For Adults

What Do We Tell the Children?

What Do We Tell the Children

What Do We Tell the Children? by Angela Gluck Wood
Confusion, conflict and complexity.

Teaching is not just telling. Education, properly understood, involves a process of guided development in every possible direction. The educated person wants to know and doesn't assume that they know it all already. In short, to have an enquiring mind. Simply feeding children with "facts", often slanted with the feeder's opinions, which was thought sufficient in Victorian times, is the opposite of what is required. Sadly, it is still practised today in some quarters.

On the other hand, if young people are allowed to develop without some guidance, they will be subjected to received wisdom fed to them daily by millions of pounds worth of advertising, media distortions and "It is well known that...". That is why trained adults must intervene to encourage them to try and work things out for themselves. A little bit of iconoclasm works wonders.

The skilled teacher develops means of arousing the child's interest. There is a whole range of teaching aids to help them, texts, illustrations, electronics and so on. Understanding the society in which they live and how they should behave in it should be the main element in educating our future citizens.

This book is an outstanding example of what is available in this central task. It is full of texts, pictures, suggestions of all kinds. Its purpose is not to "tell" but to indicate the many possible answers to life's questions. Stories, reports, intriguing dialogues, images, are followed by questions which make the pupils think. Skilfully handled, this book can help to capitalise on the teacher's own initiatives and encourage the youngsters to think for themselves and not to rely on parroting the teacher's views.

Yes, there is information but from many different angles. Its intention is to rouse the child's desire to find out more.

Highly recommended

The Spirit Level

the spirit level

The Spirit LevelBy Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
Why More Equal Societies Always Do Better

During the 1930s depression, it was noted that, on average, Public School pupils were several inches taller than those from state schools. The obvious inference was that their better economic situation was the cause. It was not clear, however, that most of society's ills stem from this gross inequality. This has been shown by these two internationally recognised social and medical scientists. As their conclusions are based on what they call more than fifty person-years of intense and detailed research (i.e. nearly thirty years each), those conclusions would be difficult to refute – unless of course the doubters were prepared to match their efforts.

The list of harmful effects is almost endless: ill-health, lack of community life, violence, drugs, obesity, mental health disorders, long working hours, big prison population. They painstakingly dissect all the intricate workings of our social system and expose its harmful effects, but they also suggest ways in which our 'broken society' may be mended.
They start by noting that, in the main, the populace accept their lot because they do not believe things can be seriously altered. "It's human nature" and we all "know" that "can't be changed," which reminds me of a wonderful speech by the hero of a Priestly play who has "seen the light" and wants to go and spread the word – yes – the dreaded S-word (socialism). "They'll tell you, you can't change human nature," he says,"but it's a lie. We've been changing human nature for thousands of years. But what you can't change is man's eternal desire to make this world a better place to live in."

The authors explain how they think this can be done... True, they seems to reject the idea of fundamental change, although what they do suggest is pretty far reaching. The Soviet attempt to develop a socialist alternative is dismissed with the usual references to inefficient central planning and Stalinist repression. Rather disappointing for this reviewer, considering the meticulous nature of the rest of their investigations. Nonetheless, a remarkably valuable and thought-provoking work which should be read by all who are concerned with human welfare and it's present deplorable state.

The End of Poverty


The End of Povertyby Jeffrey D. Sachs (Foreword by Bono)
How We Can Make it Happen in Our Lifetime.

This work is by an internationally recognised economist who has worked with and for governments (and UNO) at the highest level all over the world. It makes the bold, even revolutionary, claim that world poverty can be ended within the foreseeable future.

The author analyses the historical economic developments that have led to the gross inequality of wealth between countries, mainly the difference between the developed and the undeveloped areas. To begin with, he pins his faith on market-based capitalism. He proposes ways in which the rich countries can (and should) help the poorer ones to raise the living standards of their people.

His thinking is well summed up in his remark that he witnessed "... the conversion of moribund communist economies to dynamic market based economies..." He seems to admire Kennedy but fails to quote that president's public statement that "40 million Americans go to bed hungry every night". He correctly points out the remarkable increase in and spread of wealth in many countries since the 18th century, mainly based on our industrial revolution. However, he denies the contention that this was achieved by their exploitation of colonial peoples. He admits that this imperialist exploitation played its part but thinks it was only a minor one!

Sachs also praises Keynes but, again, ignores that economist's statement that: "Capitalism is the remarkable belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of reasons will somehow benefit the rest of us."

This is not the place for a detailed explanation of his recipe for abolishing world poverty; you will have to read this interesting, informative and remarkably detailed book yourself for that. Although he seems oblivious to the poverty in our own, prosperous world, it is a book which should be read by all interested in dealing with the gross obscenity which the terrible misery and poverty of billions of our fellow human beings represents.

The New York Times calls the book "a road map to a more prosperous and secure world."

Are we nearly there?

are we there bookletare we nearly there? By Liz Allum, Barbara Lowe and Louise Robinson
A self evaluation framework for Global Citizenship.

The Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) has produced this well resourced and well produced book as an important teaching and learning aid for this subject. Global Citizenship is an attempt to lead to feelings of solidarity with the people of other nations, an essential basis for understanding and co-operation between us all in tackling the immense challenges faced by mankind. The book can help those participating in the Global Schools Award and is suitable for Key stages 1 to 5.

One often neglected area discusses is terminology. To quote one example: use of the term "Third World." It is suggested that a better expression is, "Majority World." This is more than a niggle and is much more important than it may seem. The ideas and mindset revealed by words go to the heart of the whole problem of stereotyping and prejudice, the root of much social (and sometimes violent) strife. Finding the appropriate term can help in arousing feelings of solidarity with those so often maligned.

There are many other approaches to the subject, detailed in a thorough and thoroughly helpful way. The book concludes with an outline of methods for assessing progress in knowledge, skills and attitudes. It is part of a package of material which presents a powerful aid to teaching and learning in a subject literally of world importance.




ONE WORLD – READY OR NOT by William Greider.

This is a challenging work, challenging both socialists and pro-capitalists. Greider is a widely travelled and internationally respected American economist. He has produced a detailed, minutely referenced and devastating exposure of the human tragedy produced by Global Capitalism. At the same time he rejects any fundamental change in the profit motivated basis of our present system. Socialism either wouldn't work or is unnecessary to cure the ills of capitalism. Marx is now merely a "ghost" and ".... Labour and the left are in retreat..."

The author looks back nostalgically to some Golden Age typified by The Welfare State and nationalisation and believes that it is globalisation which has destroyed this beneficent world. His answer is to return to the system of regulations; drastically curtailing the freedom of capitalists to seek profits at the expense of people's needs, which can guarantee a decent life for all.

As the blurb on the jacket-cover has it: "... are we doomed to return to (the horrors of) the world depression in the early 20th Century? "... (Not if) we recognise the dangers ... to middle class lifestyles .. (and) social peace ..(and if) national governments (will) reassert their powers to regulate the players in the global market and protect communities and the rights of workers." Note the "reassert".

The author ignores the fact that at the height of prosperity and the introduction of maximum regulations, millions went hungry, ill-clothed and ill-housed with a glaringly obvious gulf between the haves and have-nots. Then, along comes a Thatcher ("democratically" elected) and starts to destroy workers' gains painfully won in struggle, such as the right to organise trade unions to take action to advance and defend their living standards. The Press barons were still able to influence public opinion at will. Regulate them? The cries of "censorship", "state dictatorship" etc would have been heard throughout the world.

Native capitalists had great power and influence, even when their system was less global. Globalisation has certainly increased that power and put it beyond the reach of national authority. Shrinking it back, however, will not fundamentally solve the people's problems. Only united struggle will do that.

It is worth recalling that, 150 years ago, Marx predicted the worldwide accumulation of power into fewer and fewer hands as the result of creeping monopolisation. Perhaps the bearded old Prophet still has something to teach us today. But read this informative book and take part in the debate.

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