Posts from 1st July 2005

Jul 05

Cash for Questions

Blog 7Post a comment • 368 views

typically frustrating article from the Guardian about marketing films to schools by providing them with teaching aids. It occasionally skirts around doing some analysis but rather than trying to answer any of its interviewees points it just resorts to editorial handwringing over the selling of education for profit.

Unfortunately for the writers there’s a world of difference between the Narnia or Potter films pushing educational packs and the involvement in, say, science lessons of fast food companies. The latter involves a real conflict of interest between the contents of the curriculum and the products the companies are selling: the former doesn’t, unless you see film and TV as being in direct opposition to reading (in which case you’re fighting a much larger battle. And losing it.)

Being married to an educator I simply can’t see this stuff as being very sinister. One of the kids she tutors is a big Chelsea fan, so we’ve had several evenings thinking of sums involving Arjen Robben and checking the spelling of Makelele. If Chelsea were to put out an official CFC education pack with Key Stage 1 and 2 numeracy and literacy exercises in then my wife, and a lot of parents, would bit their arm off. CFC would make – gasp! – a profit, but the teachers’ lives would be made easier and the kids who were more interested in Chelsea than learning would learn more. As it is she has to buy worthier and more official packs (which someone also makes a profit from, tut tut) and the child gets more bored.

Kids learn better when the lessons have a context they actually care about. When I was at school maths problems were always put in a carefully non-abstract manner – trips to the swimming pool, the sweet shop, car and train journeys. From that to problems based on Harry Potter or Arsenal isn’t much of a stretch. Schools have always given some commercial properties their unofficial blessing – Leon Garfield’s marketing people may not be as highly-paid as JK Rowling’s but his books were inescapable in class and had to be paid for. And if the educational marketing materials are no good? Well, teachers may be overworked but they’re not mugs: bad materials are also harder to teach.

It is the middle of Summer…

Blog 7Post a comment • 330 views

…and I am listening to “The First Noel”. A synthesised and re-arranged version of the carol with accompanying flourishes from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. A version better known as the theme tune from “The Box Of Delights” (see Christmas Blog Seven). Before that I listened to the theme from The Tripods, and then the theme from The Changes. All courtesy of TV Cream, incidentally.

Blog Seven this month is a blog about childhood. Mine, yours, other peoples, the idea of it. And about the idea of adults revisiting childhood things – is it a good thing to do, justifiable, or just sad? eBay, MP3s, .pdfs – the digitisation of memory has opened up parts of the lost and forgotten countries of childhood for anyone who cares to revisit them. On the one hand this means nostalgic meandering, on the other it can result in sharp and delightful criticism and insight.

And of course the parts of childhood that can be recreated are the public aspects – the TV shows, the books, the comics. Does this homogenise memory, repressing more personal elements of childhood? To what extent is my indulgence in things like old TV themes creating a smoothed-out false-memory version of childhood – I never even watched The Changes, for instance.

Also, not all childhoods are happy, and not all are prosperous. The nostalgia industry creates a rolling ‘perfect childhood’ – changing with each generational microshift but always rooted in trauma-free, comfortably-off experience.

Will Blog Seven address any of this stuff in more depth? Maybe not, but even if half the Internet seems to be rooted in it, there are intriguing things about childhood yet to be said.

It’s Daaarrhhkkk

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 389 views

Heads up for the beer loving Londoners, The Lord John Russell has Budvar Dark on tap. Anyone whose has Czech black beer will know what a treat this is, though having a few pints last night I could not help but notice that Budvar Dark is really just a mild. Perhaps a touch stronger, maybe a little bit sweeter, but hits the same buttons as mild. And therefore a pint of Budvar Dark is an expensive mild. But it isn’t half nice.