE," I tried to highlight this in the meeting, but my guide told me that no one else could see or hear me.

Still not sure if this was a dream or real I tested this theory by shouting;

"If educators are not doing everything they can to engage with employers, to ensure that the skills being taught are relevant and up to date, then it's hardly surprising that there are high levels of unemployment... particularly given the pace of change" I continued "Some people might go even further and suggest that as well as providing the relevant skills, post 16 educators should be doing more to help connect students with industry employers while they are still studying"

No one appeared to bat an eyelid, which again confirmed that this was indeed just a bizarre dream...

I muttered to myself "Beam me up Scottie, there is no intelligent life on this planet"...And realised that you need to be careful what you wish for...

Beamed Up... And Cheered Up!
I found myself being "Beamed up" on the USS Enterprise and saw how some young people are engaging with employers to help them on their way to their dream job.

I was introduced to a future cardiologist who is studying medicine... at High School! This was a 6 year long weekly pre-medical programme... an initiative like this will sure help to avoid any potential skills gaps.

I turned to Dr Spock and asked who instigated this program? Who was able to engage the bureaucratic medical system to get over worked doctors to agree to take students on to help them for a medical career while still in high school? But he couldn't hear me either... 

I was then introduced to Julia Delmedico who spoke about the narrow range that she felt that education operates within, as well as what she wanted from her time at school;

"The best kind of education is the kind that helps you speak and think for yourself" 

What a wise head on young shoulders... but then again it is her future that we're talking about. I also noted with interest the things that differentiated her 2 faviourite teachers from the others, it sure did mirror Thomas Friedman's advice

Back Down to Earth with a Bump!
I was met with a young Charles Dickens (on the bridge of the Starship enterprise? Way too much cheese at bed time Gromit?!) He told me that at the stroke of midnight I would be visited by the ghost of education... he then added that I would write a really rubbish blog post about this dream! Everyone's a critic! I was reminded of my faviourite Garfield comic - Stay out of my Dreams

Then the scariest sight you ever did see comes along... it the image of a young lad wearing a baseball cap, designer tracksuit, clinking like the chained Marley brothers, but not with the chains of someone condemned but from wearing sooo much bling... and the worst body language you ever did see. 

This pathetic, yet frightening figure doesn't speak, I'm not sure if this is for dramatic effect or if he's never actually bothered to learn how to...

He transports us to some kind of post apocalyptic "Mad Max" planet, this appeared to be something straight out of the film "The Time Machine" as there appeared to be Morlocks and Elois type characters.

The planet is called "DaScheme" 
and was one of the sorriest sights - wasted potential and people with troublesome and doubtful futures.

One group "DaClasses" were criticising and condeming another group "DaWasters," who appeared to be victims of their environment as much as anything and, while they were rather unsightly, I found myself reminding myself of Abraham Lincoln's wisdom ; 

“Don’t criticize them (Southern People/confederates), they are just what we would be under similar circumstances”

I even found myself agreeing with "DaWasters" when they said "What's the point of going to school or trying when there are no jobs?" as this certainly appeared to be the case when I looked around the bleak landscape. 

The ghastly and ghostly scene reminded me of the bleak and hopeless picture that Theodore Dalrympole paints when he describes what it's like to be "Lost in the Ghetto

Given "DaWasters" initiative when it came to petty crime and their creative ability to make money, it would be wrong to assume that these people lacked intelligence or initiative - it appeared that they simply felt that there was no better way to express their creativity. 

I asked my repulsive and despicable looking guide "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only" who did not answer but pointed in the direction of a whooshing noise...

A police box appeared and a curiously dressed policeman opens the door and says "I'm here about the curious incident of the student in the policy argument" he continued "come with me, you've got to see this!"

Restore to Factory Settings
We appear to travel back in time and we're on
 one of the first ever factory floors, I mutter to myself "I would have thought the ghost of education past came before the apocalyptic scene" to which a young Dickens, who was sitting in the corner pipes up "Told you the story would be rubbish." 

I am distracted by a conversation taking place with what appears to be Henry Ford (can't be sure, because when I was young there was no money for history books so we used Mr Men characters... and when I squinted my eyes he did look like Mr Busy or was it Mr Clever). 

He was discussing his philosophy on employability, which was deceptively simple;

"I never met a man who was thoroughly bad. There is always some good in him – if he gets a chance. That is the reason we do not care in the least about a mans' antecedents – we do not hire a man’s history, we hire the man. If he has been in jail, that is no reason to say that he will be in jail again. I think, on the contrary, he is, if given a chance, very likely to make a special effort to keep out of jail. Our employment office does not bar a man for anything he has previously done – he is equally acceptable whether he has been in Sing Sing or at Harvard and we do not even inquire from which place he has graduated. All that he needs is the desire to work... all of our people have thus come up from the bottom. The head of the factory started as a machinist…another man overseeing one of the principle departments started as a sweeper. There is not a single man anywhere in the factory who did not simply come in off the street. Everything that we have developed has been done by men who have qualified themselves with us."

This did indeed feel like a long time ago... if not a galaxy far, far away from the strategising, complicated reports, unravelling history not to look for solutions but to discuss whose fault the present is.

I wondered what kind of world I would live in if educators main task was to instill a work ethic, and employers looked beyond the man's history and their CSR policy consisted of 5 words "We give people a chance"

It's curious how a man's history can follow him... to be labelled as "Scrooge" is to be a miserable miser at Christmas, despite the fact that once Scrooge is taught a lesson
 "he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." 

A Fairy Tale Ending? Cinderella Education & the Sleeping Policeman
I was so exhausted in this dream that I went to bed and had a dream... A dream within a dream?!

This dream was one where the "Cinderella" of education (a term that I can't stand) are trusted and they used their autonomy to be transformed into the princess of Education and use simple solution focused interventions to instill a work ethic in the 1 million "down and out good for nothing wasters", the "Cinderella Mr Men" of the ghettos and worked with local and national employers to collaborate and find ways to put these young people's creative talent for getting into trouble to better use.

The result was that this collaboration helped meet the current skills gap, save some lost boys and to "unslum" the ghettos. Law and order reigned down on all the land and they all lived happily ever after... 

I am abruptly awoken from these weird dreams with the piercing noise of a police siren, I wonder its some waster from the ghetto, or if an argument about education has got out of hand ... maybe it was an over zealous officer in pursuit of a cyclist with a missing headlight.

I wonder am I even awake? I think I am, therefore surely I am? ...Good enough answer for me! 

I vaguely remember having a weird dream about Mr Men? Or was it Mr Benn? Now there was a guy who got a versitile education! Or was it good career advice? Or was all his parents doing as they knew the shopkeeper? Or maybe he was just living a dream? 

Right I'm up wonder where my own wandering mind will take me to today... 

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