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Category archive: Training

Wednesday July 16 2008

Johnathan Pearce wants the child labour laws relaxed:

It seems to me that in part of the discussion about what “should be done” about feral kids armed with knives, there ought to be a recognition that one of the main problems that young people face in and outside school is boredom. And that can be cured, possibly, by working. We have to overcome our strange squeamishness over the employment of minors in actual jobs. I think that the rules and regulatory burdens should be relaxed so that apprenticeships become much easier for an employer to provide. I think some, if not all, of the young tearaways who are so worrying policymakers might actually feel proud of having a job, of earning money, of being able to brag about this to their lazier friends.

Commenter Walter Boswell adds this:

The importance of that simple lesson that hard work equals money and money equals more independence cannot be emphasised enough.


Monday May 19 2008



Idiots in the nicer parts of the nice countries say that violence, cruelty, compulsion etc. are not merely nasty, which they are, but ineffective, which they are not.  Given the objectives of those being nasty, nastiness, again and again, works.  If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be nearly so widespread, or nearly so difficult to argue against.  Even those subjected to it have a horrible tendency to believe that it was good and necessary.  And, of course, to pass it on.

Sunday May 11 2008

Fareed Zakaria says that the USA’s relative economic decline is (see page 6 much exaggerated:

The United States is currently ranked as the globe’s most competitive economy by the World Economic Forum.  It remains dominant in many industries of the future like nanotechnology, biotechnology, and dozens of smaller high-tech fields.

In particular, says Zakaria, the USA remains pre-eminent in higher education:

Its universities are the finest in the world, making up 8 of the top ten and 37 of the top fifty, according to a prominent ranking produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  A few years ago the National Science Foundation put out a scary and much-discussed statistic.  In 2004, the group said, 950,000 engineers graduated from China and India, while only 70,000 graduated from the United States.  But those numbers are wildly off the mark.  If you exclude the car mechanics and repairmen - who are all counted as engineers in Chinese and Indian statistics - the numbers look quite different.  Per capita, it turns out, the United States trains more engineers than either of the Asian giants.

But isn’t the point that “per capita”?  A smaller proportion of a vastly greater number is still a huge absolute number.

Joanne Jacobs makes a similar point about the continuing qualitative superiority of US education.

Friday May 02 2008

Violins and Starships Lynn links to this excellent piece by a double bass teacher.  It starts by being about how long lessons should be, but he tangents off into a discussion of his whole approach to teaching.

With one-on-one music teaching the consent principle applies from both directions, or it damn well should.  If Jason Heath can’t be doing with a particular pupil (who, for instance, refuses to practice) then they’re out.  If a pupil can’t take the nagging and the tyranny, they can leave.  Excellent.  But he can be a little more interesting than that.  He can be a “musical guide”:

imageI realize that a particular student loves music and loves playing the instrument, but through lack of motivation or lack of available time, simply doesn’t progress. With these students, however, I see a genuine love for music and a person who will be likely to listen to music, play in an amateur orchestra, attend concerts, and enroll their children in musical programs in a decade or two. Over time I’ve learned to spot these kind of students, and with them, I teach them about music, with the double bass as a sonic conduit. I’d love it if they started practicing (and many do end up working hard at it), but I see a genuine interest in this art form, and I teach them about the fundamentals of music and give them some elementary training on the instrument.

Anticipating complaints from fellow professionals about that approach, Heath continues:

Look - we’re not all destined to become concert musicians. In fact, we don’t want everyone and their dog to be a concert musician. But what we do need are lovers of music, future patrons and enthusiasts. And if that “nice bass teacher” that a non-practicing student had back in high school helped to nurture that love, then I feel like I did a good job, “standards” or no.

Amen.  One of the most important functions of a teacher, currently rather neglected by the politicians, is to teach people how to enjoy life more than they might otherwise, by instilling not just careers and career-skills but hobbies and hobby-enthusiasms.  To put it another way, education means learning how to spend money, and not just how to make it.  And when you consider how cheap potent music is these days, teaching someone to enjoy music is teaching them how to get a lot more pleasure from not that much more money.

Friday April 25 2008

Here’s a piece by a long-time favourite of mine, P. J. O’Rourke, about his trip to the giant US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.  I hope that there will be very varied responses from the readers of this blog to the political tone of this article, reflecting what I hope are the varying political attitudes of my readers.  But in among his political ruminations, O’Rourke makes an interesting and uncontroversial point about the age of many of the people who work on this huge and intricately functioning vessel, by quoting something said to him by the chief petty officer:

These are supremely dangerous jobs. And most of the flight deck crew members are only 19 or 20. Indeed the whole ship is run by youngsters. The average age, officers and all, is about 24. “These are the same kids,” a chief petty officer said, “who, back on land, have their hats bumped to one side and their pants around their knees, hanging out on corners. And here they’re in charge of $35 million airplanes.”

I didn’t study sociology for nothing.  Okay, it was a Mickey Mouse subject compared to something like physics, but the central fact of the subject was (is) indeed a fact.  There most definitely is such a thing as society – societies plural to be exact – and it is (they are) a hell of a force.  The same people, depending on the circumstances they find themselves in, have it in them to behave in radically different ways, as different as the two kinds of young people described in the above paragraph.  You absolutely do not have to be in favour of enormous aircraft carriers to accept the truth of all that.

Which is all a different way of saying what I earlier said in this posting.  That was merely about how the same teachers get different results in different schools, with different rules.  But the principle is exactly the same.


That is all for today.  At ease.

Tuesday April 15 2008

Earlier this evening I was back at Kings Cross Supplementary, after the Easter Break.  I taught Small Boy, who is really very clever and doing very well.  And I assisted Mr Maths in his efforts to explain averages.

But before it began, I happened to buy several exotic juice bottles at Kings Cross station, and then I met Miss Headmistress on the way there, and she said she was rather thirsty and I gave her one of my bottles.  Something combining apple juice and tea.  She liked it.

imageWhen we were all done and on our way back to the railway station, Miss Headmistress and I were talking about computers and computer games and suchlike, and I was able to ask her about that Nintendo Maths Training thing I photoed on Sunday.  Having got into her good books with the juice, I felt free to really press her on the subject of how good it is.  It turned out she had actually done that very programme for a bit, a few months back.  I forget the details of the conversation, but I can report that in Miss Headmistress’s opinion, it is very good, and is everything I hoped it might be.  Good practice.  Cleverly programmed to respond to individual skill levels.  You can feel yourself getting better at sums as you do it, a bit each day.  It remembers what you’ve done (according to who you signed in as), and gives you exercises graded to your level of attainment.  Different people can sign in under different names, and it remembers who is who and keeps them separate.  It is, in short, everything that computerised Kumon ought to have become, but (I (suspect) hasn’t, on account of Kumon (I suspect) disapproving of computers.

Next time, I must remember to ask the boys at Kings Cross Supplementary what they think of Nintendo Maths Training.  Boring?  Okay?  Good?  Addictive?

This is a huge story. Because, sooner or later, the verdict on one of these things is going to be: addictive!  And, what these gadgets will be able to teach will get more and more elaborate.  Historians will look back on this as one of the most important things now happening, right up there with major wars.  I’ve said that before, I know.  Too bad.  It’s too true and too huge not to be repeated, a lot.

Sunday April 13 2008

Yes, get yourself a degree in Tesco studies:

DEGREES designed to widen higher education are to become available from Tesco.

The supermarket chain is to offer its own qualification in retail management, including the arts of display design, special offers and efficient shelf stacking. Teenagers may soon be able to study vocational courses to A-level standard at McDonald’s, a scheme announced in January, before going to Tesco for their degree.

The Tesco FD(A) (Foundation Degree (Arts)) is to be launched this month and will be offered to other retailers who can adapt it.

Manchester University are helping out.

Coincidentally, I was in my local Tesco this afternoon, and took a photograph which included (after much cropping and photo-enhancing to enable anything to be read) this:


Here‘s more blurb on this.  In its emphasis on practising easy stuff until more difficult stuff becomes easy also, rather than busting your head against sums which are too hard for you to do easily, it sounds a lot like Kumon.  When I helped out at a Kumon Centre, I remember thinking (and blogging) to the effect that they ought to comuterise their stuff, but probably won’t because they are too keen on keeping control of everything.  Looks like Professor Kageyama is stealing a march on Professor Kumon.  However, it only seems to be available for Nintendo.

The big “11” means that this is their eleventh most popular disc on sale.  Of any sort, I think.

Saturday April 05 2008

Yes, Frank Chalk offers a different perspective on the row about military recruiters in schools:

If you are born into the Underclass, doomed to attend a dustbin of a school, then a career in the Army might well be your only ticket out of the slums. Yes, if you are unlucky you might be shot by some toerag in Iraq or Afghanistan; but if you manage to avoid that unfortunate outcome, then you can pick up a decent pension after 22 years or look for another employer who will snap you up, knowing that unlike most applicants; a) you will actually turn up to work and b) you will get on with things that you might not want to do without moaning too much.

Alternatively you could of course just remain in the Estate from Hell, where there are no employers and you stand a good chance of being shot by a rival drugs dealer or ending up behind bars for most of your life.  The NUT would like to remove your only hope of escape.

Well, not quite.  You still can join the army, even if your teachers don’t want you to think about it.  Teachers not wanting you to think about it might even encourage you.  I’m about a fortnight late with this posting.  But, this is not an argument that changes very much from one century to the next, so I’m going to forgive myself for that.

Frank Chalk says that if the army doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger
Why no transfer fees?
Bishop Hill on the beneficial impact of charging students to go to university
Police academy
Even higher education
Education as making Prussian soldiers
The teacher who saved Jonas Kaufmann’s voice
Why Jacob Grier is not a lawyer
Human whisperers wanted
Alison Wolf denounces the raising of the school leaving age
Irina Tyk says beware snakes
Clive Woodward learns to play by their rules
Charles F. Kettering on education and inventiveness
“Their education is completely useless …”