A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Category archive: Famous educations

Tuesday July 15 2008

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan batsman and wicketkeeper, writes about why Sri Lanka has produced so many highly effective, yet highly individual cricketers:

Over the last few years Sri Lanka have had quite a few self-styled unorthodox cricketers coming through - Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan, Romesh Kaluwitharana, and now Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis. It’s wonderful to have this newness, this difference, because it opens up everyone’s eyes, including fellow cricketers who might get something new from these guys to improve their game overall.

One of the reasons for so many unorthodox cricketers coming through in Sri Lanka could be, as in other parts of the subcontinent, the way kids learn to play cricket: they learn by watching, and then start playing in backyards or streets or wherever they can find space. It’s possibly there that they develop these individual styles. Unless they have access to formal coaching, they tend to develop along their own lines, especially if they come late to proper leather-ball cricket.

He talks in particular about Muralitharan, who is about to become the most prolific taker of wickets in the entire history of test match cricket, albeit with a highly unusual (some say illegal) action:

In some instances, if they are discovered at a very young age, there arises a problem when coaches start trying to make them conform to orthodoxy. All the above mentioned cricketers, with the exception of Murali, were discovered quite late. Murali had the luxury of having an open-minded, liberal, forward-thinking coach in Sunil Fernando, who let him develop along his own lines and just tidied up what needed to be tidied up without changing what made him unique.

All of this reminds me very much of the difference between how classical and rock musicians get their start.  The classicals get coached and coached, the rocksters just copy and play, in the musical equivalent of the backyard or the street, i.e. the upstairs bedroom or the garage.

Rock and rollers thrive on novelty, on being different from the pack, and this kind of start ensures that they are indeed highly individual.  But cricketers also do well by being different.  Much of Murali’s success has happened because batsmen have never faced anything quite like him before, and can’t practice against anyone else who is similar, because no-one is.

Saturday July 12 2008

Today I was at a party, a very good one as it happens, and as is usual at good parties, what I remember most is the clever conversations I had.  Mostly , of course, I remember the clever things that I myself said, but I do recall the occasional thing said by others, to me.

I found myself talking of Party Questions.  What I mean by Party Questions are all the questions you can ask people at parties that replace the dreaded thing you don’t ask, namely:  What Do You Do?  The reason What Do You Do? is bad question is that Party Questions are supposed to subvert the usual social order, rather than reinforce it.  What Do You Do? plays right into the hand of the winners of the regular daytime game of life.  Oh, I’m the Chairman of Shellmex BP.  I’m Wayne Rooney.  I’m a Big Cheese at the Ministry of Enormous National Importance.  It’s not so much that nobody wants to hear such things.  Actually, such answers are quite good.  The problem is that they make all of life’s losers feel small.  What you want are questions that give us losers a decent chance.

Several good Party Questions involve celebrities.  Which celebrities have you been mistaken for?  (In my case the only answer so far is: Elvis Costello.) Which celebrities have you embarrassed yourself in the presence of?  (Me?  Jenny Agutter.)

But now here comes the educational angle.  My friend Antoine Clarke, also at the party, offered a particular insight on the matter of celebrities you’ve met.  Or was it somebody else, and did I merely discuss this with Antoine?  I can’t remember.  Anyway, the insight was this: celebrities you met at a posh school don’t really count.  The value of a celebrity you knew at school is inversely proportional to the poshness of the school.  So for me, that means scrub Richard Branson, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Mark Phillips.  The fact that I knew (of) CMJ at Marlborough counts for very little.  Marlborough was bound to contain a few subsequent high achievers.  So all that me knowing (of) CMJ at Marlborough proves is that I went to Marlborough, but have not subsequently high achieved.  Big deal.  In contrast, the fact that Antoine met, and embarrassed himself in front of, the noted pop entertainer-ess Dido at Birkbeck College (something to do with his chess club evening clashing with her performing there) counts for a great deal more.

I agree.  Discuss.  Or not, as you please.

Monday April 14 2008

Indeed:

image

“Catnipmusic” writes this caption:

School photograph of Liverpool Insitute High School Lower School taken in April 1956. Includes pupils Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Arthur Gilbert (my dad!). Scanned and spliced from my dad’s original photo. Best viewed at original size, I’ve ringed the positions of the two Beatles (and me dad).

I have since found out that Neil Aspinall is between and above the two guys to the left of my dad. Also, a section of the photo with George Harrison in was used in the cover for his solo album “Dark Horse”.

I’ve added the Neil Aspinall link.  I didn’t know who he was, and guessed you might not.  Follow the first link above to get the picture bigger.  There’s something very evocative about these giant combination school photos.  I’m always on the lookout for horizontal photographic decoration for my blogs.  Pictures are not good for teaching reading because guessing that “apple” says “apple” when there’s a picture of an apple isn’t reading at all.  But pictures are good for persuading readers that someone is taking an interest in doing this blog, and not just going through the motions.

The Liverpool Institute had an interesting subsequent history:

After closure of the Liverpool Institute for Boys, the building stood empty and negected, the roof leaking and the walls crumbling. In 1987 it was announced that the LI Trust (under control of Liverpool Council’s Education Department) would grant use of the building and site to a new educational establishment. Paul McCartney had returned to his old school when with Wings he had played a concert there in 1979. After the school’s closure in 1985 McCartney determined to save the building and replace the school with another type of educational institute - a ‘fame school’ - to assist students of the dramatic arts. Liverpool Council, which remains the controller of the Liverpool Institute Trust established in 1905, agreed to allow LIPA use of the building under a lease which continues to preserve its future for educational purposes.

Under McCartney’s sponsorship and financial assistance, the building was rebuilt entirely behind its old facade, preserving only the entrance corridor and school hall, and re-opened in 1996 under the name of its new occupants, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). This all-new institute is currently affiliated with LJMU and is no longer a Liverpool secondary school.

Blog and learn.