Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Boy Bloggers, Tory Think Tanks & an Absence of Expertise

I have been blocked by only a few people in my four years on Twitter. One thought he spoke for the left in the Independent and although I only made one comment criticising his casual rudeness about isiXhosa, I was blocked.(see an earlier blog)

Another speaks for whatever right wing hurrah is the current obsession and really does write, speak and tweet like a privileged school kid emerging from his darkened room. 

I think both stopped the link because I disagreed with them and said so. Both enjoyed the thrill of being little heroes to their respective followers and while dispensing criticism was their game they hated it when an argument was made that didn't fit their perception.

Then there is Toby Young, @toadmeister. Not only is his opinion sought on everything on the basis that he thinks he knows everything, but our government gave permission for him start a school and inflict himself on children! It was almost a badge of honour to be blocked by him.

I think blocking has to be used for a definite reason. Usually because of offensiveness or persistent unpleasantness. Unfollowing seems to me to be the right course of action in most cases.

I follow many people who have views I radically disagree with, but that seems to me to be the point. Hear an argument, dispute it when you can but still engage. Clearly, there might be exceptions. I don't follow anyone who blatantly supports racist organisations for example.

There are however, people on Twitter, (and most are male) who seem intent on becoming their own version of mini-celebrities. Unfortunately this medium and the news media encourage them by giving them access to speak about subjects they have no expertise in, only prejudices about.

These boy bloggers often delight in a series of throwaway insults to get attention. Sadly this is sometimes as prevalent on the Left as the Right. As a teacher, it reminds me of the playground behaviour of the loudest kids who can't argue a point successfully so end up shouting insults. I sometimes wish Twitter could be more like a staffroom conversation rather than the one behind the bike sheds.

To be frank many of the supposedly political bloggers are far more interested in building a media presence than arguing a point constructively. Tweet enough rudeness, blog enough rubbish and say you belong to a ThinkTank or a "political blog"  and #SkyNews and #BBCNews seems happy to invite you on. You can then spout crap to millions of viewers who don't know your "claim to expertise" is based on nothing but writing awfulness on awful websites.

So. I offer you a new ThinkTank from the comfort of my Basingstoke Sofa. It is available for comment on any and all topics especially education.

But like @MrHarryCole and his pub bore friends I will talk at length about anything. I may not know anything about the subject, but I will be happy to splutter cliche, nod enthusiastically and claim my appearance fee.

Isn't that what think tanks are for? Contact me at....

Thursday, 2 August 2012

WRESTLING YETIS : 3 generations: 3 "jobs for life"

When my father retired at the age of 60 from a lifetime of work, he pretty soon got bored. He had worked for the AA before volunteering for the army at the outbreak of war in 1939. After time in North Africa and Italy he returned to the UK and passed the entrance exams for the Civil Service Commission. He spent the next 30+ years working on projects to do with Careers and Training in the Civil Service. My mother did a variety of jobs, but usually in retail, and part time. At the age of 60 he had his works pension but no state one yet. Living in a Council House they could afford to live reasonably but not lavishly. The problem was he was bored, so he walked into an admin work agency and walked out with a new job the same day. A temporary post led to a permanent one at the age of 61. He stayed there for 6 years using the same skills as he had learnt in the Civil Service. He never had a problem finding a job where he could demonstrate loyalty and hard work.

I worked in various jobs (office, school caretaking etc) before going to a Teacher Training College. With certificate in hand, I went straight into a Comprehensive on the Old Kent Road in London and stayed there for 17 years. Classroom teacher, head of department, senior manager progression. My loyalty was to the school and the community it served. A tough environment but a rewarding one. I didn't apply for another job outside until I had been there for 15 years. I moved on to another school's senior management team in a leafier part of the world and then worked for an Education Charity which received a major part of its funding from Labour Government programmes. After a few years there I got involved in work with African schools which became my personal "mission" and made me feel both valued and valuable. I raised in three years almost £1m from companies and trusts to be used to develop skills in African classrooms. Funding for my post ran out and I was threatened with redundancy but transferred into a new project that was totally dependent on government funding. With the emergence of the Coalition this project was scrapped and within 3 months I was made redundant.

After a lifetime of showing commitment, enthusiasm and loyalty, plus a bank of skills based on global experience of education, fundraising and media work, I had high expectations of finding a job quickly. 2 years later I have no full time job and although my days of consultancy continue I am now certain that I value being part of a team. Having to constantly "sell" myself for every job is frankly depressing. 

I grew up in an environment where demonstrating commitment and loyalty were seen as a crucial part of the job. In today's workplace the individual who is forced to re-imagine and sell themself repeatedly.

My son left University in 2010 with a First Class Honours Degree. When he started his course in Film Studies he knew that full time permanent jobs were not the norm in the creative industries but he expected to earn enough to develop and hone his skills and his career. Within a few weeks of gaining power the Coalition scrapped the UK Film Council which was the source of hope for many hoping to work in British Film and also a major contributor to the economic health of the nation.. Much of the work of the Arts Council has been reduced or scrapped too.

He has had many successes with film and theatre projects (see below) but paid work is very limited. Arts employers offer unpaid internships or expenses only jobs, so wthout comfortably off parents this field is closed to many youngsters. The Job Centres are arranged to find poorly paid and temporary jobs. He has only managed to claim Job Seekers Allowance for a few weeks in the last year because every time he does something to further his career, he is not "available for work" and has to come off.

A great example of this is he was shortlisted (and then won) a film competition on "Conservation of Water". The American company organising this paid for him to attend the event in Los Angeles and a few other industry related days. This was a great opportunity to make links with film makers and funders and develop his skills. Because he was not "available for work" for a week he lost several weeks JSA. Absurd.

But the biggest loss for him is the inability to join the "contributing society". He is not part of a team. Like me he is not able to demonstrate and learn loyalty and commitment. His only priority in work is himself and the desperation he feels about being able to start on the road. He left University with massive debt but nowhere near what the next generation of students are going to face.

They will have no sense of belonging to anything, no sense of being part of a team, no hope and no choices. Any job will do. And they are not able to start the long journey to a pension or buy a property.

My father worked and served all his life and had the opportunity to continue contributing until late in his sixties, using the skills and ideas he learnt and developed at work.

I worked in jobs where loyalty and commitment were important and my skill set was immense, but before I have reached sixty I am out on a limb, feeling I have lots more still to offer but nowhere to show that.

My son can't even start on that route, and he has yet to feel that commitment to anything other than himself is worthwhile. In his early twenties- but he can't get a worthwhile job and seems to have no hope of finding one. I think the film he wrote and directed "Wrestling Yetis" sums up how important it is to feel enthusiastic about the your job and your future.

Wrestling Yetis  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLMkL-sDgzI

Fun and Games IUOW Competion Winner 2011 

me (sort of...)

me (sort of...)