Sunday, 25 January 2015

The State of Teaching Today

In the last years, I feel there is a concern in society regarding the way children are being brought up, and most of the eyes turn to schools questioning what we, teachers, are doing to prepare students, so they will be able to solve, in the future, all the heavy damages that we are doing to the world nowadays.

Once upon a time, there was an era when teachers were considered honourable citizens, people upon whom you could look, they were respected by authorities, families and students themselves. Well, that era is over, and we need accept it to be able to respond to the new reality we all are facing currently.

It is not easy being a teacher nowadays. Not easy at all. And I am not talking about what should be obvious for everyone, which is for example the insane amount of useless work demanded to us by authorities, or the challenge of being in a classroom with 30 teenagers, for whom their social and love life is the most important thing in the world, trying to make them see how important it is going to be for their future to know the difference between a verb and an adverb!!!

No, it is not about those things that I am talking about. The real concern that I have as a teacher is something related to real teaching. What really worries me is that I am obliged to follow rules and contents which are too strict, that no matter what the reality of one of my students is, I just cannot walk out of line in my teaching practice to help that student the best way I see necessary. What worries me is that, what I really consider important, is seen as completely useless in this competitive society we are living in. And for me teaching is something different, it is something which I feel is not seen either by society or by governments.

I would like to think that for everyone teaching is making an impact on kids, letting them feel they can, letting them feel we care, helping them have a thirst for knowledge, showing them there is a world of things for them to search, investigate, ENJOY,...

Teaching for me is encouraging my students so they feel capable of becoming what they want to be, it is inspiring them so they want to be their best them.

But I, as a teacher, am frustrated. Not because of low salaries, or because of the pressure we feel from the governments or from the families, or because of this changing world which moves faster than many of us, who have been teaching for years now, do. I am frustrated because I cannot do what I think would help my students to be ready for their future, a hard future they have ahead of them thanks to the world we, adults, are creating/leaving for them. I would need have less kids in each group so I can be there with them and for them, individually, because they are just that, individuals, all different, and should be treated as such. The world is changing so fast that we cannot close our eyes to it, we need new approaches, new subjects in which we do not have to repeat the same stuff year after year. Lessons should be more interactive, kids can learn in a different way and help each other in the process; if they are able to learn new things by themselves, they will be learning all their lives, and that is something to which every human being should aspire.

Not all human beings are the same, and as such, not all kids are the same either, so they should not have to learn the same things; it should all depend on their capacities, interests, abilities... It should be essential to provide real special attention to kids with special needs, they are the ones who need most to know that there is a place in society for us all, for them as well. They should know it as soon as possible and be helped into becoming their best version.

I can hear some voices saying out loud that I am naive, that I am daft, that I forget essential things for this so highly competitive society in which material things seem to be imperative. If marking must exist, it should not be as it is right now, it should not be the key aspect of education, because that is another thing, that is non-cooperation and ranking students based on just one thing. And students, my students, are much more than just a number.

What do I do every day? I try to make teachers aware that we all know their job is important, our job is significant. I focus on what I can do to help my students, to make them feel they are not alone. I know it is not much, but it is what I can do at that moment, and I would like to know I am making a difference. They see it and most of them appreciate it as well. And I wish people would realise of what teachers and students consider important and necessary, and would make the change be a reality, because it has to be us the ones who believe we have the real power to change this.

- Nymm.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The End is Nigh...?

Throughout human history the constant struggle over the acquisition of resources has led us to different epochs of savage and brutal conquerors and warring civilisations. The Ancient Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Ancient Greeks, The Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, the list is exhaustive. The supreme goal of these empires was to expand and provide resources for its citizen’s consumption. The unfortunate cultures in the path of this expansion were left with two stark choices: assimilation or extermination.

The brutal world wars crippled the last great empire, the British, simultaneously destroying her socially, economically and spiritually. That inevitably left a power vacuum that was exploited upon by the United States and the Soviet Union, fighting a half-century “bluff” war for the riches, the US emerging victorious. They now have 900 military bases in 153 countries as they snake their way to world domination. However, the current expansion of China’s economy may well lead to a new power struggle on the horizon. But, perhaps, there might be a different power struggle emerging. Not from between warring states, but the mere slaves to these land-grabbing civilisations, the struggle of the common man.

We are at a crucial point in history. This century could well be the biggest revolution since the Industrial Revolution of the Eighteenth Century - the social revolution of the Twenty-First Century and, perhaps, the greatest social revolution of them all. We could witness the final struggle for the common man against his rich and powerful overlords. The battle that has raged unwaveringly and intensely for eons, the war for the control of the masses, could finally come to an end and the winner could well be the masses.

The battles that our forefathers bravely fought for - the right to protest, the right to vote, the declaration of Human Rights - could provide the framework for a peaceful social revolution through the means of democracy. Not the distorted and warped version we are forced to endure today - a plutocratic oligarchy deceitfully masked as democracy, but a real working democracy. There is a considerable way to go and we may never get there. The well-trodden path might well lead us, blinded by our usual self-centred short-comings, down another cul-de-sac. But the slave-owner’s unquenchable, voracious greed could prove to be their downfall. The huge inequalities, where a new Oxfam report had the richest 1% nearing 50% of the world’s wealth, could be the trigger.

Throughout Europe, the common man is awakening from his slumbering coma. He is realising the battle before him. Induced into this hypnotic state by the ruling elites to keep him subdued and unable, even unwilling, to question the “way of things”, he is opening his eyes and heart to great new possibilities for a fairer, more egalitarian, society.

The immense scientific achievements of the last century may well be one of the most important movements in history. Our understanding of the world we live in has had profound impacts on society. From elevating our knowledge on the almost infinite universe through pioneers like Einstein and his theory of relativity, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, (that proves all life on the planet is related and dependant on each other in a delicately shared eco-system) and science’s peer-regulated method of turning data into evidence, mankind has truly emerged from the dark ages. We are beginning to finally understand our place in the universe. We have seen it’s a hostile universe and the Earth is the only sanctuary we know of. Without it we are likely doomed to destruction, or a nomadic and harsh existence on alien planets. We are a part of this planet and our physiologies are not suited to other worlds. There’s not another crucible for human life just around the corner.

"Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception." - Carl Sagan

The scientific revolution has not just provided us with theoretical milestones but technological ones too. The countless improvements in technology have greatly improved our lives. The internet has opened up communication and exchange of ideas like never seen before. People from different countries and cultures can communicate instantly. New ideologies and information can reach a whole variety of people that may have not had access before.

The field of robotics has led to an ever-increasing mechanisation of the workforce, pushing up unemployment and pushing down purchasing power of more and more. Without jobs, the capitalist system will crumble. There are some who predict this demise as imminent and propose a new examination of the entire system as a whole. With an obviously broken and increasingly unstable structure, the break-away of countries is already happening, such as Iceland from pro-austerity and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. 

Whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have jolted the masses’ attentions from the official “truth” and led many to begin questioning everything in the mainstream media. The same media is 90% owned by corporate companies, where the same corporations lobby the governments and fund political parties into office. Releasing secret files, these heroes/villains (depending on your stance), have revealed the nefarious orchestrated movements performed in the dark by these untrustworthy governments.

With such disdain and despair in politics, the rise of the right and left extreme parties in Europe was inevitable. It is from the left, with their political position of supporting social equality, which the social revolution could emerge. They hold real alternatives to the tried-and-tested politics of the corporate-pandering middle ground.

Of course, as proven throughout history and echoed by Machiavelli, people in power will do all they can to keep it. The ruling elites will not shed their wealth and power readily. The only difference from previous civilisations is the nuclear situation. When previous civilisations collapsed, the fallout was contained within that civilisation. With a truly global world now, and prejudices running deep, an increasingly weakened ruling elite could take down everything with them. World War III and total planetary destruction is a distinct terrifying possibility.

I have watched as the precious, finite resources are perpetually wasted and destroyed in the name of profit and free markets. I have watched the social values of society be reduced into a base artificiality of materialism and mindless consumption. And I have watched as the monetary powers control the political structure of supposedly "free societies". I have watched humanity set the stage for its own extinction.” - Jacque Fresco.

The end is perhaps certainly nigh. It might well be nigh for free-market capitalism that is killing our planet and driving the social and economic inequalities, or the vampiric super-rich that suck the life from this corrupt system. It may well be the end of us all as a species. It may, however, just be the end to a complete history of oppression, slavery and domination of the strong over the weak. From it might just spring the notion that the gloriousness of life is something not crooked and exploitable, but beautiful and to be cherished. It might give birth to the realisation that we are an integral part of this planet, not an exception to its rule and able to act without consequences. It might give rise to the idea that only by working in unity can we achieve harmony.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations to build a society where all life brought into the world has a chance to live, not just survive; to flourish, not just struggle along; to realise their potential in a nurturing and caring environment, not be persecuted and demoralised by it. That is a world worth fighting for and, if the masses win, with the help of clarity of thought and the conviction of moralities, could, maybe, become reality.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Dark Side of Language

Words have such power to inspire the human spirit. There are so many great works of art that can ignite the spiritual flame within us to better ourselves and lift us out of pain and misery, allow us to dream and wonder and provide us with better understanding of our world and our role within it. The great poets, lyricists, writers and orators of our species are shared with each generation, and in turn inspire new artists and wordsmiths to find their own voice and they then inspire their own generation and the cycle continues. The power of language undoubtedly has the potential to create such beauty in the world. But, it also has a dark side.

Language can be used to twist meaning, manipulate others into doing their bidding for them and has the power to cause great suffering and death and destruction on our planet. Inspired by his uncle Sigmund Freud, and his belief that mankind harbours great destructive desires that drive our unconscious, Edward Bernays knew the importance of language. He knew that by masking language from its real intent was the key to control and power. The father of “public relations” (which he coined as a mask for its true name “propaganda”) built this insidious empire of lies to deceive the general public.

This is the secret of propaganda: To totally saturate the person, whom the propaganda wants to lay hold of, with the ideas of the propaganda, without him even noticing that he is being saturated.” - Paul Watzlawick, Austrian Psychologist.

We are suffering from Bernays’ treachery of language today. It is ingrained in society like a parasitic organism, feeding on our darkest desires and whims. They sculpt the truth into twisted spires of hypocrisy and chicanery. They sculpt the individual into an obedient fearful creature, hell bent on self-preservation and self-gratification. On the one hand they offer redemption. On the other hand they demand enslavement.

Faceless corporate advertising agencies tugging at our spiritually malnourished being, conspiring public relations firms deliberately massaging our inflated egos and appealing to our more lubricious desires, unethical and morally reprehensible news and media conglomerates malevolently nurturing our primitive anxieties and helpless disquietude. If only they were watered and fed and allowed to blossom…breathing life to a world, where people are persuaded to pursue their own selfish interests and to indulge in their destructive vices at will, with little or no disregard for others or the fragile ecosystem around them…

We must not let them debase our language. Hiding their true intentions behind a veil of deceptive double meanings and duplicitous doublespeak. Instead, we must celebrate and champion the real craftsman of the spoken and written word. The true pioneers of human social and spiritual evolution. And more importantly, provide a healthy and vibrant society where these poets, songwriters and story-tellers are given license to dream and wonder and share their findings with us all, to the benefit of the entirety of mankind.

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald.