Sunday, 7 November 2010

Children Need Thinking Time

Children's lives have become, in short, a verb. 'Do this, do that' is the constant command ringing in their little ears. Homework has to be done by a certain time. They have to be in bed by a certain time. The list goes on. A life of being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it is depriving our children of being creative and innovative. Where is the much wanted innovation going to come from then in the future to generate the jobs and prosperity needed in the country if our future leaders and workers don't learn the skill of using their brain power in silence and solitude? Disciplines such as business and science require an ability to be a self-starter. Factoring 'thought time' into the school curriculum will be difficult as school have a race to the end, as it is, to get through the tick boxes. Perhaps it ought to start at home. Parents are always so keen to fill their children's times with activity. Maybe an innovative way of thinking is required whereby allowing a child to indulge in what we see as time wasting activity, running the same car up and down the same path, should be reclassed as 'thought time'.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Stop Waiting: A New Day for Learning

Learning starts at home. The sooner 'learning' is seen as a pervasive process that begins at birth the more adept we will become at producing well skilled children to take up the challenges of formal education and the working world. The orthodoxy of the provision of education must be challenged. It can't be seen as something provided only within a school, college or university. Education is an ongoing process. Witness a baby trying to grab a finger. Watch a child counting pebbles on the beach. Children are born with a natural curiousity for learning. This must be fostered by the parents and the support network of grandparents etc. However, life isn't a level playing field and many parents don't have the ability to foster and nurture intellectual curiousity. This is where state programmes come into play. The education of both parents and children must be undertaken with a vigour that matches the requirements of the state for a well qualified future generation of young adults. Vital within this is the ability to operate new media becuase it, almost literally, opens up a whole new world.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Is the church a man's world?

I am standing for election to the House of Laity, General Synod, as an 'inclusive' candidate. As the name of my blog suggests I want to see gender barriers broken down so my daughter can grow up in a world of true equality. We are Christians and it saddens and grieves me that the Church, which is meant to be the font of all humanity, still hasn't reached a unanimous position on the issue of women Bishops. Am I to tell my daughter that she can aspire everywhere else but not in the place where we worship God because God doesn't want her? Opponents to the issue water down the equality issue by labelling it as 'feminism', as if that word were interchangeable with 'scarlet woman'. I hope to win the election to be able to add my voice to the growing clamour calling on the Church to extend a gospel message of inclusivity to people.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Baby Girls-who wants them?

Eleven years ago, just before I gave birth to my daughter, the Sunday Times carried an article about how baby girls were being left in forests to die. A photograph accompanied this article and the proof was appalling. Little baby girls were sitting in steel pails left to die. In the intervening years Globalisation has given the impression of the situation improving for citizens everywhere by increasing awareness of human life and suffering and offering a more distributive way of living. I could strike myself for being so naive because recent reports indicate that Gendercide is on the increase in other East Asian countries. According to the Economist, 'wealth does not stop it'. Ancient prejudices still linger against baby girls and urgent action is needed. What worries me is that less and less women seem to be entering public life for this is the arena which acts as a global showcase for the talents of women. If we don't have more visibility amongst achieving females and if people don't learn to value girls the demographics for the world could be devastating.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Failure of Higher Education

The traditional way of viewing education was to regard it in two halves: (1) school was about getting the grades that were good enough to get you into university; and (2) University was about gaining the right degree with the right final result to enable the graduate to apply for a well paying secure job. Globalisation has changed this traditional model of education. We now need graduates who are able to possess adaptable skills to cope with a changing marketplace but, at the same time, universities aren't there to provide remedial teaching for undergrads who didn't pick up the basic skills of thought analysis, spelling, punctuation etc. Therefore, there is a downward pressure on schools to provide a better quality of education that will enable children to enter university equipped with the ability to engage in intellectual and innovative thought and debate.

Is that happening? No, it isn't because a university degree is seen as a universal benefit now. Everyone is taught to believe that they can do a degree. While ideologically this may be sound and desirable, the argument fails to advance the basic tenet that skill and application is required by a student in copious amounts to gain a degree. I also blame the universities who have cashed in on the aspirations of many but offer a low level of education in return which ill equips graduates for a competitive market place environment. It makes a mockery of education.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Daughters - Future WAGs or Future Leaders?

I refer to Daisy Goodwin's article in the Sunday Times News Review 4 July titled 'Scrub Up and Strike Gold'. Daisy was invited to speak to sixth formers about working in the media. I paraphrase what she wrote but, in a nutshell, the girls' ambitions stretched only so far as bagging a rich husband who could afford to pay for a designer lifestyle. The girls, Daisy says, were bright but simply not interested in using their own intellect to fund their dreams.

Who do we blame for this? Is it our contemporary culture which worships uber rich celebrities which has sent the wrong message out? Is it mothers who have grown tired of working and cannot break through the glass ceiling who are telling their daughters to view marriage as a meal ticket? Is it just gross greed and laziness-let someone else pay instead?

I think it is a combination of all three. When you reverse engineer the concept of celebrity you will find that, in most cases, some kind of talent (singing) or skill (football) has been applied to gain celebrity status. The media doesn't push this point though and endlessly reports on the fruits of celebritydom instead which are the designers clothes and shoes. New media has also allowed us to peer intimately into the lives of celebrities thereby giving an impression that they are only a hop and a skip away from us. I have heard mothers telling their daughters to marry footballers. These mothers are inevitably ones who are finding it hard to make a living. Our society must share the blame too for touting the idea of lazy individualism, as I call it. Others can pay for what 'she' wants without her having to put any valuable effort into the process.

What worries me the most is the fact that girls such as the ones Daisy met don't realise that they are selling their futures in return for the hollowness of expensive logos. By marrying a rich man only for his money they will omit to consider whether he has traits that will enhance their lives. There will not be that give and take and healthy compromise which ought to exist in a good marriage. A marriage based on the ability to buy as many interlocked 'C' products as possible will never be a fulfilling one. To top it all, as recent high profile divorces have demonstrated, rich men will plead poverty in the divorce courts.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Youth need human capital

The financial crisis has taught us that the concept of a skill for life does not translate into a job for life anymore. The scale of the crisis means that our children will be paying for the financial damage done when they reach adulthood. It is entirely logical that people under the age of 30 ought to be investing in a skills (plural) set that will equip them to meet the changing demands of the workplace environment. Companies are having to face fluid competition resulting from globalisation and the emerging economics of the world and will need a workforce that can adapt quickly, efficiently and easily. The educational establishments face a greater role than they ever did in teaching and imparting these skills to students. It has to be a joined up effort. Parents have to take responsibility too especially in ensuring that youngsters have sufficient life skills to cope with the challenge of becoming multi-skilled. Traits such as being organised and being emotionally resillient enough to cope with a changing world can only be taught at home.

Art Is Fundamental -- and Fundamental to Support

Leo Tolstoy considered art as one of the conditions of human life. Art requires all the senses to be used when analysing and appreciating it. Art is not an individual or solitary experience. The activity of art requires humans to engage with each other. As an example the concept of Liberalism in politics gave birth to an emergence of writers who both supported and critiqued each other's thoughts and concepts. Further down the years other Liberal authors have attempted to layer this political thought with modern thinking. In our contemporary world the appreciation of art is viewed as an elitist thing mainly because it has been hijacked by profiteers. However, the dissemination of art hasn't been taken over by them and, thankfully, we can all have access to the arts and take responsibility for ensuring that it remains a vital part of society.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Yikes-School Sports Day Memories

The piece at has brought back ghastly memories of the first school sports day that I entered into. My daughter was in Reception year and a Mummy's race was held at the end of the children's events. I had been going to the gym three times a week and felt slim and fit. Hitching up my skirt I went for it when the starter gun was fired. My daughter was standing at the finishing line crying because...I came second to last! Oh yes, the family was humiliated and I have never run a Mummy race ever again. My daughter who is now 10 still remembers that day and makes me promise every year that I will not enter the race. It's an easy promise to make.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Ethnic Diversity Should Not Be A Mask

As an Asian member of the Liberal Democrat party I feel a strong need to speak up. The Diversity Agenda discourse on the question of ethnicity is heartening because it recognises that people like me ought to be represented and about time too. However, do I feel either not represented or under represented because of the lack of a non-pale face at the top? No, I don’t.

Why? Racial integration is a marvellous bridge. If representation is about sending a message of inclusion to a part of society that has been marginalised before then I don’t need a Brown face at the top to make me feel included. Those days of John Taylor not being selected as a Conservative candidate in the 1992 general election because of his colour is what made me feel deprived and hopeless and gave me sleepless nights. The gates of politics have since opened wide to people like me. We aren’t excluded. If we don’t go through the gate it is because we choose not to for reasons based on individual choices, not because we are barred.

Perhaps if I provide more anecdotes about the racism I suffered then readers will understand better what I mean by the power of integration.

In the late 1980s I applied for a job using my married surname of ‘Manning’. When the lift door opened the woman conducting the interview flinched and stepped back when she saw me. She grudgingly held her hand out to me and pulled it back quickly. There were days when ‘we’ couldn’t go out because the National Front (NF) was marching through London. I was holed up one weekend without being able to go out to get food because the NF had organised a march without prior warning. I was referred to openly as ‘one of them’ accompanied by finger pointing in public places.

Now, nobody runs away when I answer to my name. An Anglo-Saxon name can belong to a person of colour and an ethnic surname can belong to a person with pale skin too. The BNP will hate me for this!

Before I continue please don’t think that racism has been eliminated-BNP again. It hasn’t. All I am saying is that it is a lot less prevalent than it was.

Now for a twist, I do think ethnic representation is important from the point of view of demonstrating an outward face of the politics of inclusion within a party. Full political engagement with parts of the electorate who feel marginalised won’t be achieved until they see someone within the party whom they can identify with. This identification will lead to trust. But this will only work if a party, internally, has a culture of inclusion already in place otherwise ethnic representation will have no substance. It will only be a ‘mask’ then.

As an ethnic minority I must say that the fairness agenda excites me. The issues that affect White people affect me too such as education, the economy and civil liberties. My voice is being heard. My daughter won’t have to suffer the humiliations that I did.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

An Imaginary Commencement Speech at Yale

The common narrative of the aim of education is always good grades leading to admisison to a good university and, subsequently, resulting in a well paying job. People fail to recognise that other factors of an education are emotional resilience, a framework mind of inquiry which can be used to evaluate various situations as we progress through life and the ability to view oneself as an individual who has to interlock with wider society. Your message is one to be applauded.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, 14 May 2010

Sarah Palin Must Also Favor 'Spreading the Wealth Around'

Christian life encompasses charity. Christian life is about giving. That's what Christ did. The redistribution of wealth is central to this concept of Christian charity. It doesn't mean that the rich become poor because they have given away their lot. It means that those who can support those who can't to enable the latter to become self sustaining. Any other thought on Christian giving is based on self-interest,surely.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Does It Matter How Many Frogs You Have Kissed?

So many mothers still pass on the message, which they learnt from their own mothers, to daughters that a man, especially a rich one, will solve all their problems and be the trophy in adulthood. I have a 10 year old daughter and I have taught her that the right man is a bonus in life regardless of his bank balance. I want her to be financially independent and fully confident of her own abilities. Sadly, I seem to be a minority mother.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost