Friday, 3 October 2014

The Educators (BBC Radio 4)

Education - in its aims and methods - fascinates me. A new type of job market is emerging, which somewhat changes the aims of education, and new technology provides more, and cheaper, opportunities for education.

BBC Radio 4 has just finished a series called The Educators, co-produced by the Open University, where eight movers and shakers were interviewed about their ideas for improving our education system(s).

This should be of particular interest to homeschoolers, unschoolers and teachers as well as anyone who's thinking of a non-standard path for their child's education.

If you can, have a listen. Some of them are fascinating, others less so - here are some mini reviews:

Entertaining and with some useful points (e.g. anti-gnostic views of the body/brain) but probably overstating his case. 3 stars.

Stats/study heavy, no huge revelations but a few useful bits. 2 stars

Very interesting look at a unique school. Some admirable ideas but it's not exactly possible for everyone to duplicate this. 4 stars.

Sorry, I just couldn't listen to her voice and gave up after a while. Give it a try though. 

Basically a psychology/neuroscience angle on it all - some useful bits again. 3 stars

Great stuff on how to use the curiosity and creativity of children to get them to learn. Don't agree with absolutely everything but there's a lot to learn here. 5 stars.

Maths has been taught wrongly, says Prof Boaler. It's pretty hard to disagree with her, although I think there's space for an early 'grammar' stage ( cf. Dorothy Sayers). 4 stars

I don't know how good his videos are but it really highlights the opportunities children have to learn now that are unprecedented in human history. 5 stars

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sports Personality Punditry

The last few weeks have been horrible for British sportsmen (particularly English).

The football team failed, the cricket's been miserable. The rugby was plucky but unsuccessful. Murray has, for his standards, done poorly.

So, come December, we might end up scratching around for a Sports Personality of the Year.

As things stand, the top contenders with the bookies (Sky Bet, William Hill) are:

1. Lewis Hamilton (6/4, 11/8)

Despite a rough few weeks, Lewis is back on course to contend for the F1 title. He's the surest hope for a Brit to win a title in a popular sport and is strong favourite with the bookies. But to win SPOTY, he needs to win the drivers' championship and hope no one else does anything spectacular. Hamilton isn't universally popular and has come second in the competition twice when he's had a strong case to win. I'd definitely put him favourite but those aren't good odds.

2. Jonny Wilkinson (6/1, 5/1)

This is an amazing inclusion for the second spot and shows how weak the field is. He's retiring and had a decent season but it's astonishing that a player who's been out of international rugby (and therefore out of the average person's awareness) for so long is the second favourite for SPOTY. I'd need much longer odds to persuade me.

3. Carl Froch (7/1, 8/1)

He won his first big fight for the year (and big it was) and needs to hold off James DeGale. His 8/1 seems a better value bet to me than the other two.

Beyond those three, we're largely speculating that a golfer will win a major (and possibly the Ryder Cup) or Murray will win the US Open.

Can anyone else see a potential winner? (Sky Bet odds, William Hill odds)

Clothed in Christ

Just posting the lyrics to the song Adele and I wrote, in case anyone finds them helpful:

1: In Adam every human fell
Death spread through every race
Now those with faith in Christ are well
Judged righteous by his grace - Judged righteous by his grace

Thank you O God - You clothed me in Christ
Made me your own - For the ultimate price
A matchless exchange! - All my wrongs for your rights
You took my sin - And gave me your life

2: Because in love God overlooked
The evil we had done
Remaining just he undertook
A plan to make us one - A plan to make us one

3: Upon the cross the Son atoned
He bore God's wrath at sin
His perfect life is counted my own
God looks at me as him
God looks at me as him

And the Soundcloud to have a listen (working with a demo recording as of 15 July 2014):

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

On run outs

'That was bad sportsmanship'

'Not in the spirit of the game'

'He may have been given two warnings but that was below the belt'

'Batsmen step out of the crease all of the time.'

These are the comments being made in the wake of the 'controversial' run out of Jos Buttler against Sri Lanka.

Are we not aware that all of the same points could be made about stumpings? Except no batsman gets multiple chances when they're stumped.

As much as I support Buttler and the England team the solution is very simple. Back up properly. It is not hard.

No one has been tricked or cheated. No one has lied to or deceived the umpires. No one has been rude to anyone else. The Sri Lankan team simply enforced a law. After two warnings.

If you want to talk about the spirit of the game, let's ban sledging and punish batsmen who don't walk when they know they're out. These actions are far more against the spirit of the game.

In the meantime, I'm very happy to apply for the role of England's backing up coach. I will teach all the batsmen how to back up without leaving the crease before the ball is bowled. I will even show the bowlers how to enforce the rule themselves. I did so once in youth cricket.

Can we please not talk about umpires deducting/awarding runs for bad backing up? They have enough to do and it'll be a nightmare for scorers.

All we need to do is de-stigmatise this mode of run outs. Batsmen shouldn't even be given warnings. Very soon, batsmen will learn to back up properly and fairly.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Weekend end reflections

1. There are a lot of awesome people in my life.

2. Can we all at least agree that we're happy that the BNP has been destroyed this weekend?

3. I can't stop thinking about a lady I met at the weekend. Raped when 15 and in foster care and had forced termination. Now looking after her sister's 5 year old boy who was badly abused and bears the (behavioural) scars.

She became a Christian in January. Lord keep her and make her story end well.

4. Well happy for Tim and Sarah. And James and Libby.

5. Drink alcohol when you're happy, not when you're sad. And be happy as much as possible.

6. Listening to Pharrell Williams or Guvna B songs does not aid in this pursuit.

7. There is an enormous difference between a bad latte and an ok one. But there is an even bigger difference between an ok one and a great one. Go to Taylor St Baristas in Brighton.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

So you think you're Matt Redman?

My notepad bearing the scars of re-writing
People don't tend to bother you if you just create stuff.

An example: I really don't mind if you write poetry worthy of a Vogon. I don't care if it doesn't scan, doesn't rhyme or is packed full of clich├ęs. As long as I don't have to read it.

I write and re-arrange worship songs. I also lead the music at my church. That means I have a natural 'audience'. It's like being a poet and the poetry editor at the local newspaper. I can inflict my songs on your ears. I can even pressure you to sing them.

If I choose my own songs, am I making out that I'm better than Matt Redman? Am I forcing McGonagall on Wordsworth fans?

I don't think so. Here's why:

1) I write for need. My latest song (co-written with Adele) is on imputation. Try to find a good worship song that focuses on imputation. I can't.

We're working our way through Romans in our current preaching series. Writing a song on some of the truths we're heading is like writing a 4 minute sermon. And if people like it, it could last a lot longer in people's minds than a typical sermon.

2) I plead for feedback. On words and music. The song has to be bigger than my ego.

I run the words by trusted friends (including my pastor). The song here better.

I run the music by others - including my fellow worship leader at church. I beg for improvements. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn't. But I'm committed to making the song as good as it can be - not proving myself right or seeking my own glory.

3) I am reluctant. Really I am.

Keeping my songs to myself means no one sees my weaknesses. No one criticises them. I can pretend that I am an undiscovered genius.

Even better, I can leave my songs unfinished. Then I can even pretend to myself that I am a great. And I don't have to struggle away finding rhymes or melodies. I've written the first chapter of my own dystopian novel. If only I had the time to finish it, I would surely be recognised as George Orwell's equal.
Then, when it comes to actually choosing the songs, I grimace. It's like firing clay. Once it's out there, I can't change it. It's stuck with that tune forever. The line that I settled for, unable to think of something better, is equal to every other line in the song.

I'm learning to live with it. But my agony in choosing it is probably equivalent to your agony in hearing or singing it.

It all boils down to this:

If my song has a better chance of building up my brothers and sisters in Christ than anything else I can think of, I will fight through my fears and reluctance, praying for God to use it to help people.

Am I right or deluded?

Please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Christian lullaby

My lovely wife has a little baby boy growing inside her. He's developed enough to hear stuff going on outside the room now.

Given that we want our boy to:

  1. Be a Christian.
  2. Be musical.
  3. Be happy.
  4. Go to sleep on demand.

I thought I could write a song for us to sing to him which might help him with all of the above (as I mentioned here). Here are the words as they stand - names and minor details redacted/changed to keep the name a surprise:

____, ____, Yahweh has given you life
____, ____, Use it to glorify Christ 
May you love the Lord with all your soul
May you love his words as much as gold
May you love your neighbour as yourself
May you look to Yahweh for help 
____, ____, Jesus has given you life

Geekily, I note that this is pretty much a chiasm.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

When worlds collide

And the neatly organised cupboard that is your life falls down, mixing the secular with the sacred or the filed with the unfiled.

Us moderns (and postmoderns, if you prefer) like keeping our hobbies, work, politics and religion separate.

Be friends with your book club as you read Will Self's latest novel. Invite your family for tea. Best not invite the radical feminist or she'll scare Auntie Mabel.

Theologians do it Two Kingdoms style (no Jesus in our public space). The French do it secular style (no Jesus in our public space).

Marc Trestman. He normally wears a hat.
I write heavily opinionated comments on a forum, of sort, relating to the mighty Chicago Bears. I get to make stupid jokes about Patrick Mannelly, express horror at Marc Trestman's hair or argue why our seventh round pick is the greatest thing since Walter Payton.

But then Michael Sam comes along, media circus behind him, disturbing the locals. And so, sex, morality, politics and Christianity suddenly invade my Bear cave.

What do I do? What should I do?

How strongly do I make my views known? Someone on the internet is wrong! And not just about the inaccuracy of ProFootballFocus' offensive line stats. Liberty, sexuality, morality, God.

Two principles to guide me:

1) Christ rules over all.

If Jesus rules all, He has opinions on everything. And if I'm called to be Christ-like, I'm to try to represent His opinions everywhere. It's not loving to keep Him bottled up in the whisky cupboard for special occasions.

2) Only withdraw what you can afford

I nicked this off Douglas Wilson but changed the context.

You can write someone a cheque for a million pounds. But unless you have that kind of money, it'll only bounce. The recipient will get annoyed and no good has been done.

How much have you invested in the people you're talking with? Are you a drive-by critic or a supportive friend?

If you've got £10 in that account, make a £10 comment (at most). If you've got £10,000 in there, you can withdraw a lot more.

That means investing more in real connections and friendships.

It means contributing to people's lives with more than (but not less than) the right opinion.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What drives you to create stuff?

There are various possibilities, I suppose - whether writing music, blogposts, novels or sermons.

So you don't write. Or you do write but only when something spontaneously comes into your head - a lyric perhaps, or a tune.

The desire to be famous - for the sake of... what exactly?

More likely than famelust, perhaps. You write so that someone will say something nice about you. "He's so talented!". "What a brilliant metaphor!"

Imagine creating that one song, novel or comedy YouTube video that gives you sustainable income for life. The freedom!

To prove you can
Maybe because you don't believe you can.

I'm not immune to such pulls. But, at my best, I create because I see needs.

I see Psalms, written under God's inspiration, that no one sings in the sorts of Churches I attend.

I see people led astray by shallow arguments and facile catchphrases.

I see my unborn baby boy who will need a lullaby for bedtime.

I see truths and realities people don't like to understand or believe, let alone sing about.

I see prepositions at the end of sentences that I don't care about.

I see trees of green, red roses too (still reading?)

What drives you to create? Is it a good thing?