The observant blogger probably thought that I had run out of steam when, after producing a dozen blogs in as many days in February, I suddenly stopped. “What’s gone wrong?” asked one; “Will you start again?” said another. But, truth to tell, most people hardly noticed!
A blog to be of any use has to have continuity, spontaneity, topicality, the thrill of the immediate, and present.
My reason for stopping can now be told. Fired up by the excitement of having found a really good publisher for Heather’s and my book, Overschooled but Undereducated, I was all set to make blogging priority when two things hit me. The first was just one of those things, but difficult to deal with nevertheless… I lost the man who I had hoped would develop our fund raising and marketing strategy. Serious as that was it was my realisation that, if the book were not to be published until November, we could be too late to have any influence on politicians as they set out their Manifestos for that General Election which has to be held before June 2010. “The best time to get politicians to listen to you is just before, not just after the election,” said one Member. “You need to give us some very clear actions now as to what to do should we be elected. Leaving it until the book comes out will be too late.”
While on a 10-day lecture tour in Canada in early March – a tour that took me through the northern Athabasca oil fields of Northern Alberta and to the Gulf Islands just off Vancouver (I missed two good blogs on the ethics of oil extraction, and the delight of flying in seaplanes) – I worried away at how to create a document that would somehow summarise the entire argument of the book as well as setting out a set of actions that needed to be followed, all in one-tenth of the number of words I had used in the book.
Three months on and the Initiative is now publishing A Briefing Paper for Parliamentarians on the Design Faults at the Heart of English Education. It has not been an easy task, and there was no time left to write blogs. Overschooled but Undereducated was the summation of years of study, research and practice and the Briefing Paper is a still further distillation. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether or not this is good enough to help shape the political agenda of the next government. Personally I think it does, but that really isn’t the issue. It is not what an author wants to say that matters; it is whether the author can take readers willingly to places they had never known before that actually matters.
Achieving that is, after all, the art of the good teacher. Action Six states “Teachers need both technical subject knowledge and considerable expertise in both pedagogy and child development, combined with the avuncular skill of brilliant storytellers.”
Parliamentarians are like children in many ways. Like the rest of us they listen to good stories but quickly get bored by too many dry statistics. Like children we all look for excuses not to listen.
Now turn to the Briefing Paper here on the website and see if you find this a good way of getting Parliamentarians to understand the educational needs of young people. If you do please share the whole of this Paper with as many other people as you can find who are now ready to hear the message.