Launched today along the RSA’s new publication Licensed to Create: Ten essays on improving teacher quality. 11 leading thinkers in education offer their thoughts on how we can improve teacher quality. The following excerpt is taken from teacher Lorna Owen’s essay.
It’s been a pretty exciting time to live in Scotland recently. The small matter of the referendum on independence and its implications have been debated to the smallest detail, but as a Scot living in Scotland the most exciting aspect for me was the vibrant discussion around politics, democracy, identity and representation which overtook the country. I remember standing in some very un-Scottish sunshine at the Kelpies sculpture outside Falkirk watching my children play in the park, and being astounded by the fact the at least 75% of the conversations around me revolved around debates on currency, the long term viability and capacity of north sea oil fields and the future development of Scotland as a democratic nation. Not topics you would normally expect to hear on a sunny summer’s day!
All beings tremble before violence.
All fear death. All love life.
See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?
— Buddha, Dhammapada 129-130
An Unfamiliar Skill
It seems safe to say now, at this point in the 21st century, that there is more to life than we can see. The reality each of us experiences on a daily basis is quite assuredly our own “personal take” on what reality actually is. Read any recent popular psychology book (e.g., this one) and observe the large range of mental filters we unknowingly apply to our experience of life, day in and day out. The end result is that we don’t see things as they really are, we see them as we are. Curiously, our bodies and brains are born predisposed to grow two things (1) a personal take on the world and ourselves, and (2) the rather unfamiliar capacity to move beyond it. Many humans have referred to this latter capacity as spirituality.
The last bangers are exploding. The crackle of fireworks is dissipating into the darkness. We head inside braced in the knowledge that the commercial world is gearing up to unleash the full force of their festive advertising upon us.
We are promised that on spending our hard earned money on particular brands of clothing/food/wine/gifts we will reach nirvana, that unparalleled place: the best Christmas ever.
Now I’m as Christmassy as the next person but the thought of all that rampant consumerism, of all the plastic and rubbish destined for landfill and the pressure to have the-best-time-of-my-whole-life-and-that-of-my-friends-and-family-ever and is giving me the shivers.
So as the Oxford Street lights power up and John Lewis release their Christmas advert (since when was that a thing?) I’d like to offer a distraction from it all and provide an RSA style antidote our the impending future… Read more
Having supported over a hundred new social enterprises through the RSA Catalyst programme, one common flaw in the plans of ventures I’ve observed is a lack of resources (or plan for getting them) to market their product or service in front of their whole target audience. This has got me thinking as to how we might be able to help overcome this.
My idea for how to do this draws on the way that RSA Animates have been viewed 50m times because they’ve been interesting enough for people to share them and the recent and the growing prevalence of online courses. And I think it would be possible to create a course by which we help people make and then give a platform to animations about ventures they are inspired by (and that align with our work).
To see if this was feasible I decided to try to make my own animate of an RSA Fellow’s venture I was passionate about, document how long it took me as well as what equipment and technical expertise was required. Below is the result. The point is not that this video is good enough, but hopefully it gives a sense of what can be achieved if I’d also been able to read the advice of the creator of RSAnimates and been connected to someone who could draw better than me and who might have far more creative ways of displaying the content, rather than my cheap imitation of the RSA Animate style.
I have just read Bitcoin: The Future of Money by Dominic Frisby published by Unbound. I read it in one sitting. It is a fantastic read and fascinating book.
Dominic makes a compelling case that Bitcoin, or more likely one of its cryptocurrency cousins, spells the end for big government.
He makes the point that the huge expansion of the state in the last century was funded through taxation, borrowing or printing of money. All of these things are much harder to do if a government does not issue and control its own currency. This is why cryptocurrencies are such a threat to the big state. They are issued not by governments or central banks but by computer code and the activities of a decentralised network of individuals and organisations.
But what made me really sit up was the discussion towards the end of the book about an initiative called Ethereum. It is slightly mind-boggling but, in essence, Ethereum is taking the highly secure, highly private and highly decentralised technology of Bitcoin and using it to enable a wide range of other activities on the web not just the production and use of currency. This could include the establishment of business partnerships, social networks, new apps and various other web platforms.
Bitcoin has proved that so-called Distributed Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) can work and work very well using a technology called ‘block chain transactions‘. A DAO is simply a body or network with a certain goal that is driven by mutually agreed partnerships between the individuals in that organisation rather than by the plans of a select group of owners or managers at the top of the body.
This suggests that Bitcoin, or at least the technology behind it, could challenge not just the role of big government but also the hold that the large corporation has over the economy including the new internet behemoths such as Facebook, YouTube and Google.
We may genuinely be entering a new era in which our top down, big, rigid organisations built around high concentrations of power and wealth are challenged by a whole new species of flatter, smaller, fluid organisations in which power and wealth are distributed more evenly or, at least, in which established distributions are more ephemeral and easily challenged.
As Dominic says in the book, the Bitcoin phenomenon is about much, much more than Bitcoin. It seems to me it may also be an acceleration of the shift to smaller, flatter organisations that release mass creativity.
These themes amongst others will be explored in my book, Small is Powerful: Why the era of big government, big business and big culture is over (and why it’s a good thing). I’m crowd-funding for the book, so you can pre-order and help make sure it gets published here.
I’m on Twitter here.
9 November 1989: My parents were in a rush to get me and my brothers to our grandparents. It was a spontaneous rather than planned trip and I was too young to understand why my parents were suddenly in a hurry, yet I was old enough to understand that ‘something big’ was unfolding on that particular day.
Just a few hours later, my parents were crossing the border into East Germany, heading to Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Wall. Although I was unable to grasp the historical importance of that day in the autumn of 1989, this day is one of my earliest childhood memories.
The breakdown of the physical barrier dividing Germany and indeed Europe led also to the breakdown of a barrier that severely limited the power, indeed the freedom, to create. Whilst the fall of the Wall was an interplay of several several factors and individuals, (The Hoff claims he was one of them) the desire of East Germans to be free and to take their lives into their own hands – to gain the power to create their own lives – was probably the most decisive factor. Read more
The ONS published a report this week showing that the proportion of self-employed men contributing to a personal pension has fallen sharply over the past 20 years. Just over 60 per cent were adding to a personal pension in 1996/7, but today the figure is only 22 per cent (see the graph below). For some reason the ONS didn’t include the details about self-employed women, but our own analysis of government data shows the picture for them is more or less the same, with around 25 per cent actively contributing to a pension.
Our data crunching also reveals that the self-employed are likely to have smaller pension pots than employees. The average total pension wealth of the age group closest to retirement (55-64 year olds) is £50,000 for the self-employed, versus £104,000 for employees – in other words, less than half the size. Moreover, around 23 per cent of the self-employed in this age group have no pension wealth whatsoever, compared with 17 per cent of typical workers.
Last night the Lib Dem Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, resigned from his post. The reason for this, as cited by Mr Baker, was that, “working (under Theresa May) in the department was like ‘walking through mud’”.
This comes less than a week after Mr Baker, along with Caroline Lucas MP, spearheaded the release of a Home Office commissioned report on international drug policies (Drugs: International Comparators) and a debate in the House of Commons. Read more
Guest article by Kasper de Graaf FRSA, producer, NORTH, @kasperdegraaf
NORTH: The Great Debate, organised as part of Design Manchester 14, brought together national and regional leaders of the creative industries, politics and education to discuss how the creative sector can help build “the northern powerhouse” – a vibrant economy across the north of England.
In the week leading up to this debate, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched his TechNorth cluster project in Sheffield and the RSA’s City Growth Commission, chaired by Jim O’Neill, projected a £79 billion boost to the UK economy if power is devolved meaningfully. Read more